The Evolution of Live Streaming

Live streaming is a huge part of social media from Snapchat to Facebook and Instagram. Regardless of who came first, these platforms have integrated live streaming as an integral part of their daily functions. Whether to battle fake news or to reinstate authentic voices against their heavily edited landscapes, live streaming has cascaded into a global phenomenon. So where did this catalyst come from and why is it so prevalent?

The first live stream was innocent. Consisting of the very gumption to prove that it was possible, the band Severe Tire Damage performed live on the internet in 1993. But, just as any technology revolution, their ripple created waves in today’s media landscape.

In 2017, not one, but two advertisers tackled for the first time, on the most expensive field, live Super Bowl ads. Snickers live streamed an ad while Hyundai shot, edited and aired an ad while the Super Bowl happened. Their remarkable efforts reflect a shift in the tectonic plates of society today. Specifically, that people are done being played by advertising.

Lets think back to the 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds that supposedly sent New Yorkers running to the hills. Perhaps the first attempt at either nonfiction or horseplay, they unintentionally defined the phrase, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Their efforts, ill intentioned or not, are a strong argument to support the FTC’s Truth in Advertising regulations which state, “When consumers see or hear an advertisement, whether it’s on the Internet, radio or television, or anywhere else, federal law says that ad must be truthful, not misleading, and, when appropriate, backed by scientific evidence.”

But in today’s media landscape, the average consumer is bombarded by an estimated 440 – 5,000 ads per day. Even on the low end of this number, 440 ads is a time consuming process for the average consumer to filter based on being honest, straightforward, and factual.

“In our focus groups [twenty-five in 2016] we’re seeing the highest levels of skepticism from consumers across sectors. Distrust of media is at its highest and with that institutions are also under scrutiny. Authentic information and transparency are critical to building trust and live streaming is one way to demonstrate this.” – Renee Fraser, PhD, CEO, Fraser Communications

With buzzwords like “fake news” all over the internet, it’s easy to recognize that distrust in media is high. Ads aside, consumers are bombarded with information whenever they pickup their smartphones. It’s no wonder why a live stream from a handheld camera is the newest development. Low in production value but high in human-to-human interaction. The fact that advertisers are now using the live concept in commercials demonstrates that this phenomenon is only beginning.

Do photoshopped ads control how we see beauty?

The first photoshopped image, “Jennifer in Paradise” by John Kroll, appeared as a demonstration in 1987. Today, thirty years and twenty-four versions of Photoshop later, we’ve grown accustomed to manipulated images and the advertisers that use them have become the center of an ethical debate: should photoshopped images be allowed?

It’s obvious why advertisers want to use these enhanced images.

  • Everyone is using them, including the competition
  • Images without photoshop aren’t as eye-catching

“Yes, of course we do post-production corrections on our images. Photoshopping is an industry standard.” – Self editor Lucy Danziger on their 2009 cover of Kelly Clarkson

But, it’s also obvious why egregiously photoshopped images can hurt our self-esteem.

  • They don’t represent average people or even the actual person photographed
  • They create unrealistic ideals that are increasingly difficult to achieve

“The more and more we use this editing, the higher and higher the bar goes. They’re creating things that are physically impossible. We’re seeing really radical digital plastic surgery.” – Henry Farid, Dartmouth professor of computer science specializing in digital forensics and photo manipulation

A multitude of factors contribute to our self-esteem being inflated or deflated by images. One study showed that if we’re a fan of the celebrity photographed it’s more likely we will have a boost in confidence.

“When women feel a personal connection to a thin celebrity, researchers find they’re more likely to assimilate than to contrast. In other words, seeing their favorite slim star in a magazine actually gives their self-image a boost because they assume likeness — much the way spouses focus on the similarities, and not the differences, between them.” – Misty Harris, National Post

Another study showed that if photoshopping was blatant it’s more likely we would elicit a defensive response resulting in a more positive self-evaluation.

“Blatant exposure can elicit defensive coping, leading to a more positive self-evaluation and a lower brand attitude toward a brand endorsed by a model with an idealized body image. When exposure is subtle, however, idealized body images lead to lowered self-evaluations and increased evaluations of endorsed brands.” – Authors of Defensive reactions to slim female images in advertising: The moderating role of mode of exposure

Despite the possibilities for positive self-esteem based on poor photoshopping and our favorite celebrities, eating disorders and plastic surgeries continue to grow in popularity.

