My mom is forever confused by the internet (except for emoticons, she has those down pat), so I wasn’t surprised when the following exchange occurred after I posted that I made it to the reddit.com/r/diy homepage for a post I did on a doghouse I built. Here’s the exchange. How’d I do?
Mom in the comments: I thought with your new job I would understand your posts Guess not. What does this last post of yours mean??????
Me: Here goes: Reddit is a site where you can share links, pics, videos (ie about building a dog house) on forums specific to any number of topics like cooking, pets, news, politics, religion, DIY, etc. In my case, I shared my project on the “DIY” forum. Once I shared my project, it was up to the community members on the DIY forum to decide if my project is interesting enough to “upvote” (upvoting is the same as liking on Facebook).
Stories that receive lots of upvotes may eventually make it to the homepage for that forum (each forum is many pages deep, so making it to the front page is kind of exciting if you’re a webnerd like me). You’re probably wondering why a person would care to do this. Well, when your job is to help brands do things on the web with the goal of getting seen by lots of people, it’s helpful to understand how sites like Reddit work. If something gets lots of attention on Reddit, that means lots of people have seen it.
Brands like it when people see the things they do (this is advertising in the 21st century), so if I can help my clients get attention, they will like me and continue to give me (my agency) their business and I will remain employed and able to afford to have babies. Bottom line you should be VERY supportive of these efforts if you want grandbabies.
Let’s see what she says. I want to clarify that my post to Reddit was not for a brand, it was for me. I love playing this way online, and understand that Reddit really isn’t a place for brands. Still, one can learn about how content is shared by practicing within the walls of Reddit. So, again, not using it for clients - just doing fun things on my own and sharing them with the world in the hopes of learning a thing or two about how content is shared.
The second major catastrophe to befall Bangladesh in as many months has me thinking seriously about my clothing purchase decisions. Officials, factory managers and activists alike cite immense pressure fro Western clothiers as a primary reason for the lack of safety and effective regulation in the Bangladeshi clothing industry.
This is a good time to consider buying from American manufacturers, if only to send a message to bottom-line garment manufacturers that Americans won’t be responsible for the deaths of more hard working, innocent people, simple so we can have access to cheaper clothes.
Today there are many more options than ever for choosing clothiers with socially responsible supply chains. MadeCollection is a favorite example, aggregating American made products - all produced 100% in the United States, subject to all the laws that were developed after similar incidents here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Still, AmericanMade and companies like it are not perfect - it’s a bit expensive, and cost is part of what causes garment makers to pressure 3rd world economies to produce their wares.
Part of the issue consumers face is determining when costs are due to actual supply chain advantages (ie socially responsible sourcing) versus arbitrary “lux” price hikes. Meaning we are so used to things being expensive, having no sense of “why” other than the logo, and figure a pair of jeans is a pair of jeans, so why not opt for the wallet-friendly option. In the face of these decisions, it’s often the easier choice to skew cheap, creating a loop of irresponsible decisions predicated on a lack of good information - if the customer knew where the sale-priced shirt was made, and under what conditions, they might choose to spend their money elsewhere.
This all points to a cultural shift where people would purchase fewer pieces of clothing, but spend more on each. Odds are these items will be higher quality, lasting longer and ultimately saving the customer time, money and effort when the “cheap” good they buy wears out and they have to purchase a replacement.
To live in a time in human history when communication is a notion with global and, if you’ think about it, intergalactic implications. Photos and information about humankind are stored on the harddrive of each and every satellite and space-bound object we’ve launched. And though it’s unlikely those messages will ever be intercepted, isn’t it incredible that we’ve been able to send them out?
Back on earth, it’s easy to see humanity’s basic wants expressed in the act of blasting messages into space - we yearn to connect. Connection reminds us we are here together, surviving, and that we share in the pursuit of a common existence.
It makes my brain tingle just thinking about it, and whatever comes next.
For awhile I’ve held the belief that there is very little difference between an advertisement and a news story. Both share information, try to keep the audience interested, and elicit a response. Both are governed by an established set of rules about tone and how stories should be told.
What sets ads and news apart lies in intentions of the powers operating behind the writer. Brands in once case, editors in another. Each power has its own goals, but share at least one - they want to go on existing. And since this is generally the strongest of all instincts, I think it’s the most important and trumps everything else.
Brands exist by convincing people to buy their goods. Editors keep their publications alive by convincing people to buy their newspapers. It’s the nuance of their respective means that sets them apart, and increasingly that difference is less and less important to achieving the bottom line - to continue existing.
As for the question of intentions, the publication’s primary intention is to tell the reader what happened, through the lens of the publication’s brand, in such a pleasing way that the reader will continue to buy the publication. A brand’s intention is to convince the audience that a certain product or service is good and worth spending money on.
When you think about it, publications live in a bubble. If publications were people, they’d be that friend who is too honest - to the point that sometimes you’d rather they just shut up and let you live your life. If brands were people they’d be that friend who is nice and just wants to spend time with someone, without seeming too desperate.
Native advertising is where these two worlds come together to provide the reader with something worthwhile, mostly unassuming, and best of all, free.
To succeed at native advertising, a good strategy is to create something that’s partially honest and partially nice.
Expanding on honesty: tap into something innately human; shared experience and nostalgia; that which is true or revealing (without causing undue harm); truth can be awesome or inane, so veer toward the former; it’s undeniable or real, worth pursuing or at least knowing. Truth is the human condition when it’s uninhibited by fear.
Expanding on nice: that which is pleasing and kind; nice can be frivolous or pointless (niceties); excitement lives is in this category, as do the best parts of the human condition - fun, freedom, Friday afternoons before the weekend, flowers, et cetera.
