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Digiday Brand Summit 2012

I took one for the team this week, trekking out to idyllic Deer Park, Utah, to attend Digiday’s Brand Summit. Speakers included executives, marketers and social media leaders from Kellogg’s, General Mills, Nielsen, Nestle, Fox, Turner, MGM Grand, TaylorMade, Saatchi, OMD and others. If I can exclude the conversations about snow conditions and s’mores technique, there were three big recommendations coming from the podium. And perhaps I bring a certain bias to the discussion but photos-as-messaging-unit was a recurrent theme throughout.

1. Target your audience, not the hot new platform

Montana Triplett, director of digital for Hennessey, acknowledged the huge audience and excitement around Pinterest, but it’s not on her list of priority media channels for 2013. “Moms pinning pictures of Halloween costumes aren’t our demo.” (She does, however, expect Instagram to play a big role for Hennessey in 2013, now that the service offers a mechanism to avoid the under 21 crowd.)

Asked if the search era is giving way to a social media era, iCrossing president and CEO Don Scales cautioned against strategies that are built to serve a distribution channel instead of a brand story. Neither search nor social defines the current era, he said: “It’s a content era.”

In a conversation about mobile advertising strategies MGM Grand’s Donna Goff put it most concisely: “Target humans not the device.” Technologies and platforms change fast but your customers are still humans, motivated by the same kinds of things that motivated them 20 years ago.

2. Tailor your message to the medium, not your comfort zone

To paraphrase the comments of several speakers: Whatever question you ask your agency, its answer will involve online videos and rich, beautiful imagery for your corporate website. It may not be the right tool for the job, but it’s right there at the top of the toolbox.

(Tammy Gordon is director of social for AARP.)

Meanwhile, according to Jim Cuene, interactive marketing director at General Mills, “In social media video isn’t awesome — but images are.” Hennessey’s Triplett echoed the sentiment: “A photo of a liquor bottle works better for us than a celebrity video.” Two more examples of brands behaving like publishers: Create content, give your customers access to it, make more of whatever they liked. Cuene pointed out that General Mills has been exercising its publishing muscles for nearly 100 years, starting with Betty Crocker cookbooks back in the 1920s.

3. Emotional rewards can be as powerful as monetary one

To hear some pundits talk about success in social media (such as this one), you’d think the secret to digital marketing is scavenger hunts with cash handouts for the winners. So it was refreshing to be reminded by several experienced social-marketing practitioners that emotional rewards — a reply in Twitter, say, or the opportunity to see the photo you submitted on the brand’s homepage — inspire participation as effectively as prize money. Many of us, it turns out, want fame more than fortune.

(Esty Gorman is director of strategy at Iris Worldwide.)

And building an emotional connection drives more value for your brand. Traffic from Hennessey’s social programs has a lower bounce rate and results in longer time-spent on their sites than traffic from paid ads.

Digiday’s photo contest was its own case-in-point. They asked conference attendees to post pictures to Instagram and Twitter marked #Digiday, and one participating photographer would win an iPhone lens attachment. I was surprised to see two guys posting pictures from their Samsung phones. “What’ll you do with the iPhone accessory if you win?” I asked, and they shrugged their shoulders. Turns out they just got a kick out of seeing their pictures projected above the stage during breaks. I’ll admit that barely qualifies as “fame” but it was enough to do the trick.

Luminate’s Imagesphere Summit 2012

On Tuesday we gathered 60 friends from the publishing community — execs from Conde Nast, Viacom, Thompson Reuters, Wenner, NBC, American Media, Time Warner, Getty, Dow Jones, Gannett, the IAB and others — for an afternoon deep-dive into the rising role of image content as publishing moves to digital and mobile platforms. Our first “Imagesphere Summit.” (Official release here.)

Our CFO suspected it was just an excuse to order Luminate-logo’d pillows. But most people, I think, actually came to learn from industry peers how to hone their image strategies. Given that more than a third of the web’s pixels are image content, 70% of social media activity revolves around a photo, and many of these publishers are seeing upwards of 60% of their pageviews coming from photo galleries, there’s an eagerness across the industry to figure out the image opportunity.

