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The viral boom

‘Hadoukening’, ‘Vadering’ and perhaps most bizarrely, ‘Quidditching’ are three new internet fads that have Japanese school kids jumping for joy. No really, they are –
All you need are some athletic participants, a trigger happy cameraman and some slick editing and you’ve got yourself a hilarious still-scene to be shared around the world.
With the recent spate of teenage creations taking over the web, people must be wondering, what makes a piece of media go viral?
Viral videos were a technological constant even before YouTube and other sharing sites existed. 1996 saw Ron Lussier’s 3D character animation ‘Dancing Baby’, become a hit when it was shared via email around the animator’s workplace. Since the 90s however, the internet has developed and the audience for the term ‘viral’ has expanded from your colleagues at the water-cooler to the whole world.
For any video to go viral, it needs a ‘hook’; a simple enough concept but tricky to achieve. The hook draws in an audience which boosts views dramatically, or so you hope. If it’s good enough this can happen overnight. But, before anyone gets their hopes up, sadly for all you budding YouTube video bloggers, without a celebrity link or huge following this can be near impossible.
Research has shown that shorter videos gain higher YouTube views and comments and when the entire world is at your fingertips you’re attention span is a hard thing to focus.
The ‘Harlem Shake’, a now tired and unwanted video went viral in early February 2013. Thirteen days after the original video was posted, 40,000 replica videos were made and the viewing for all ‘Harlem Shake’ videos reached over 175 million. So, what’s so great about a video of people dancing to a trancelike beat? Lasting only thirty-seconds and the hook of the breakout scene, gave this video what all bored YouTube browsers crave – short and entertaining videos they can easily imitate.
MEMEs are the best example of an internet trend that succeeds, because they’re easily replicated. They can be hilarious, political, crude and sometimes just plain terrible. But, a perfect snapshot of what entertains a culture. The MEMEs single photo is easily recognised but the text to accompany the photo and create the meaning is always transferable. This ease of input brings with it more shares and this makes it go viral.
Something simple, snappy and easy to digest already has the quality to storm across social media sites but if it’s not easy to replicate, it will never make it to the top.
While you can chuck a celebrity onto your trend to boost your internet rep, the best things that go viral are unofficial random bursts of simple, ingenious creativity that anyone can copy. But beware, once a new craze comes along your viral days are over. It’s a short-lived flight at the top.

At Macmillan we made our own ‘Harlem Shake’ and admittedly it’s a lot of fun to make –

Age UK Spreads the Warmth

Age UK have wrapped up the Telegraph Magazine with a thermal cover to highlight their ‘Spread the Warmth’ campaign. The advert, printed in grey thermal ink, will respond to the reader’s fingertips. As readers touch one of the items in the picture, it will turn orange. Through touch, the colour of the lamp, or phone in the picture changes helping to demonstrate how donations will help older people stay warm during winter. 
The inside and back page of the cover wrap will have more information, explaining the thinking behind the campaign and how Age UK will help older people in the winter. Not only does this engaging and innovative creative build awareness of Age UK but it also gets across the wider social issues in a fresh way.
You can see more about their campaign here.

ITV, the chameleon

Branding is a tricky business. It’s difficult to build a strong brand in today’s environment when you’re  inhibited by substantial pressures and barriers, both internal and external. However, one key to successful brand building is to have a clear understanding of what your brand stands for – and how to most effectively express that identity so it communicates your brand’s personality.
Which is why we’re saluting ITV who have unveiled the new logos and branding it hopes will reinforce its relationship with its viewers. They produced the entire rebrand in-house and are currently working on at least 30 idents for launch for the main channel.  It seems to really get under the skin of a modern, multifaceted TV company and has been hailed as the most ambitious rebrand of any British TV network.
Their design is focused on the actual programmes and making the logo and branding work with that mood, chameleon-like. So, on the main channel the new ITV logo will not have fixed colours but will use the theory of ‘colour picking’ to take on the colours of the scenes being featured in each ident, allowing it to ‘flex according to the move and tone of the show’ – as you can see from these examples:
Rufus Radcliffe, the group director of marketing and research, says ‘We want to create an ITV world with ITV at the heart of it and we’re going to drop this “1” because viewers have never embraced it.’
Elsewhere each channel will have their own colour. So the ITV2 idents will paint the town ‘hot red’; ITV3 will be a ‘luxurious cool midnight blue’ and ITV4’s will be ‘cool slate grey’ while the ITV Sport will be ‘turf green’ and ITV News logo will be ‘dark blue’. We really like this idea – it means that the identity is about the shows rather than the brand, which is a bold statement.
As well as being a major departure from the past, creating it internally is also a significant cost-saving from their traditional method of using ad agencies.
Check out some more examples below and keep an eye out for them when they’re all launched on a single (to-be-confirmed) day in January.

