Archive for May, 2007

Advertising And Web 2.0: Toward An “Adventure Education Model” of Social Media

May 30, 2007

I need to preface this post by admitting that my understanding of adventure education should be considered (less than) entry-level; it is a field grounded in psychology that has been successfully applied to educational theory by many academics and professionals; being neither of those, I do not want to slight the tremendous work these people have done by pretending I’m an expert. Nonetheless, here is my analysis:

Adventure education, at its core, is experiential learning through social interaction. It is centered around games that are meant to require group participation, which in turn can develop leadership, problem-solving, teamwork and other skills. Most models of adventure education can be distilled into three distinct and sequential phases:

  1. The Goal
  2. The Experience
  3. The Debriefing

During the first phase, the goal of the game is established and a minimal amount of instructions are given (as well as safety information for ropes courses). During the experience, the teams do what they can to achieve the goal. The art, and true heart, of adventure education comes during the debriefing phase, wherein a team leader facilitates an in-depth discussion of what happened during the game, usually following a what/so what/now what progression: the facilitator asks for a brief summary of the experience, followed by questions about the significance of that experience, and then takes time on how to apply those lessons (it is critical to note that the facilitator leads this discussion through questions, and rarely offers his or her own opinions unless appropriate, since the aim is to lead a group through a thought-process to their own discoveries).

Many years ago, during a trip in Mexico, a group I was a part of had trouble working together, so the team leader took us through a “sherpa” exercise in a park. We closed our eyes and attempted to follow the leader by moving towards the sound of his intermittent hand claps. During the debriefing, we all voiced the frustrations we experienced during the exercise: some were speeding ahead, while others had lost their way and fell far behind. Eventually the leader mentioned that a couple of people at times momentarily stopped following the claps to search out and group with other team members nearby. As a group we realized we should all have done the same, since the goal of the game was to get safely and quickly to the finish line as a group, not as individuals.

A while later I was part of a club in school that I felt faced similar issues. To facilitate teamwork, a co-leader and I planned a weekend getaway, and one night I had a chance to lead the group through the “sherpa” exercise. During the debriefing, I tried to direct the conversation towards the subject of teamwork, but the participants kept talking about the issue of trust (such as, “I had to trust that you were leading us around the large pine tree, rather than into it”). Afterwards, I was disappointed and felt I failed to get my point across. In retrospect, I did fail to get my point across, but I should have realized the point was not mine to make: I should have taken the group’s point about trust and nurtured that line of thought instead.

With social media, we do not have control over content. As with adventure education, each person and group has their own subjective experience, so that in debriefing the subject matter will be the participant’s own. Similarly, in social media the consumer is in charge of the content, or what I called the “point” in the previous paragraph. We can no longer control the “meaning” of the advertisement anymore, but we may be able to set in place structures that allow us to facilitate and guide that meaning.

So what would an advertising campaign that utilizes the basic principals of adventure education look like? Check this out…

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Once Again…

May 22, 2007

… let’s take a moment to remind ourselves: know your audience. It doesn’t hurt to repeat: know your audience. Know your audience. Know your audience. Know your audience.

I came across an article from the New York Magazine titled “Publisher Struggles to Get Anyone to Notice Its Innovative Gorilla Marketing.” Evidently to coincide with the release of author Steven Hall’s novel The Raw Shark Texts, Canongate (the publisher) created an alternate reality game that utilizes MySpace, YouTube, etc. So far, not many people have noticed (or cared). Publisher Weekly reported that booksellers are even handing out cards to customers to generate interest. Since I am not familiar with the book, I may be wrong, but it seems that the market for which this book would appeal does not overlap with the market of people interested in these types of games. For instance, it was sci-fi fans and movie buffs that made the A.I. campaign/game ‘The Beast’ so popular; a group of fans even formed a network called ‘The Cloudmakers‘ to solve the mystery of Evan Chan’s death, a network that at its peak consisted of approximately 7,000 people. I doubt high(er)-brow, contemporary fiction readers spend much time on MySpace, or would want to slog through that and other websites to complete this new alternate reality game.

So again: know, remember, keep in mind, always be aware of your audience.

Quick Link, 5.16.07

May 16, 2007

I stumbled across this fascinating article from the New York Times Magazine, “Sex, Drugs and Updating Your Blog,” that discussed the effect the Internet, especially social media, has had on musicians’ careers. It broached the subject of the new economics emerging from this media, and is definitely worth reading.

