Who Says Content And Advertising Can't Mix?

from the yet-another-example dept

We've been talking about the fact that content is advertising and advertising is content for a while now, and one of our regular readers, Bill, sent in a neat example of this at work. It's the latest video from the Eepy Bird guys (if you're reading this in a feed reader, you may need to click through to see this):
The Eepy Bird guys are, of course, most famous for their Diet Coke + Mentos video which kicked off quite the international phenomenon. One of the less-well-documented aspects was what happened after the video became popular. For a while, neither Coca-Cola nor Mentos was particularly thrilled with the idea of associating themselves with the video. Coca-Cola specifically distanced itself from the phenomenon initially. Mentos took some time, but quickly embraced the phenomenon, agreeing to sponsor future Eepy Bird projects. And, with a little pushing, Coca Cola also came around.

So, now we've got this new video, and it's definitely entertaining. Using hundreds of thousands of Post-It Notes forming paper "slinkies," the video demonstrates that recognition of how advertising and content are becoming one. The video is certainly entertaining and fun to watch -- so it's likely to attract many viewers. However, there's also plenty of advertising built into it as well. First, most obviously, it continues to build up Eepy Bird's reputation for quirky fun video "experiments." But, the video also "debuted" on television on the ABC Family channel as a part of that station's TV show Samurai Girl. So, it was also an advertisement for that show as well as the ABC Family network. On top of that, the video was sponsored by Office Max (who sells Post-It Notes, obviously), but not in a particularly intrusive or annoying manner. And, while it was not overtly sponsored by 3M, you have to imagine that the maker of Post-Its can't be particularly disappointed by the additional publicity. And, oh yeah, the best part is that video also contains a note at the end (not sure if it's an "ad" per se) from... Coca Cola, the very company that had been so hesitant to embrace Eepy Bird.

So, here we have a very entertaining video that doesn't "trick" anyone, isn't intrusive and still helps "advertise" a whole variety of different things without being annoying about it.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 8:35am

    But is it effective? I'm all for unobtrusive and less-annoying advertising but it won't last long or "hit off" if there's not a direct effect. It's one of those cruel facts of life that annoying and intrusive advertising tends to be most effective.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 9:01am

    I think it's certainly possible to create great art that incorporates and/or subverts commercial interests and advertising. I don't think that's the same as saying "all content is advertising and vice versa."

    All content is an advertisement in the sense that a great novel "advertises" for the writer and his/her writing ability. But an "advertisement" (if the term is to have any useful meaning) says "hey, look at this thing, it's great" whereas content that acts to advertise the ability of its creator simply is a great thing.

    Put another way: the difference between a poser and a legitimate artist is that the posers makes art that says "I make great art" and the legitimate artist simply makes great art.

    To call both "advertising" seems off in a subtle but important way ... and cheapens the legitimate art/artist.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous of Course, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 9:11am

    Radio shows did it

    Content and advertsing were mingled in old radio shows
    and the results were damn funny at time. A lot of it
    was tongue in cheek like the Harlow Wilcox making the
    pitch for Johnson Wax product in the Fibber McGee and
    Molly show.

    Many of the radio shows would also slip a plug into the
    show itself for the sponsor, sometimes just to get a laugh.
    Like Fibber wanting to wax some bald guy's head.

    It was very effective and entertaining too.

     

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  4.  
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    Wesha, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 9:15am

    Brilliant! I think I need to go buy some Post-It notes and try that...

     

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  5.  
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    LostSailor, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 9:18am

    While all ads are content and all content are ads, in a very broad sense, up to now there have been distinctions between them. What you're talking about is product placement, and it's not new, it just appears to be acceleration of the trend.

    Entertaining ads have always been the most successful. But product placement in entertainment, if overdone, has usually met with criticism.

    And while the practice is not new, you may not like the result if the distinction between the two disappears entirely. I'm sure advertisers would love it, as it is many ways more effective at placing product images and ideas before consumers (though it may be less effective in creating or defining brands).

    However, there is a very real danger of advertising compromising the quality of content. If you think movies and TV shows suck now, they may suck further trying to "blend" the ads in, as there will always be more pressure to include more "ad" material.

    In content not oriented to entertainment, it can also dilute the authority of information, especially if readers have to start guessing and wondering whether information their getting from a particular source has been influenced by advertising influence.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 9:19am

    Re:

    Well, most effective in accomplishing what? I'd be hard pressed to say that I ever went and bought somthing *directly* because of an ad, certainly not because of an annoying one. But the additional expose is kind of the point of ads, to let people know you're out there. If you can be informative as well as entertaining and not-annoying, then you'll not only get exposure but you'll also educate people on WHY they should buy from you.

