#MakeBoringBrilliant: Subway Surprise

As a digital marketing consultant, I am regularly approached by publishers and advertisers with the same request:

“What is native advertising? How do we do branded content? How do you make a video go viral?”

I can never sum this up in a few sentences. But from now on, I will reply with these three words, “WATCH THIS VIDEO,” before I even begin to launch into best practices. And, please do (click on image below). It’s two minutes of your life and it’s worth every second.

#MakeBoringBrilliant Panhandler Prank

Why This Video Went VIRAL:

  • It’s relate-able to those who commute by subway
  • It provides a SURPRISE
  • It’s less than two and a half minutes
  • It’s FUNNY!

Why Advertisers Love NATIVE ADVERTISING:

  • Video Views (Over 100,000 as of this post and it was posted 5 days ago!) — it is hard to reach that with a purely branded video
  • Vitamin Water is integrated seamlessly into the content which is true to the College Humor brand
  • Vitamin Water-branded landing page on trusted College Humor web site provides authenticity


  • Video is also hosted on YouTube — reaching even more eyeballs and appearing in search results
  • The opening billboard contains both the College Humor and Vitamin Water logo, and the hashtag: #makeboringbrilliant which ties in organically with the content


  • There is a post-roll video ad — which is super-effective, because it’s yet another funny video ad, but this one is completely Vitamin Water
      • Viewers HATE pre-roll, akin to “banner blindness, where users are frantically searching for the X button to end it NOW!
      • BUT it you have a post-roll video ad played at the end when viewers are already engaged, they’re more likely to absorb and remember a brand’s advertising message

I’ve admired Vitamin Water’s #MakeBoringBrilliant campaign underground and I love the online extensions. Content Marketers take note — this is an excellent example of native advertising.

Vitamin Water, you have made my DigiDay!


Twitter’s Vine Battles Instagram Video

I was surprised when I recently received an email from Twitter promoting Vine: A new app for creating short, looping videos. It’s an obvious response to Instagram’s new capability to host short-form video clips. But Vine is not a new app. Yes, some people do live under a rock and may not have heard of Vine or seen its 6-second loops, but the key for any digital marketer is to ABP — Always Be Promoting! Having a reactive versus proactive approach makes Twitter look desperate. And with Instagram in the spotlight once again, Vine usage is drying up like flowerbeds in Las Vegas.



Is it possible that in one week Instagram video has already had an effect on the amount of Vine posts to Twitter? According to MarketingLand, YES. And it’s a dramatic dip. See below.


Here’s WHY: Instagram is a one-stop-shop. As users, we are inudated with Apps, social media outlets, blogs and sharing tools. If I already have an Instagram account with followers that allows me to #hashtag to my heart’s content and post my photos simultaneously to all my social media accounts — why would I not prefer to use one super App (Instagram) as opposed to two?

Instagram Video has taken the best of Vine and innovated, extending video clips to 15 seconds in length and most impressive, providing 13 filters. That’s a feature alone that will get more users to try it. It’s what made Instagram photo sharing so popular, the opportunity to make your photos look 100x better than the original.

I think Vine was revolutionary, but unfortunately most great ideas can be copied. And it was.

There is still hope for Vine, but in my opinion it applies to pre-roll video advertising. Whenever I see a pre-roll ad begin to play with a 30-second countdown clock, I’m either looking for the “close ad” button or opening another window to look at something else (similar to TV channel flipping).  BUT, a 6-second video looped ad, Vine’s premiere advantage, would keep users engaged and ala, they may actually absorb the advertising message. Vine is in tune to the average internet user’s attention span, and that may still prove to be its one and only advantage.

Vine, you still make my DigiDay, I have a super short attention span, 6 seconds works for me!


#HowDoesHeShave: Man of Steel Marketing

Until two days ago, I had NO IDEA there was a new “Superman” movie coming out. Hello, Man of Steel marketing blitz! With over 100 marketing partners, it’s interesting to watch the tie-ins unfold in NYC, and to see how brands turn movie product placement into fully integrated campaigns.

Gillette tackles a curious dilemma — How Does Superman Shave? Today, I spotted these subway ads that drive consumers to HowDoesHeShave.com and the Twitter handle #HowDoesHeShave. I personally think the URL, SupermanShave.com would have been easier to remember and it’s available, but maybe due to legal restrictions they couldn’t use the word “Superman”.