Monetizing Web “2.0,” Part 3

May 15, 2007

Writing the last post was an epiphany for me, in that realizing the current mode of advertising in traditional media is akin to totalitarianism, whereas social media has put power in the hands of the people through consumer-generated content. Thus, a true revolution of advertising within the context of Web 2.0 should be a categorical re-evolution, rather than an impetuous modification of current strategies (we are not witnessing new channels of media, it is a new type of media). In this post I would like to share the links that led me to this train of thought.

It was a dark and stormy night… wait, wrong blog…

Okay, it all started with a story from the Washington Post about “Putting the I in Advertising.” Here’s a part that really stuck out:

“Grant McCracken, a cultural anthropologist affiliated with MIT, says participatory advertising represents a ‘revolution’ in thinking. It means marketers are actually ‘inviting’ consumers ‘into the production of meaning,’ he says.”

We all know the story, that letting consumers have control over the content has advertisers and marketers running scared, but for some reason these two sentences struck the right chord. AdWeek published a fairly similar article, but quoted Roger Faxon, a chief executive at EMI Music Publishing, as saying,

‘Music companies will function more as facilitators for bringing music and the rights that support them to the marketplace, as opposed to being originators of the content itself.'”

This may very well apply to marketing: we work just as facilitators of content, not as creators of it. An example of this (an especially radical one at that)? The revolt of Digg users over postings of links that showed the new copyright encryption key for HD-DVD’s. At first the site administrators removed the posts; after a large push by users, the site administrators relented, even at the risk of their own (legal) peril. With these things in mind my research finally led me across a seminal treatment of the point I am trying to get it across (doesn’t someone always say it before you?!): an article by Bob Garfield titled “Chaos Scenario 2.0.” I highly suggest you read it instead of me paraphrasing it for you. After you’re done reading, I would like to note that I don’t believe in such a doom-and-gloom scenario as far as traditional media and advertising. Here’s why:

  • Not all consumers use the internet
  • Not all internet users participate in social media
  • Not all internet users who participate in social media spend time on a site relevant to your product

Anyways, I felt it necessary to sketch some boundaries before we continue to move forward. In the next entry I hope to finally get around to new advertising and its (possible) relation to adventure education; I promise I will not become like the TV show Lost and start leading you on to tune in for the next episode where only the last thirty seconds were worth your time.

Monetizing “Web 2.0,” Part 2

May 8, 2007

I think one of the biggest hurdles we face in monetizing the burgeoning field of social media (i.e., content that is consumer-generated) is how we have misconceived the problem in the first place; it seems a more radical conception of what “Web 2.0” really means for the advertiser must first be achieved before moving forward in this question.

Revolution = Re/evolution

If new media and Web 2.0 truly represent the democratization of media, etc., one thing we at Madison Avenue have yet to be forthright about in our plethora of self-gratifying blogs is the true structure of our “old” advertising model: totalitarianism.

Although many marketers are planning on using social media in the near future, many executives still report they are afraid to embrace this new technology. While we keep trumpeting the arrival of a digital revolution and the seismic shift we are about to experience, we remain wary and hold the future at arm’s length because we want to protect our expensive branding campaigns, abhor the possibility of losing control over that content, and have become comfortable with delivering our message in a one-way conversation again and again and again, ad infinitum (or, at least as much as our clients’ budgets allow).

This is my concern: the majority of the discourse I see in my (ever-growing list of) RSS feeds is usually centered around the idea of how to use new media as a tool for our current campaigns… I believe this is completely missing the point. We have become robots, stuck in the mode of 1) Create an ad campaign, 2) Beat the message over the heads of consumers repetitively (and maybe throw in a contest to encourage participation). As Web 2.0 comes along, many marketers have written in a manner such as: “Wonderful! Now we have tons of new channels to get our message out!” Do not miss the subtle but critical fallacy of this thought. In our “old” model, we place a pitch with some graphics into a magazine which (we hope) spurs the social interaction of a purchase, and perhaps some word-of-mouth marketing by consumers happy with our product as a bonus. Now we weave a pitch into a blog and there may immediately be dozens of comments, some about the post itself, and some in connection to other comments consumers have already left about the post. Do you see the difference? An immediate dialogue; instantaneous interaction. This is a world apart from a magazine ad…

Thus, I feel it is imperative to recognize that Advertising 2.0 should be conceptualized as its own entity, rather than a slightly modified iteration of our current practices. In essence, the current mode of advertising is incompatible when users have power over content. So, what might this re-evolution of advertising look like? Can it be profitable? Come back after I finish some brainstorming (I can tell you right now that my jumping off point for my thought process, as of this moment, will be the techniques and theory behind adventure education).