  • Hospital stays in England for those under nineteen, up 172 percent (1,791 in 2013-2014, up from 658 in 2003-2004)
  • There were 15.9 million surgical and minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures performed in the United States in 2015, a 115 percent increase since 2000
  • Breast lifts, up 89 percent (99,614 in 2015, up from 52,836 in 2000)
  • Buttock lifts, up 252 percent (4,767 in 2015, up from 1,356 in 2000)
  • Lower body lifts, up 3,973 percent (8,431 in 2015, up from 207 in 2000)
  • Upper arm lifts, up 4,959 percent (17,099 in 2015, up from 338 in 2000)

Numbers like these would lead one to assume that advertising and media photoshopping is a catalyst worsening the problem of eating disorders while encouraging plastic surgery. In The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, he correlates rises in suicides with media reports as their catalyst.

“It’s a well-established fact that suicide can inspire other suicides. When a prominent person commits suicide, there’s usually a wave of copycat suicides soon afterwards (for example, after Marilyn Monroe killed herself, the national suicide rate increased by 12 percent). Indeed, it’s possible to interpret a suicide wave as a form of social epidemic.” – Summary on The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

With teenagers predisposed to imitate others and try new things, the media is a very influential voice to their young minds. Thankfully, a new trend has emerged where both companies and celebrities are standing up against photoshopping.

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Gabourey Sidibe for Lane Bryant’s #ThisBody campaign
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Target’s 2017 Swim campaign
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Aerie’s #aerieREAL campaign
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Vanessa Hudgens for Bongo
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Seventeen Magazine’s Body Peace Treaty
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Dove (top) responds to Victoria’s Secret’s (bottom) Perfect Body campaign

But advertisers aren’t the only ones editing images. According to a 2014 survey, nearly three quarters of young women edit photos of themselves before posting them to social media while more than half of men do the same.

So, how can you help fight photoshopping and redefining beauty and health for ourselves and others?

  1. Recognize harmful messages about bodies
  2. Redefine the way we perceive our own bodies and health
  3. Resist harmful messages through the development of body image resilience

To help you recognize photoshopping here are the three most common forms used in media:

1. Body changes

2. Face changes

3. Color changes

Ultimately it will continue to take advertisers, companies, celebrities, and consumers to work together to change the way people are portrayed in media. Only time will tell if these changes will be enough for younger generations.

6 Ways to Increase Your Competitive Edge

What makes you better than your competition and how do you maintain your competitive edge? Those that thrive are constantly asking questions like these to self-assess and improve upon their competition.

In advertising and marketing, those that don’t improve become vintage agencies no longer serving the needs of modern consumers and thus drop off the map. So how do we at Fraser Communications, an agency founded last century, not only keep up with but, surpass the competition? Individuals shared key tactics to increase their competitive edge:

1. Talk less. Listen more.

sculpture-1445167_1920“Mine is incredibly basic, yet in my opinion very necessary: Talk less. Listen more. Chiming in and adding your “two cents” isn’t so much about adding value – too often, it’s simply fulfilling a perceived obligation to contribute to a conversation. Don’t be part of the endless chatter. Listen, absorb, learn. And make your own contributions more meaningful (and ultimately more impactful).” – Melissa Miller

2. Say yes.

yes-1510054_1920“Not saying no to new challenges that are outside of what I know or  “normally” do as part of a communications company. This has helped me learn new skills and helped our clients shine in the faces of their executive leadership.” – Ilene Prince

“Say yes – enthusiastically take on new projects with an openness to learn and creative problem solve. Pull from a diverse array of past experience and projects.” – Elana Polan

3. Stay informed.

business-man-1031755_1920“I’ve kept ahead of the competition by reading industry blogs and newsletters. I review pieces on writing, branding, public relations, and social media marketing that analyze current trends, introduce time-saving tools, and showcase exemplary work. This habit strengthens my skill set by familiarizing me with today’s best marketing practices.” – Risa C. Voss Jensen

4. Self improve.

light-bulbs-1125016_1920“I feel like an important part of staying competitive is constantly striving to better yourself; to learn more than you knew the day before. Complacency kills careers (and alliteration is awesome). Every day I try to absorb insights from brilliant colleagues, read articles, identify personal and professional growth opportunities, and attend events or seminars whenever I can. I think it’s also important to take yourself out of your daily routine or “bubble” on a regular basis. For the same reason that traveling helps you discover new things and experience different cultures, changing up your work environment can help you gain new perspectives and alter or strengthen previous perceptions. For those working in the social marketing arena, harnessing that range of empathy can mean providing clients with deeper, more meaningful work that truly makes an impact.” – Danielle Thouin

5. Work as a team.

“Keep everyone in the loop – our weekly status mteam-386673_1920eetings that include all departments are great because including everyone often leads to fresh perspectives and experiences that help solve problems.” – Elana Polan

6. Find balance.

“Work life balance… Log off when you are on vacation or even on the weekends and evenings. It’s important to have balance when we live in a world where we are reachable 24/7. We have to set boundaries, not only for our own personal health, but also to not set a precedent of being available any and every given moment.” – Caroline Lenher

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Caroline hiking in Sedona, Arizona

Why destination viewing works for advertisers.