Steve Rubel, EVP at Edelman, kicked off the programming. He identified a schism dividing the landscape of digital publishers. On one side the “Continental Content Divide” publishers focus on ‘spreadable media,’ using infographics, lists and slideshows — short, frequent and easy-to-share content nuggets — to fuel success among social-media consumers. On the other side of the divide are practitioners of ‘drillable media,’ where depth, context and rich visual experience are designed to pull readers deeper into the story. At the center of both approaches (represented by the Play Button in his Media Cloverleaf) is content that directly addresses the visual culture. (More at Steve’s site.)

Paul Asel, managing partner at Nokia Growth Partners (and a Luminate board member) shared a global perspective: How mobile and touch screens are accelerating growth of the Imagesphere. Half the photos ever taken by humankind, he told us, were taken in the past 2 years. He also shared a prediction about the future of digital photos: Today if you hand a non-touch screen device to a child, she’ll ask, Is it broken? Soon all of us will ask the same question if we find ourselves starting at a static image.

Bob Lisbonne, Luminate’s CEO, presented a deck entitled “Welcome to the Imagesphere.” He posited a theory of photo evolution, where the Kodak Era has given way to the Imagesphere — a new phase in which technology has streamlined our ability to take, share and interact with photos. Members of Facebook alone upload more than 300 million pictures a day, and our sprawling social graphs mean that we each (on average) have access to nearly 100,000 photos shared by friends. Imagesphere technologies have enabled digital and mobile publishers to use photos in 3 new ways — as repositories of hidden information that can be revealed with the swipe of a mouse; as drivers or richer experiences; and as a new paradigm for navigation. An effective image strategy creates publisher value via more inventory, higher user engagement, and new monetization.

Bob also proposed that we borrow a concept from fighter jets, “heads-up display,” to imagine a richer experience for digital photos. Heads-up displays allow fighter pilots to watch their gauges without looking down at the instrument panel — relevant data appears as an overlay to visual content outside the windscreen. When an image has “stopping power” and sparks reader demand for more information, don’t force them to look down, look elsewhere on the page, or (god forbid) click off your site to get answers elsewhere. Interactive images can mimic the “heads-up display,” providing your readers answers right inside the image experience.

Rafat Ali, founder and former editor-in-chief of PaidContent (now doing the same at Skift), interviewed Steve Carpi, the global director of production Fantasy Interactive. They discussed FI’s partnership with Gannett around the recent re-design of Touch screens are training media consumers to navigate by way of photos instead of headlines, Steve said, and websites that steal from tablet design will be better positioned for the next wave of mobile and desktop user experience. It’s an approach he called ‘tactile design.’ Rafat provoked an interesting discussion around two questions: One, now that every story is an image, are image galleries dead? Two, with images moving into such a central role in publishing, will important stories will be lost if they don’t have a compelling picture to pull in readers? (An audience member from Getty volunteered to help!)

Advice from Liz Coughlin, former head of the entertainment sites at Yahoo (now at Young Hollywood): You can either attempt to push your readers to content types that you know how to monetize (eg, articles with large IAB units) or you can figure out how to monetize the content they love, which tends to be your photos.

Brandon Whightsel, design director for WSJ Digital, started with a shot of the newspaper in 1889, the year it began publishing. Beyond turning a five-column format into six columns and the introduction of those iconic woodcut images, though, the paper’s look and feel evolved only gradually until 2003 when it introduced color photos. WSJ Digital, however, has evolved at a radically faster pace. A large photo element across the top of the website — the “Assassination Module,” he called it — was once reserved only for very, very big stories. The importance of images on the tablet experience, however, has changed the design rules. Large photos now anchor many digital and tablet stories, assassination no longer required. Whightsel tipped his hat to Rupert Murdoch as an outspoken advocate for the migration to a more visual approach to publishing.

Offir Gutelzon, business development VP at Getty, talked about the potential unleashed by image metadata. Once a publisher knows what’s inside each image, it can automatically deliver photos relevant to every story and can attach ads targeted by image context.

Luminate CTO James Everingham wrapped up the afternoon with a sneak peek at some products Luminate will launch later this fall — support for new content types, upgraded social features, new controls for publishers and users, and some snazzy functionality for tablet users.