A cookbook you can eat? Bring on next year’s Little Book of Treats!

Okay, I might have drooled a little bit, but an edible book is just too desirable for me. Made out of sheets of embossed lasagne – just waiting to be stuffed! Not suprisingly, it’s won a shopping basket full of awards. Yum. Click here for more

Unemployee of the Year

Famous for their thought-provoking advertising, United Colours of Benetton have launched a new ad campaign in conjuction with organisation UNHate. The multinational clothing company has introduced a scheme called ‘Unemployee of the Year’, which offers funding and support to 100 talented but unemployed youths.
As with the majority of their previous campaigns the aim is to challenge the stigma and pre-conceptions surrounding a group of people, this time so-called ‘Neets’ (those Not in Education, Employment or Training). The problem is, lots of people have argued that the campaign is not challenging, thought-provoking or even interesting; some have gone so far as to name it the most boring campaign staged in the company’s 47-year history. Pictured above, the ads feature some slickly dressed, ‘camera-friendly’ unemployed teens – far from the controversy of their previous ideas. Their 2011 campaign featured a doctored picture of pope Benedict XVI kissing imam Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb; needless to say it was only a matter of hours before it had to be taken down.     
A study this year has found some interesting results regarding corporate social responsibility, as a recent Guardian article stated:
‘66% of consumers around the world prefer to buy from companies that have implemented programmes to give back to society. Further, 46% claim to be willing to pay more for products from these companies. Being seen to do good is now seen as good business’.
Regardless of their motives, Benetton are committing to donating $500,000 worth of funding to benefit youth and the community. I’m sure the money will do the world of good, but it may be more because of the passion of the young people, and less because of the influence of a store whose cardigans cost £65.00 a pop.

Home is Where the Art is

Ever wondered what the view’s like from the front room of a coastal cottage in North Yorkshire?

Of course you have, and now’s your time to find out.
On the 22-23 September the beautiful village of Staithes – around 10 miles north of Whitby – is quite literally opening its doors to visitors by hosting an Arts and Heritage festival using residents’ houses as exhibition space. Works include paintings and photographs as well as jewelry, sculpture and portraiture inspired by the landscape or created by those who live there.
What a great way to market the village’s national heritage and stunning natural beauty – by showing it at its most vibrant. I’m sure a Yorkshire-based tourist board could have made a perfectly pleasant printed advertisement about Staithes. Instead, the residents have poured their work into the heart of the village – in the homes, among the families, among the community, offering a unique view that truly must be seen to be believed.  
While printed advertisements are often very successful and very necessary, it’s sometimes good for them to work in context with their surroundings. From sofas at bus stops to billboards filled with household appliances, popular furniture brand IKEA have always been forward thinking in their advertisement style. The British Heart Foundation’s recent annual report was designed to look like a wallet – with different sections as bank notes, photographs and credit cards – while across the pond charities such as Denver Water have also taken radical steps to raise awareness of their campaigns, making a thought-provoking mark on public benches across the country.
Of course, wacky graphics and pop-up kitchens shouldn’t be replacing good design and clear, compelling copy – but it’s clear that an open-minded approach produces exciting results. Let’s hope that the Staithes residents’ originality pays off.
For an events schedule and artists gallery, click here

The Digital Native

When I bought a new laptop on Friday, my mum told me all about her first ever venture into PC World. They bought a desktop computer – a Window’s ’95 – when I was four years old and my sister Georgie and I gradually abandoned the Commodore 64 in favour of it. At the tender age of 20 I am what is called a ‘digital native’, a strange term that Wikipedia defines as ‘a person who was born during or after the general introduction of digital technology and through interacting with digital technology from an early age, has a greater understanding of its concepts’. 

iCrossing’s head of social media Mark Higginson argues, ‘the stats show an altogether more technologically sophisticated audience amongst the 55+ age-group (the age bracket many might describe as non-digital natives), than the definition would have us believe’. He may well be right. Paradoxically, my 62-year-old dad owned a Kindle before me, but still calls me in Newcastle (from Kent) to ask if I know how the DVD player plugs into the television. 

Perhaps there is no way of knowing whether an older adult – or anyone, for that matter – will be technology savvy or have trouble answering their mobile phone. This may not seem like a big deal until you factor in its impact on branding and marketing. What does the digital age mean for Macmillan Cancer Support, a charity with a high percentage of older supporters?
By far the largest proportion of users who ‘like’ Macmillan on Facebook are in the 25-34 and 35-44 age brackets (28.4% of the total and 27.1% of the total respectively). Most interestingly, though, there are 2.1% more followers of the 45-54 age bracket than there are aged 18-24. But whether this is a reflection of their use of technology or a reflection of Macmillan’s target audience is hard to say.