Similar to a destination wedding, destination viewing is a media event that consolidates viewers to one location whether it be a platform or network. Examples of well known destination viewing events include the Super Bowl and the Oscars. These events offer large audiences for advertisers and are associated with a high price tag. This year, to air a thirty second ad, it cost a reported $5m for the Super Bowl and $2.5m for the Oscars.

Advertisers pay these prices in the hopes to be the most talked about ad. Some utilize hot button issues while others might use celebrity power or puppies to reach new fans. Although these destination viewing events aggregate viewers to a single location, advertisers rely on cross-platform conversation to compound interest. Given that an estimated eighty-four percent of smartphone and tablet owners engage with those screens while watching television, commenting on the content and the ads, they aren’t wrong.

“We take destination viewing into account when planning media by utilizing events for certain audiences such as sports, Dancing with the Stars, The Voice finale, and more. People want to see or hear the action as it happens. No one likes a spoiler.” – Renee Fraser, PhD, CEO, Fraser Communications

Advertisers even use these popular events to create ads broadcasted afterwards. Honda for example, although they did air an ad during Super Bowl LI, had a Super Bowl viewing party that raised money based on commercials with cliche advertising techniques. The donation drive was filmed and commercials aired after the Super Bowl. Strategies like this show that destination viewing events are being utilized far past the events themselves.

With content no longer king, and distribution taking over, it’s no wonder why advertisers are milking destination viewing events for all their worth.

“Searching for posts with the hashtag #superbowl, Netbase used its Instant Search social analytics engine to mine 300 million sources (including social networks and blogs), and found that 2.7 million people authored 5.7 million original posts between noon Sunday and 1 pm Monday (all times EST), leading to almost 40 billion impressions.” – Nelson Granados, Forbes

This level of distribution has advertisers foaming at the mouth. Destination viewing events, with their distribution potential from the event as well as user authorship on social media, will continue to garner global attention of both fans and advertisers.

How a simple song has the power to get California to Talk. Read. Sing.

Remember jingles? Those hard-to-forget musical ditties that extolled the virtues of almost every product and service advertised in the 20th century? Remember “Plop Plop Fizz Fizz”? “You deserve a break today”? And that classic, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke,” revisited in the Mad Men finale and attributed to Don Draper’s EUREKA moment?

The American jingle was the most valuable concept in the communications toolbox for over 100 years. It was a simply brilliant way to cut through the clutter and brand a product or service. But with the advent of MTV, and the desire of recording artists to cash in on their extensive songbooks, jingles fell out of favor in the late 80’s. My generation of Mad Men and Women scorned them. “If you don’t have something to say, sing it” was the knock.

Today, Fraser Communications’ efforts with First 5 California to get parents to talk, read and sing to their children ages 0 to 5 has had us immersed in recent brain research. We discovered that, lo and behold, those ancient jingle writers were onto something: Human beings remember words better when they rhyme. And they REALLY remember them when those rhymes are set to music.

And so, we went back to the well, and wrote a jingle. Then because “Plop Plop Fizz Fizz” was made even more memorable by Speedy Alka Seltzer, we created three enthusiastic animated mascots to sing our song: The Smarter Birds – Parrot, Owl and Songbird.

Great music is hard to create. Great jingles even harder as there is less time to arrive at a melody and there are specific things you need to communicate. With Anthony Marinelli of Music Forever, we were able to access the most talented songwriters in Los Angeles, and compose a winning toe-tapping tune. Then, for our characters, we partnered with the inspired and skilled animators at The Mill.

We spent five months developing our Smarter Birds, writing their backstories, rewriting lyrics, listening to the melodies that could bring those lyrics to life, shooting, editing, and getting energized daily by our wonderful First 5 California partners, who were hugely supportive during this delightful journey.

