I encountered this Instamotor ad on Twitter (on my phone, since I use AdBlock on the web). I think it’s a pretty good ad, even though I’m not convinced that car ownership is a better deal than Uber. Let’s evaluate Instamotor’s ad based on the principles of People-Optimized Marketing, summed up by the keywords think, feel, act, and design.
THINK: The caption reads, “You can’t Uber to Big Sur.” Your brain is immediately prompted to fill in the missing information. Why not just take Uber? Because it would be super expensive. Why go to Big Sur, anyway? Because it’s beautiful (reinforced by the photo). This has further implications…
FEEL: Thinking about Big Sur, looking at the snapshot of pretty California scenery, contemplating a weekend getaway… Feelings of pleasurable freedom, maybe even nostalgia. Now you’re going to associate those emotions with Instamotor, and the idea of driving to an idyllic camping spot.
ACT: You can tap the button and download the app, which is quite direct. This is one of the few scenarios where the viewer is able to act posthaste, which is a cool thing about mobile ads. Alternately, you can fave the tweet, retweet, and/or follow Instamotor.
DESIGN: In my opinion, the visual would work better without the iPhone screenshot imposed on the Big Sur image. Besides that, well done.
Click here to see all my posts about People-Optimized Marketing.
Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight dinged Vox for stealing content. Basically, the beef is that Vox reposts infographics from other websites, adding insult to injury by not linking back. Cue media kerfuffle on Twitter (my favorite regular internet occurrence). Ezra Klein, the ego behind Vox, responded with an imitation of an apology called “How Vox aggregates”. Twitchy rounded up some entertaining tweets, but didn’t include all of the best ones, possibly because they hadn’t been posted yet. Here are my favorites, starting with a pun from Jay Rosen:
Adam Schweigert chimed in, “If you aggregate by posting things without attribution, it’s not on the person you stole from to complain, it’s on you to not be an asshole.” True. Schweigert also accused Vox of aggregating by “taking screenshots and not giving credit.”
In response to Sinker, Brian Boyer said, “Fuck links back. Let’s talk about copyright.” That whole thread is interesting in its discussion of intellectual property and fair use, concepts that the internet has shaken up considerably. But hey, let’s get back to the jokes!
Roy followed up with, “we also delete the apologies and then apologize for deleting them”. (This was a reference to the BuzzFeed nonsense: 1, 2, 3, 4.) Anil Dash claimed that his publication had already “disrupted” her proposed business with a list of ridiculous apologies, to which Roy responded, “my company will aggregate this apology”. Near the end Dash quipped, “We were hacked! And our intern did it. Our intern has been fired, and our next hacking is scheduled for Thursday.”
Explaining Journo Twitter in-jokes is difficult, and everything is less funny out of the stream. Hmm. ONWARD!
I was extremely tempted to go ahead and enact Zitron’s threat. But I settled for what I’m currently doing. [Update: I copy-pasted Klein’s post on Medium.]
Matt Boggie: “The strawmanning and equivocation in [Vox’s post] is astounding. Apologize, pledge to do better, and get on with it.”
Brands often get hashtags wrong to the extent that it gives me secondhand embarrassment. Or they don’t seem to know why they’re prompting people to use a certain hashtag. It’s like they think, “The cool kids are doing hashtags, and we want to be hip, so we’ll do hashtags too!”
Example: Last fall I went to the Asian Art Museum’s exhibit Gorgeous. Near the gallery entrance, a big poster instructed me to post photos on social media with the hashtag #HelloGorgeous. (See also: SFMOMA on Tumblr.) For one thing, I didn’t do it, because there was no compelling reason why I should. For another, #HelloGorgeous is generic enough that most of the Instagram posts using it were unrelated. Generality could be a plus if it aided exposure, but the Asian Art Museum didn’t benefit; although #HelloGorgeous is frequently used, it’s not an intuitive search term. So what was the point? #SFGorgeous would have been better. Brand-building hashtags need specificity.
Some companies get it right, or at least righter. GEICO’s #BrakeTheHabit video contest, which aims to promote safe driving among teens, is relatively well-conceived. When you search #BrakeTheHabit on Twitter, you encounter content that’s actually relevant to GEICO’s promotion. Furthermore, the phrase is catchy, and a good use of triggers. People seem to be responding:
GEICO could greatly improve their webpage for the contest, and thus encourage media coverage, by including pictures and writing snappier copy. But that’s neither here nor there; the hashtag #BrakeTheHabit is just about perfect for its purpose.
Anthony De Rosa (chief editor of Circa News) has a point. In effect, sponsored posts are advertisements. But the experience of reading one is more complex than that.
No one is going to click on an article billed as an advertisement. They shouldn’t, because reading several hundred words of traditional advertising copy would be tiresome. However, paid-for editorial can feel different from a hard-sell ad. Using a new term for a distinct practice does not constitute deceiving readers. Jarvis’ survey demonstrates that the terms currently being used are inadequate, but that doesn’t mean “advertisement” is the only option. I agree that clear language is needed, but I don’t agree with the conflation of regular ads and “content marketing”.
Underneath the vague disclosure—that part is not exemplary—is an actual story. Marriott paid for the essay and I associate it with them, but the text ignores Marriott. An unnamed hotel is mentioned once, but that’s as close as it gets. The purpose of this sponsored post is to link luxurious wandering with Marriott, which it accomplishes. Without being totally evil.
TL;DR? Be honest with readers, yes, but there’s no need to unnecessarily hamper native advertising. It’s frequently executed abysmally, but so is everything.