    What's more, in a world of TiVo and YouTube, annoying ads are going to be less and less effective because no one will watch them. The key now is to make an ad that people will actively seek and watch, and that's what's going on here.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 9:21am

    Re:

    I disagree. The fundamental flaw here is that you assume that advertising is, essentially, lying. And while I'll grant that many times it is, it doesn't have to be. If you have something that says, "hey, look at this thing, it's great," and it really is great... then what's the problem?

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 9:25am

    Re:

    there will always be more pressure to include more "ad" material.

    Unless and until those making the content realize that too much ad with too little content or quality ruins the whole cake. If you start annoying people because you weaken your content in an attempt to "get more ads" then you've lost the game.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 9:25am

    Re: Re:

    Why can't the thing speak for itself?

    It doesn't matter whether the thing is great or not. The thing is the content. The thing saying "look at this thing" is the ad. That's an important distinction.

     

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  10.  
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    comboman, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 9:27am

    Damn it!

    All the sticky notes in my office are no-name brand that have the sticky parts all on one side and won't do that.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Software Developer, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 9:35am

    Re: Re:

    there are examples all over the internet one of the examples is Blendtec Blenders,

    they spent lots of money producing entertaining videos of their blenders chopping up everything from Golf-Balls to Iphones. there are 75 different videos from Blendtec, they spend money to make and distribute these videos and gave them away for free. now there are lots of home-done versions and parodies and many people (including one of my friends) are saying that the next blender they buy is either a blendtec or nothing.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 9:48am

    Re: Re: Re:

    That's great ... good advertising. I wouldn't compare one of those videos to Shindler's List, though ... one's an ad, and one's content.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Software Developer, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 10:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    you're missing the point. Mike is making the point that Ads can also be content, or something that people will want to see for entertainment.

    for example, companies that give away branded items, that items is something valuable or usable (atleast to some people, many people happily grab free swag) but it also displays an ad for a company.

    some animation studios make and release enjoyable short (~10 min) films that are entertaining the same way schindler's list is, but it is really an ad for that studio even though the studio is only mentioned in the credits at the end. how many people do you know that look at who directs a movie and say "oh such and such directs action flicks, not comedy, it isn't going to be good"? people also do the opposite, the director's advertising is the content he helps make.

    this is also true of artists, photographers, and web developers. they keep portfolios of things they have designed and are ready to give away for free in order to attract people who like their work and are willing to pay, which in turn will be added to the portfolio.

    what is content for one person can be an ad for another.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 10:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    A portfolio of my past work does speak as an "advertisement" for my abilities, agreed. But that's different from me creating something for the express purpose of touting my abilities. The former speaks for itself. The latter speaks for something else. This is a fundamental distinction.

     

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  15.  
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    Craig, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 10:42am

    Re:

    "But is it effective?"

    The REAL question..."But will it BLEND?" That series of videos reminds me a lot of the Eepy Birds stuff. Advertising that is topical and current and quirky and fun to watch. It's an ad from the first second to last, but who cares? I just wanna see that damn iPhone being turned into dust!

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Software Developer, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 10:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    and how does that compare to the animation studio example? they make a free, entertaining video that they release to the public for free on the hopes that it gets popular enough that the right people see it and decide to hire them. They made something designed to entertain one group of people (the average person and act as an advertisement to another at the same time!

    the whole point is that they don't have to be separate concepts when done right.

    the funny thing is that I'm am starting to think you are thinking the same process we are, but looking at it from a different angle. you may not have done past work with the express purpose of showing off your skills to future employers, but it still serves both purposes. it is an ad for you to new employers but content for previous ones. one could also argue that it is an ad to previous employers as well because if you did a good job for them they are more likely to hire you back.

    so I ask you this: How is making content that is good enough to serve as an advertisement any different than making an advertisement that also has enough content that people actively seek it out? that is the fundamental question that revolves around what we are talking about and I'd like to hear your answer.

     

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  17.  
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    Pete, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 10:44am

    Re: Anonymous and Crazy

    You don't think that some nice number of people aren't going to go buy a crapload of 3M Post-It Notes and start playing? Half my office is at it right now. ABC Family gets a pleasant boost over the long-term by being the ones who introduced/sponsored/endorsed the idea in the first place. They're going after a youth market, this will certainly help them build additional credibility by showing ABC Family cares enough to take the chance on something unusual/remarkable.