There was a single focus to these efforts: We wanted the first-time exposure of the jingle to “stick” in the mind, and be hummable all day long.  And we succeeded, if the videos of children hearing it for the first time are any indication. Now, we’re taking our Smarter Birds on the digital and social media road. Our fingers are crossed and our toes are tapping that another generation of California parents will talk, read and sing (with our song in their repertoire!) to their children every day, exercising their brains, and helping them succeed in school. Did I tell you we’re also making Smarter Bird puppets? And writing a Smarter Birds activity book?

All these efforts fell into place beautifully, proving that even though a jingle is a simple thing, its power is enormous. Let the Smarter Birds fly.

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How digital killed the sales funnel.

How digital killed the sales funnel.

If you went to school for business or communications, you’ve probably heard of a concept from the 1800s called the sales funnel. If not, you’ve likely heard of a synonym such as the AIDA-model, sales pipeline, or purchase funnel. Recently, due to the development of digital sales and marketing, critics have come to suggest a modified version of the traditional sales funnel.

What’s wrong with the sales funnel?

1. The funnel assumes a linear buying process but in reality, buyers behave erratically. Customers bounce from one funnel stage to another, come in and out at various stages, and skip stages. This fluidity is contrary to the idea of a funnel which has only two openings at the top and bottom.

In both B2B and B2C businesses, customers are doing their own research both online and with their colleagues and friends. Prospects are walking themselves through the funnel, then walking in the door ready to buy. – Mark Bonchek and Cara France, Harvard Business Review

2. Marketing is separate from the sale. The funnel shows marketing leading a consumer to purchase and assumes that marketers aren’t part of the sale. However, in today’s world where customers are able to self-educate themselves, marketing and sales go hand in hand.

Marketers are providing content and resources to inform buyers before they contact sales. Both marketing and sales need to consider the complete end-to-end buyer journey and work together to close deals. – Mike Renahan, HubSpot

3. The end goal is a purchase. Before the internet and instantaneous communication, options were limited and places to purchase harder to find. Today, options and places are plentiful and comparison shopping is the norm. Due to this increased competition, companies are focusing on engaging customers through centralized marketing rather than a simple sale.

The first step is to begin thinking in terms of people, rather than platforms. Marketers need to be ready with a holistic message that can be seen by consumers wherever they are, at any given time, agnostic to the platform or device they’re currently using. Centralized marketing teams need to be able to look at campaigns across all touch points, identifying how each peg in the pinball machine contributed (or not) to the sale at the end. – Jason John, AdvertisingAge

4. Relationships are more important. In the digital age, people can experience brands through social media, virtual reality, live events and more. Gone are the days where you have to be a customer to be a brand advocate. Because of this, marketing has changed from leading directly to sales to being more about the relationships built along the way.

Consider a real world journey of a family’s trip from the U.S. to Mexico. Visa mapped out the entire experience, from where the family gets ideas on where to go (TripAdvisor), to how they gather input from friends (Facebook), to how they pay for their cab (cash from an ATM) or hotel (credit card), to how they share photos of their trip with friends back home (Instagram). Only a few of these situations are opportunities for transactions, but they are all opportunities for relationships. “When you change from decision to engagement,”Antonio Lucio, Chief Brand Officer at Visa says, “you change the entire model.”Mark Bonchek and Cara France, Harvard Business Review

What does the new sales journey look like?

The most important change in the sales journey is that buyers now research many options and move towards the sale at their own pace.

New sales funnel illustration.

How can marketers navigate the new sales journey?

In the digital world, marketers need a complex understanding of the sales journey and the many resources customers have at their disposal. To pursue relationships and experiences over persuasion and promotion, marketers need to turn to big data and analytics for help.

At Fraser, we study analytics to understand where people are in their sales journey. We recently conducted a program for our client using retargeting, where we tailored unique messages for different consumer segments. We were able to shorten purchase consideration time by half, therefore lowering our client’s CPA (cost per acquisition). – Renee Fraser PhD, CEO at Fraser Communications

Although the reliability and predictability of the customer’s journey has disappeared, marketers today have a valuable opportunity to connect with future customers and build ongoing relationships. Through analytics and tracking, marketers can develop holistic messages that engage customers beyond the traditional sale and foster a meaningful relationship.

Image from http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2017/02/03/2017-super-bowl-ads

Super Bowl LI: Touchdown Ads

There’s one thing advertisers can always count on for Super Bowl, a high price tag. This year, the price tag of a thirty second commercial hovered around five million dollars. Despite cost, our advertising firm weighed in on our favorite ads of Super Bowl LI. Below are the ads that inspired and entertained us, regardless of which team caught the last touchdown.