When executed with these elements in mind, native advertising can be a powerful cocktail of human needs and wants. The ad industry’s foray into this world is only just beginning, but it will usher in lots of new and fun work that will open new doors for both brand and publication alike. It’s a renaissance when you think about it, giving way to a world in which both can exist happily - which is what they both strive to do anyway.
Second, the only reason I was able to take part in this event was because Joe Steele, who is just an amazing person, vouched for me. Joe is the operations manager at AccessNow, which organized this event, and he brought me into this project — and undoubtedly supported me behind the scenes when I screwed up. Thanks Joe.
I just got back from the Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference, which was put on by my friends at AccessNow. I was the press coordinator for the event, through SKINNY, along with Access’ Mike Rispoli, Kasselman Public Affairs’ Eric Lovecchio and Christina Iskander. The conference brought together government officials (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Asst. Secretary of State Michael Posner, Swedish Ambassador at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lisa Svensson etc), major tech companies (Facebook, Google, Mozilla, Skype, AT&T etc etc — a full list of speakers, sponsors and attendees is here, here and here) and human rights activists from around the globe for two days to discuss the issues facing people who use the internet to communicate in places where censorship and govt control prevent Democracy from existing, and limit basic human rights (ie right to speech, to assemble, privacy, intellectual property, censorship etc).
Why Hold the Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference (AKA #rightscon)?
An example you may remember is when during the Egyptian revolution, Vodafone (a major teleco provider) shut off internet service (at the Egyptian govt’s request) to the entire country. Many Egyptian people were arrested, tortured and even killed because they sought freedom from the Mubarak regime, and the internet was one of the primary tools for alerting the world to their woes. They used the internet to alert the world to the struggles they faced, and they became targets of the government for doing so. And then it was shut off.
This kind of thing is happening all over the world, and that’s why this conference was convened — to find ways to prevent these kinds of things from happening. It was my job to make sure the world’s press were in attendance and had access to the people they wanted to speak with. Here’s a couple of quick highlights:
Credibility Lent by US State Department
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a short video message specifically for the conference, indicating she recognizes the importance of what the Access folks are doing. Her message lent vital credibility to the cause. One of my favorite moments was when she said, “..technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the United States does.” The State Department needs to stand up for that statement, to be sure.
Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner (Democracy, Labor and Human Rights) was in attendance (pictured at top). One of his most pertinent comments was targeted at tech companies but should be heard by advertising agencies and brands, too.
“Cyberspace belongs to all of us now,” he said. “It’s where we live. It’s where you earn your living. And just as no business wants to open its doors in a high-crime neighborhood, no business wants to be located on the street where police are beating up democracy protestors. And we all share an interest in an open Internet that supports a culture of entrepreneurship in which people around the world can thrive.”
Real Time Conflict at RightsCon
One of the most energizing moments of the conference came when a live stream from Sana’a Square in Yemen (where protesters have been gathering for months), was beamed into the conference to the 400+ attendees. The cameras turned onto the square and showed thousands of people who had come to be part of the message. It was quite amazing, and brought the great need for these conversations right into the room.
And then of course, Occupy Oakland sparked. Just across the bay from the conference, Americans were being fired on with tear gas and non-lethal projectiles, all because they were exercising their right to assembly. The correlations between the Occupy movement and other movements from the last year are too many to count here, but I will say that the struggle being fought in Oakland was felt at the conference.
Tense Moments at RightsCon
Two attendees/speakers, one from Thailand and one from Egypt, were facing arrest in their home countries when they returned from the conference. From Thailand, Chiranuch ‘Jiew’ Premchaiporn, who runs a forum there, faces 20 years in prison because someone made an anti-governmental comment on a forum page, which was seen by Thai censors. It is likely she will receive the full 20 year sentence even though she didn’t write the comment.
From Egypt a prominent blogger named Alaa el Fattah was accused by an anonymous pro-military blogger of inciting violence against the military by **allegedly** throwing a rock during a recent protest, which the anonymous person claims was caught on video. No one (as far as I know) has seen this video, but the claim was enough for the Egyptian military, which has taken over after the govt fell a few months ago, to demand Alaa come before a military tribunal.
Mixed Emotions at the Close
During the closing remarks, individuals who had come to the conference as representatives of their countries were given a set of standards, a ten commandments for web accessibility (for example: no govt should ever ask internet providers to turn off internet sources, ever and no internet provider should ever turn off the internet when a govt asks them, etc), to bring back to their countries and share. Representatives included Swedish Ambassador at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lisa Svensson, Netherlands Policy Advisor Internet & Human Rights at NL Ministry of Foreign Affairs Jochem de Groot and Lebanese blogger Imad Bazzi all came to the podium to receive a copy of these standards. When the Bazzi came to the podium, he said, “it’s with a somewhat solemn heart that I receive this document, because just moments ago I received an email that two of my friends who have played a pivotal role in Tunisia’s rebirth over the last few months, have been murdered. I received this email on my iPhone.”
That news brought the entire event full circle. Here we were cheerleading for an end to digital censorship, wrapping up the first conference to ever address the issue so completely, with hundreds of individuals who have the power to make the necessary changes — and just before it closed, we learned two more people had been killed. And we learned it through the very same means of communication we had gathered to discuss.
To read more of what happened at the conference, click here.
I gave this speech to a crowd at Advertising Week, during Saatchi’s 7x7. I thought it was interesting that we were discussing advertising while just down the road, people were rallying against the financial system.
Please forgive my misspelling of individuals. Also if you’d like links to my source information, I have them available.
(HINT: the copy is legible if you make the preso full screen)