Tuesday 23 May 2017

You don't have to be a movie star to have a passionate fan-base, and you don't have to obey the old rules of advertising either

'Creating something that's authentic and entertaining is key. But marketers should also feel free to think outside the box. Campaigns built on pigeon-holing personalities may not fly'
'Creating something that's authentic and entertaining is key. But marketers should also feel free to think outside the box. Campaigns built on pigeon-holing personalities may not fly'
Steve Dempsey

Steve Dempsey

Last year, the American clothing brand Hanes gave up on long-time celebrity spokesperson Michael Jordan in their drive to promote male underwear.

Instead, they turned to a young man named Logan Paul to create a series of short videos.

What does Paul have that the basketball star doesn't? About eight million followers on Vine, the six-second video channel, that's what. The clips he made for the brand have been played more than 30 million times - undoubtedly by those hard-to-reach younger audiences.

Increasingly, brands that want to cultivate a relationship with a younger demographic are turning to entertainers such as Logan Paul. These Snapchat stars, Instagramers and Viners are becoming vital brand ambassadors. And in the process they're earning a fortune. Some can charge more than €100,000 per sponsored Vine.

But you can't just shoehorn display ads into social channels - so how should advertisers approach working with the heroes of these new channels?

Niche is one company that thinks it has the answer. It pairs Vine and Instagram stars with brands and advertisers and was bought by Twitter earlier this year for €28m.

"Advertising on new apps requires specialised content, custom strategies and new approaches tailored for each individual platform," says Niche co-founder Rob Fishman.

"You don't have to obey the old rules of advertising, especially when it comes to formats and segmentations.

"Each channel comes with its own set of challenges and rewards. Users consume content differently on each - just think about how Vine is made up. It consists entirely of short, looping videos, whereas Twitter has a larger media ecosystem that includes images, long and short-form video, interactive cards, GIFs and more."

Fishman cites the #BendTheRules campaign for HP touchscreen laptops as a great case study in brands working with a new generation of spokespeople on these new channels. Viners such as Zach King, Robby Ayala and Brodie Smith filmed themselves doing magic tricks, breaking laptops and performing frisbee trick shots respectively.

"This is a great example of how Niche creators are partnering with brands to really push the boundaries of marketing and create exciting, engaging campaigns that span channels," says Fishman.

"It became the very first TV commercial that was made entirely out of Vines."

VaynerMedia is another agency that helps companies tell their stories with a new generation of spokespeople.

"Anything that is not contextual to the platform will look like a fish out of water," says Gary Vaynerchuk, VaynerMedia's CEO and co-founder. "It won't work. People need to focus on the context just as much as the content itself.

"They have to understand a few things. One: time is their biggest asset. Two: mobile is the priority right now. And three: nobody wants to be sold to when there is currently a huge amount of cynicism around brands. Brands need to start providing value rather than simply advertising. The landscape is now about entertainment and utility, not just impressions."

Creating something that's authentic and entertaining is key. But marketers should also feel free to think outside the box. Campaigns built on pigeon-holing personalities may not fly.

"A lot of celebrities or tastemakers have many sides to their personality," says Vaynerchuk. "Some marketers make the most obvious links right away in these cases. For example, get a rapper if you're doing an urban brand. We have to stop being lazy and realise that there are layers to brands and people.

"There are many more connection points to be made than the cliched ones we are seeing in the marketplace today."

Vaynerchuk cautions advertisers against getting distracted by false metrics that are a proxy for real success. Marketers need to focus on sales, not likes, loops, shares and views.

"Marketing on social media always needs to have a business objective," he says. "I am sure that there is a lot of content being put out right now that is helping people sell their products and services, but I can't see those direct results because the transaction ultimately happens behind the scenes."

Fishman believes that these new channels give increased opportunity to charismatic storytellers, performers and artists.

"New social channels have given birth to a new type of celebrity," he says. "You don't have to be a TV or movie star to have a passionate fan-base any longer. Social platforms like Vine and Twitter have broken down the barriers and given anyone with a smartphone and internet connection the ability to speak to the world."

One important consideration is how much longevity a Vine, Instagram or Snapchat artist will manage to wring out. Are they the faces of a short-term fad, or the vanguard of a conveyor belt of talent for careers across the media spectrum?

"It's impossible to predict popularity," says Fishman. "That's up to the fans to decide. But we believe that if creators continue offering content that is engaging and inspiring, their audience will only grow. Many of our creators have signed record deals, appeared in TV or film, but social media is still their home base."

Vaynerchuk agrees. "It will be no different than Hollywood," he says. "If you've got the talent, you can last for ever. If you're a one-trick pony, you'll last just a moment in time."

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