With microsites akin to dinosaurs in the digital world, where does this URL drive to? A branded YouTube page. Though the average user might not even notice this unless they looked at how the browser redirects in their toolbar.


On this page, you can watch video theories from renowned scientists/comedians, including Mayim Bialik (forever Blossom to me) on how Superman achieves this feat. The videos were produced well and they’re quick (a minute and a half each). Each video has approximately 400K to 550K+ views. Not only are fans watching —  they’re VOTING, too. Diehard Superman fans claim the hero does it his laser vision and a mirror, but the other theories are much more interesting!  The YouTube page also contains fan tweets continuously updating and of course, a call to purchase razors on Gillette.com.  That is, if you want to look like the Man of Steel (yes, gentlemen, you do).


So what’s the buzz on Twitter’s #HowDoesHeShave?

While most tweets are positive with users posting photos of Superman shaving with laser beams or of their prepubescent boyfriends and a razor, there are always those who go for the risque photo opp. But hey that’s the RISK you take with user-generated content, and we’re all adults, right?


Kudos to Gillette who has demonstrated how to successfully implement a fully integrated campaign around a movie product placement.  People are talking about Gillette, people are eager to see the flick. A win-win for everyone.

Gillette, you’ve made my DigiDay!


P.S. The latest Man of Steel trailer, sponsored by NOKIA.  Looks amazing!

Man of Steel Grabs Me Underground

When I go to the movies I have two guilty pleasures —  buttered popcorn (so bleechhh afterwards, but so good while you’re munching!) and the previews. I may exclaim “Oh my God, not another trailer!!!” but the truth is I love those green screens. But yesterday, I encountered the Man of Steel underground.

Skipping along the stretch from 59th to 58th St. near Columbus Circle, I let Russell Crowe invite me into his world. No longer was his face just plastered into a billboard, he was talking to me…and those German tourists.Man of Steel Out of Home Advertising

Man of Steel Advertising

At first I kept walking, but the sheer size of the TV billboards stopped me. Besides I wanted to know — was Russell Crowe the new Superman?  The more I watched, I kept thinking there should be more interactive elements to keep someone engaged. What about a ticket kiosk right there? Where every 20th person that purchased advanced tickets won a free pair? Or I could enter my phone number and get a text reminder to purchase tickets opening weekend.

Or having the ol’ marketing ploy — the cutout, where people could pose behind a Man of Steel frame and post to Instagram for a chance to win free tickets. Cheesy stuff like that works in New York! Adding a social component is FREE advertising, and they already have over 750,000 likes on Facebook. C’mon Warner Bros., integrate your Out of Home with Your Digital!

The display was engaging, but missing that interactive element. Although they did get me one more time as I headed for the steps:

Man of Steel Subway Steps

Am I the only one amazed how they cut and paste a giant billboard and make it fit seamlessly on subway steps??

Check out the Man of Steel Trailer and microsite filled with steel-clanging sounds. Go ahead, see what I’m talking about.

Man of Steel you grabbed my attention, now get more interactive and make my DigiDay!


4 Tactics to Disrupt “Banner Blindness”

I’ll admit it, I suffer from “banner blindness”. Maybe it’s because I’m a digital marketer. But traditional banner ads that line the perimeter of the page are easy to avoid, as are interstitials  that you can immediately X out of or tap “Close Ad”. So which advertisers are successfully combating this online illness? Those willing to up the ante on their creative and dig deeper into their pockets for disruptive rich media that seizes the user’s attention — but only for 10 seconds.

TACTIC #1: Surprise the User.

Last night, I logged on to YouTube’s homepage to search for a video. My head jolted back when it appeared I had a cute guy stuck under my computer screen. He was crawling around frantically, trying to get my attention. He did.


The fact that he could’ve been Channing Tatum drew me in closer. It is possible that Channing would look like that if he was stuck under the glass of my screen for a few hours. This auto-initiated ad loaded immediately, with this guy stretching himself across the unit for at least 5-6 seconds. Mission accomplished: Progressive broke through my banner blindness.


A video player then appeared behind him with the option to play a short commercial.

TACTIC #2: Provide a Bold Benefit.

“SNAPSHOT CAN SAVE YOU!” Ah, save me how? From having fish face?