The Audi ad was bold – taking on equal pay and equal respect for women. Many ads like this stirred up a dialogue, making the audience engage and talk about real issues. Forcing ourselves to confront our own values and our differences. Despite disagreements, we still need to move forward together. – Renee Fraser

84 Lumber utilized ‘transmedia’ in the best possible way. They took advantage of the fact that everyone watches TV with at least one other mobile device nearby, and combined that with the power of storytelling to instill intrigue while sending a strong message of inclusion to many who are uncertain. And it worked – so well, in fact, it shut down their website! – Danielle Thouin

Honda had a very cool use of celebrity. I felt it accomplished the “inspire” message that others tried, but succeeded with humor rather than trying so hard with politics and sadness. – Mollie Bauer

I liked Kia with Melissa McCarthy. The combination of humor, a little politics, a great celebrity and tie in with the car made for a memorable commercial. – Erin Shinn

The Skittles spot for its levity – definitely got the biggest laugh at our party. – Ilene Prince

Bai – because Timberlake makes everything better. Walken AND Timberlake? Magic. – Mollie Bauer

Buick with Cam Newton and Miranda Kerr was cute, fun, and relevant. – Caroline Lenher

I loved the NFL family spot with little kids representing great players past. – Bruce Dundore

From Influencer Campaign to Product Collaboration: Going Beyond the Post

If you follow our blog, you’re probably already aware of Fraser’s stance on social media influencers – we believe they can serve as powerful messengers for many brands. And when done right, an influencer campaign can deliver far more than compelling content – it can bring in tangible results. Sometimes even unexpected ones.

For Jonathan Louis, a nationwide furniture manufacturer based in Los Angeles, influencers have not only helped transform their social presence, but their posts have translated into sales – and, most recently, sparked an entire new product line.

Flash back to summer 2015. Fraser was knee-deep in curating a powerful force of bloggers and Instagrammers for Jonathan Louis’ first-ever influencer campaign. Our goal was to identify and collaborate with leaders in the lifestyle, mommy and interior design sectors to authentically promote our clients furnishings with real people in real homes.

During our quest, we identified Justina Blakeney – designer, artist and author of the New York Times best-selling book, The New Bohemians. With more than two million followers online and named a top designer by Harper’s Bazaar, NY Mag and Lonny Magazine, Justina is one of the leading design personalities on the web. In fact, her award-winning blog, The Jungalow, has been named one of the best design blogs by Domino Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, Marie Claire Magazine and Refinery29. Fraser knew Justina’s style was the ideal fit for Jonathan Louis: edgy, playful, distinctive and completely unexpected.

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Our hunch was right – the two brands together created a truly authentic connection. Fraser worked hard to develop a strong relationship with Justina and her agent on behalf of our client, and helped identify the perfect piece of furniture that represented the artist’s unique aesthetic. Jonathan Louis delivered a bold, peacock blue sectional that screamed Jungalow Style, and once Justina published her living room reveal featuring her latest Jonathan Louis piece, her followers went wild. Thousands of likes, comments and shares later, plus a feature in House Beautiful Magazine, we realized we were on to something. Something even bigger.

A few months after Jonathan Louis’ highly successful campaign with Justina Blakeney, which resulted in a significant lift in both social followers and web traffic for our client, the concept of a mutual furniture line sparked as a “what if” idea over coffee. From there, it quickly grew to become an organic, hands-on collaboration between furniture manufacturer and designer. Our influencer strategy took on a whole new identity as our client and Justina embarked on a new project – namely, brainstorming patterns and hitting the fabric stores for their new line. Fraser documented the journey on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, piquing genuine interest and excitement among both Jonathan Louis’ and Justina’s followers along the way.

pillowsThis past fall, at High Point Market, the interior design industry’s most renowned furniture expo, Jonathan Louis and Justina Blakeney revealed one of the most highly anticipated furniture launches of the season: “Justina Blakeney Loves Jonathan Louis.” Following the unveiling of this striking collection of sofas, sectionals and accessory furniture, hundreds of new followers swarmed Jonathan Louis’ Instagram profile – many of Justina’s most loyal fans – and are eagerly awaiting the collection’s retail release in early 2017. Even weeks after the reveal, social media buzz and customer demand continues to grow, and both brands – and Fraser – couldn’t be more thrilled.

We always advise our clients to “go beyond the post,” when it comes to social media. That means “mingling” regularly on social media – engaging with customers, influencers and even other brands via one-to-one conversations and forging key relationships. Our successful work with Justina Blakeney is just one example of how an influencer strategy can go beyond content. Because when you find an authentic connection and nurture that relationship, the possibilities for a brand can be endless.

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