Monday, October 28, 2013

Offensive Ads and Stereotyping: When Your Marketing Can Cause a Crisis

By Rose Strong

Words and images: Can’t advertise without them. However, when those two things are used indiscreetly by creative marketers, an offensive campaign will sink faster than a pig in quicksand!

A recent column by Bill White in the Lehigh Valley’s newspaper, The Morning Call sparked my curiosity about distasteful and offensive ads. White referred to a local business hosting a Halloween fright night with the theme “Psychopath Sanctuary.”

The advertisements, which ran on local radio outlets, speak of missing residents in a local town being tortured after mental patients escape the state hospital and hide in an abandoned barn.

There has been criticism from the community and the local group of the National Association of Mental Illness, citing the lack of compassion and understanding for the disease of mental illness and those who suffer. In my opinion, the advertising and the attraction perpetuate a troubling stereotype about individuals suffering with mental illness.

The controversy has been somewhat lost on the owner of the business, who at first responded quite harshly and tried to downplay the issue saying what a great country we live in where people have little else to complain about than radio commercials. He has since offered to take the complaints under consideration for future advertising and expressed that he had no intention to cause any hurt or inconvenience.

All businesses need to understand that their messages and images can be taken in a way that was unintended or insulting. I watch television and complain about sexist and racist ads all the time, even when they seem harmless or cute. It is important for creative folks and the businesses they serve to remember the diversity of their audience.

Are women the only ones who want their homes to smell nice or be clean? Swiffer, I’m looking at you! How about the bachelor pad or the college dorm room instead of the homemaker image that completely portrays sexism?

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that these ads are meant to target a particular buying audience within the general population, usually based in consumer data, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be perceived as offensive to some.

A Harris Interactive poll article on distasteful advertising gives a breakdown of how folks make purchasing choices based on their feelings and the demographics involved in those decisions.

These ads from yesteryear, posted by, although perhaps not considered offensive by the standards of the day are, by comparison to today’s attitudes, quite repulsive.

On occasion, though, there are those companies who haven’t learned the lessons of the past.

On the Quality Logo Products (QLP) blog, Jenna Markowski shared 12 Offensive Advertisements You Shouldn’t Mimic Under Any Circumstances. Her list is on the mark and offers good advice to anyone needing to pitch a product or service.

Does any company want to make an apology and lose customer trust while cleaning up the mess? It’s best to make an effort to consider all audiences before creating the need to manage a crisis.

Just ask the big-time advertisers mentioned in a New York Times article by Stuart Elliot and Tanzina Vega about how hip and cutting-edge ads can be cutting off the customers.

Have you seen an offensive ad lately?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Are You Viral Ready? - Succeeding on YouTube

By Kim Tarasiewicz

Anyone who has posted a video on YouTube would love to see their video go viral. Let’s face it, free advertising is good, and YouTube's 1 billion users make tempting targets.

But of course, in the world of marketing, there are no guarantees, and competition is fierce. About 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute - and only 1 percent of all videos posted will go viral. That means most of our videos will be seen only by those who are looking for them.

There are, however, ways to increase visibility for your videos. Here are a few:

Create high-quality videos that do not appear to be advertising. Great production value can increase the time your audience is willing to spend viewing your post. The video doesn't need to be long; in fact, 2 to 3 minutes should be the limit to increase viewership.

Support your video by using keywords in your titles and creating unique content. Be sure to include a high resolution thumbnail image that can be seen easily, as larger percentages of viewers are now searching on their smartphones.

Capture interest by writing content with defined keywords for best search results. Words, not necessarily videos, will show up in search results,  so it’s important that the text entices a viewer to click on your videos. Only the first 160 words will appear in the search results so use the first sentence as your “teaser.”

Google recently released a new search algorithm called Hummingbird which searches by the user’s intent rather than just keyword results. This will change the way results are listed for videos, requiring people adding keywords to use more conversational search words.

Promote yourself - and let others help along the way. Be sure to allow access to your video when posting on YouTube so it can be found. Use social media like Twitter and Facebook to promote your video and ask colleagues to comment and share it on their networks to increase viewers. Ask viewers to subscribe to your channel and then use that list to send new video links when you post them.

But even with all these tips, the best advice is to produce great content. Focus on creating stimulating videos that will attract your target audience. Make it interesting, and they will come. Provide viewers with content they need or will enjoy to keep them coming back to your channel.

Once you’ve got great content, paying attention to details and using social media to promote it will increase your chances of earning new views on your page, thereby increasing visibility for your brand.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Beyond Facebook and Twitter: Using the Conversation Prism to Guide Your Social Strategy

By Sarah Larson

You've launched a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, and you've got a few hundred followers on each. Maybe you even monitor and update them regularly.

All the firm's principals are on LinkedIn and properly connected to the firm's page. (You have created a LinkedIn page for your firm, right?)

Congratulations: that's a good start.

Traditional social media now is entering its second decade, as measured from the launch of the seminal social site, MySpace, in August 2003. In early years, social media was seen as the Internet's crowded community promenade, safely sequestered away from the "serious" business and media websites that once defined the Internet's popular profile.

Today, social media has grown up. Instead of being a place your kids hang out, social has evolved to become the default mechanism for public interaction between any two - or more - parties online.

Whether the conversation is between a store and its customers, a TV anchor and her upset viewers, or a firm and its (prospective) clients, social is virtually always the medium.

As you might have guessed from this post's title, that medium has grown well beyond the marquee names of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Those forums remain incredibly important, to be sure, but it's not enough to plant your firm's flag there and call it a strategy.

If you're not really sure what your next social step entails, The Conversation Prism, released this summer by Washington, D.C.-based design firm JESS3 in collaboration with digital analyst Brian Solis, might help you get your bearings.

The Conversation Prism organizes the social Web based on types of services, encompassing everything from social marketplaces like Etsy and LivingSocial, to location-based apps such as Foursquare, review sites such as Yelp, livecasting services such as Livestream, photo sites such as Instagram and 500px, and curation sites such as and Pinterest.

It's true that many of the platforms shown on this infographic predate and challenge what we've come to think of in the past few years as "social media," and that's the point.

The graphic demonstrates, in a powerfully visual way, how social media is no longer something we do, it is the way we live. It is not a fad, it is not going away, and its influence is transforming the way we do business.

First released in 2008, the Conversation Prism has changed over the years, reflecting the evolution of the social Web it monitors. In the latest version of the graphic, 122 social media services have been removed, and 111 new ones added.

One aspect remains constant, though. At the center of the prism is "you," the person or business looking to make their latest social move and choosing platforms to meet their goals. 

Whether that goal is listening, learning or adapting social for your company's use, the Conversation Prism can help guide a social media strategy, reinforce a strategy already in place, or inspire management teams to think about social in a new way.

What social media platforms does your company use? Have you identified any new platforms you would like to use? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Note: Click on the graphic to enlarge it for easier viewing.