So what’s Progressive selling? SNAPSHOT. Basically the better you drive, the more you save with Progressive’s “revolutionary usage-based insurance program”. They will send you a device you plug into your car that monitors your driving — how much you drive, how often you slam on your brakes and how often you drive after midnight. And Big Data continues to revolutionize price modeling. You can take a 30 day test drive first, without switching your insurance. Too bad, I don’t have a car. Nice job Progressive, I needed a break from the chatty brunette you’re always pushing!

Here’s another great example of disruptive online media on Cosmopolitan.com:


When logging on to the Cosmopolitan homepage, it immediately fell backwards to display a full-screen ad for Aussie Shampoo. And a few seconds later, the homepage popped right back up. This ad technology was created by CheckM8 for the Hearst Digital Group. (full disclosure: I have consulted for CheckM8, but did not participate in this campaign).

Tactic #3: Go Big or Don’t Advertise.

With today’s saturated web pages, you must at the very minimum display your message in a half page unit (300×600) or larger. It’s so easy to get lost in the clutter. And if possible, integrate a video component. This is what separates web from print — real movement, a mini-TV on your screen.

Tactic #4: It’s better to launch a small, impactful campaign than a long online presence that goes unnoticed.

Basically, you’ll have better results with two homepage takeovers than a month-long campaign of standard, boring banner ads.

Congrats Progressive, You’ve Made my DigiDay!


Vloggers Stick it to Trader Joe’s!

When I was a kid in the 80s, I traveled to southern Mexico with my father, an explorer and amateur documentarian who hoisted a huge video camera on his shoulder, recording the native villagers. He plugged a few wires into a portable TV (also large at the time), instantly displaying the footage. It was the first time any of the locals had seen themselves on TV. They were mesmerized. Flash forward 25 years and we’ve all become movie producers in our own minds, thumbs poised to press record on our mobile phones, just waiting for “the moment”.

Today, millions of hours of video content are uploaded to the Internet every month. The more popular resources being YouTube and Vimeo. From job interviews to subway melees to drunken taxi rides — EVERYTHING is being recorded. Understandably, there are policies against using your mobile to record in the locker room or at restaurants, BUT this doesn’t mean the rules are being followed. Videophiles are posting, tweeting, blogging every interaction — especially the negative ones.

As I’ve mentioned previously, Trader Joe’s has zilch on the social media radar and branded video is another untouched outlet. Search for “Trader Joe’s” on YouTube or Vimeo, and you will find a wealth of user-generated content, which is great and FREE, but also very opinionated and not always accurate. And then there’s the negative:

The title, SCREW YOU TRADER JOE’S, and the lady’s Willy Wonka-esque glasses are enough to make someone press play. I wasn’t the only one, so did 16,000 other viewers. Basically the vlogger is trying to capture some footage in the store, which is against policy and they’re kind of rude about it, so she keeps recording on the downlow and has now become a TJ hater.

Having a store policy banning video is totally understandable. Just make sure, you have a Corporate PR or Communications person for them to contact and/or be granted future permission. That’s how you avoid negative publicity. Good customer service. Wasn’t this lesson learned with the musician who recorded, “United Breaks Guitars” after his horrific travel experience? BTW, his music video has over 12 million views, and it’s estimated United lost millions in the bad PR aftermath.

The catchy-tuned video below  is borderline love/hate, promoting Trader Joe’s products, but also working in a few digs in the song lyrics, like “It’s the stuff that they run out of all the time”, “12 Types of soy milk that all taste the same.” And you can see some Hawaiian-shirted worker lodging a dirty look when he spots the phone.  Most important thing to note: It has over 850,000 views!

“Scam at Trader Joe’s” has over 150,000 views blasting Trader Joe’s deceptive packaging. While I honestly think this guy has way TOO much time on his hands to examine and measure containers — he has a point:

My suggestion to Trader Joe’s is to first and foremost get control and to lead the video conversation. Video can be cheap to produce and viewers love organic, choppy, homemade clips. No professional recording/editing needed (which mirrors Trader Joe’s tone). Model it after the “Shopping Haul” videos which are so popular on YouTube (example below). This is where shoppers share what’s in their bag and why they bought it, how they’re going to cook it, etc. Post these weekly “Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer” videos to your soon to be created Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest accounts. One weekly video, four social media outlets. That is the quickest way to start to take control of your social media message.

Hey Trader Joe’s, you hear me? I’m headed to your 14th St. store to record my own rogue video — look out for me! I’ll have to make my own DigiDay!