Throughout the day there were more questions than the speakers had time to answer. I guess we’ll just have to do another one of these soon.

Green Campaigns Get Noticed, Though Some Backfire

Nielsen numbers analyzed by Ad Age suggest that consumer do prefer green brands, products and services, but that brands that push too hard on the theme — GE and Starbucks are called out — invite scrutiny that may bring with it an online backlash.

Starbucks Fair Trade

ABC is #1 Among Broadcast TV Websites

Silicon Alley Insider looks at Nielsen numbers to determine ABC has taken the #1 spot among websites attached to the broadcast networks, where — according to SAI — the CPMs can be as high as $70.

Nielsen Numbers on Broadcast TV Websites

My Space Deal Slows Google's Growth

From Financial Times:

“‘We have found that social networks are not monetising as well as we were expecting,’ said George Reyes, chief financial officer, as Google reported its earnings for the final quarter of last year. Since Google has guaranteed to make minimum payments to a number of social networks that carry its advertising, principally MySpace, the slow growth of the business had left the company out of pocket and contributed to falling profit margins in the quarter, he added.”

And if you look at Nielsen Net/Ratings or Comscore numbers, you see that conversational or social media sites are driving most of the growth in online usage, so it’s fair to say it’s a very big deal. Perhaps Google needs a new approach to advertising within social-networking content.

Writers' Strike Has Doubled Online Video Viewership

From TechCrunch, which takes a look at Nielsen NetRatings numbers over the past few months. Andreessen was right, the strike is launching digital video into the mainstream. Add that to the cancellation of the Golden Globe Awards (the Oscars might be next) and NBC giving money back to advertisers, the Writers’ strike will go down as the turning point for video online.

TV Networks Have Smallish Web Audiences

I’m surprised to see the relatively small audiences Nielsen Online reports for the Big Four TV networks. From PaidContent:

“Nielsen Online counts ABC in first place with 10.6 million unique visitors in October, followed by NBC with 8.1 million uniques, CBS (NYSE: CBS) with 6.1 million and Fox with 3.4 million.”

Even if you assume there’s no duplication of audience (unlikely), the four networks combined are reaching only 28.2 million monthly uniques online. FM doesn’t yet subscribe to Nielsen, but Comscore reports the 125 independent sites that made up FM in September 2007 (it’s closer to 140 now) reach nearly 42 million monthly uniques. More evidence that as audiences migrate from offline to online media, they aren’t necessarily loyal to their former offline brands.

Nielsen C3: Broadcast Audiences Drop 7% At Breaks

Ad Age breaks out the Nielsen C3 data by network.

ESPN2, it turns out, has more people watching its commercials than its programming. Kinda makes you wonder if Nielsen’s new methodology is fully buttoned up. Ad Age’s theory: “That boost is probably due to score-craving fans who click over to ESPN2 and its perma-scroll at the bottom of the screen.” Or maybe is the eye-catching beer commercials.

Bud Light - Life Is Good

The big four broadcast networks are losing more than 7% of their viewers during commercial breaks — worse than the 3% average reported earlier.

Web 2.0: Making Money On Video, Podcasting

I was on a panel this morning with Mary Hodder of Dabble and Susan Bratton of Personal Life Media, discussing revenue models for online video and audio. Stat from Mary: Each day 300,000 new video files are uploaded to the web. Stat from Ask A Ninja’s Kent Nichols: In August 07, there were 9.7 billion searches and 9.1 billion video views. Wow, that’s something to think about. Someone asked me how much money we’re all talking about; I said we should start by taking that $5 billion (3% of $162 billion in US TV spend) that Nielsen just announced is wasted because no one is watching. After that, we should take a look at the other $157 billion. Hey, maybe Nielsen is being generous to the networks.

Nielsen C3: $4.9 Billion Mis-spent On TV Ads

From Ad Age:

“Initial commercial-ratings data, released for the first time by Nielsen Media Research today, reveal total viewership for commercial breaks on the five broadcast networks is on average 3% lower than it is for live viewing of programs those ads support.”

Call it $162 billion invested in US TV advertising each year. That’s $4,860,000,000 spent on viewers who didn’t see your ad. Oops.