All the while that digital and social media marketing grows faster than the queue in Vauxhall’s Prêt à Manger, we’ve got to keep a handle on all forms of communication, from printed newsletters to Facebook messages. Even the biggest social media butterfly would agree that communication should be informative, intuitive and creative before it is ‘on trend’, which could in turn risk alienating lots of valued supporters. 

I’m sure many grannies have iPads these days, but we must put character before 140 characters.

Pick of the Best

With Mac Creatives’ social circles positively teeming with great content, here’s a round-up of the best projects on the go this week.    1. The Imaginary App
This one’s a call for submissions. Editors Paul D. Miller and Svitlana Matviyenko are asking budding writers, artists and computer-whizzes to design an icon for an app of their own imagination. ‘The goal of this project,’ they say, ‘is to challenge the limits of technological assistance endorsed by the slogan: “There’s an app for that.” What are the most desirable, terrifying, or ridiculous apps that haven’t been and, possibly, will never be released? Formulate a concept of an app. Translate it in the language of design.’ Sounds fantastic.

 I’m going to create an app that sprays deodorant at sweaty, overweight businessmen on the tube.

2. The Damage Within
Unicef have launched a great new ad campaign that is the epitome of ‘simple but effective’.  Images showing the inside and outside of children’s vests and socks give a chilling impression of the surface emotions of a child versus the ‘invisible damage within’ caused by abuse. As ever, nothing packs a punch like charity communications.
3. Another Olympic Advert
Don’t moan, it’s a goodun. DVD sales website kalahiri.com uses the buzz of the Olympics to bring back memories of our favourite films.

4. The Invisible Bicycle Helmet
This video is well worth a watch. It follows (in only three minutes) the eight-year journey of two students who designed, marketed and created an invisible bike helmet. This could spell the end of unpleasant, unsightly helmets that aren’t ‘cool’ enough for children and teenagers (and many adults) to wear. It’s literally invisible – well, almost. Blink and you’ll miss it. Fall, and you won’t.

5. Subway Cento
Last but not least, writer and designer Jack Cheng has taken to the streets of his hometown, Brooklyn, taking pictures of adverts on the subway before chopping and cropping them into mini graphic poems. A brilliantly simple idea with sometimes humorous, sometimes thought-provoking results.  

We All Make the Games

I know, I know, the Olympic games are over – and after watching nothing but sport for two weeks, the Paralympics seems dreadfully far away. With this in mind, I hope you will allow me to blog about one more Olympic ad campaign, to keep us all in the spirit of things.
It’s very ironic that McDonald’s is simultaneously the face of London 2012 and the face of morbid obesity. This has naturally caused controversy and several hilarious spin-off posters. However, painful as it is to say it, McDonald’s has grasped this gigantic marketing opportunity with both hands and created some really fantastic adverts encompassing the true spirit of the games.



Olympic visitors probably first caught sight of McDonald’s posters in train stations such as King’s Cross and Euston. With the campaign taking up not one but a whole line of billboard spaces, they were rather hard to miss. Whatever sort of Olympic spectator you were – be it the come-on come-on come-on-er , the sulky pants or the get a better look-er, there was a fun poster for everyone and a touching reminder that ‘we all make the games’. While I’m still not sure a Big Mac will be on the menu for anyone going for gold, they certainly made me smile.

BMW infographic gets personal

Following on from our recent post about Intel I wanted to talk about BMW’s interesting new Facebook application that creates an infographic about users’ habits and encourages people to prove they are a BMW superfan. 
The app does a great job of visually telling consumers about their Facebook friends, how that user has interacted with BMW on Facebook and offers an inside look at the BMW fan base. 
The first section tells Facebook users how many friends they have, how many BMW 3 Series it would take to fit all of them, their average age and the gender distribution. The top section also shows a Polaroid-style image of a BMW vehicle from the user’s birth year, which I think is a great touch.
From there it gets even more personal as it shows how each user has interacted with the brand and creates a score based on information such as when the person began to ‘like’ BMW, how many of the their friends liked BMW since then and the number of likes, comments and posts on BMW’s page.
Even though I’m not a car fan what I like about this is how infographics are a really interesting way to visualise a fans’ commitment towards a brand. I think it’s really interesting to consider how charities can harness the passion of their supporters and show it in an engaging and interesting way.
You can view some more images of it here or, if you’re a BMW buff, you can access the app here and see if you are truly a superfan.
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