    Inclusive - not intrusive - will win big in the long run every time.

     

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  18.  
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    Yakko Warner, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 10:46am

    Re: Damn it!

    That's a bad thing?

    We used sticky notes a lot in planning meetings and *HATED* the ones that were sticky on alternating sides. You'd go to use one, stick it up on the wall, go to use the next one, stick it up, and it'd flop down illegibly because the sticky was on the bottom. >:(

    Throughout the meeting, we'd tear the stupid stacks apart and re-stick them all the same way -- which I suppose wasn't too bad as it gave your hands some idle work to do while you were talking or thinking, but it was still excessively annoying.

     

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  19.  
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    Pete, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 10:48am

    Re:

    See...it's already working...

     

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  20.  
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    Alan, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 10:54am

    What's the objective

    No definition of content explicitly excludes advertising.

    No definition of art explicitly excludes advertising.

    I have to revert to an old cliche and say that, art (content) is in the eye of the beholder and there definitely can say without equivocation that there are ads that I would say are more art than some creations that start as art.

    Get off it, advertising is a human endeavor with a purpose to evoke feelings, make you think and yes, persuade--just like art. Just because it's supposed to sell a product, doesn't mean that it's not art...which of course is in the eye of the beholder.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 11:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I'll just repeat: "The former speaks for itself. The latter speaks for something else."

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Software Developer, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 11:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    ok, in that case I rephrase the question: why can't something do BOTH? why can't a work speak for itself and for something else?

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 11:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Because I don't want to read a novel about Coca-Cola, or about how great the author is. Do you?

    Great content that speaks for something else is a great ad. Great content that speaks for itself is great content.

    Why are we so insistent on blurring that line? What's gained?

     

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  24.  
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    Office Supply Junkie, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 11:59am

    I was entertained.

    Post on! Apply directly to the forehead!

    I buy my kids post-its in all colors and shapes because they're fun.

    And I like them too.

    I could watch this thing all day. :)

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Software Developer, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    no offense, but are you purposefully trying to remain ignorant?

    a movie is an ad for many people. every single person in the credits can point to that and say "I did this for them". Every time you see a movie that was based on a book is functions as an ad for that book. Every time you see a car-chase it is an ad for the cars in the chase, you think people don't see the cool stunts done and say "Wow, I want to get that car it is so cool!".

    every novel already is an ad for the author. why do you think they list the other books the author has written? why do you think there is an author's note or about the author section? J.R.R. Tolkien's books speak for themselves, the radio dramas, movies, Tolkien himself, other fantasy books, and replicas of the weapons used all at the same time. how many people do you know that have said they hate X genre because they read one author's book(s) (or movies, videogames, series, live-action, animation, whatever) and assume that every book in that genre is the same?

    you are just assuming (wrongfully, imo) that just because a work sells something besides itself it must be bad, but literary works throughout the ages have shown this not to be the case, you just don't realize it because it is more subtle than the current hollywood tripe we get served on TV that.

    btw, I have played games that were nothing but an ad for something else and while a lot of them can range from bad to average there are the gems that have actually won awards because, even though it is an ad it was a good game in its own right, to the point that people don't care if it is an ad (as also evidenced in the blendtec blender's "will it blend?" ads)

     

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  26.  
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    Twinrova, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 12:53pm

    I say they can't mix and am sticking to it.

    Did anyone notice the "content" is over 3 minutes long? Does anyone here think consumers will want to watch this over and over for over 3 minutes while trying to watch their real content?

    Thank goodness for DVRs. Sure, it's entertaining but it reminds me of ice in a coke. It serves a purpose only for so long before it ruins the coke, which was already displaced by the ice to begin with.

    Too much ice = not much content, no matter how damn good the ice.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 12:59pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    But you're wrong. The BMW Movies were content themselves. They showed how great the cars were, yeah, but they were also just entertaining shorts in and of themselves. You're trying to make a distinction where there isn't one.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 1:02pm

    Re: I say they can't mix and am sticking to it.

    Does anyone here think consumers will want to watch this over and over for over 3 minutes while trying to watch their real content?

    You're missing the point. We aren't watching this while waiting for content. This is the content we're watching.

     

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  29.  
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    AOC, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 1:14pm

    the quality of the content is not the problem... it's the frequency in which the ads are shown that tires the consumers. The video above is great, but after a couple of views you get tired of it... it's only a very good piece of viral marketing, it can't work as a "traditional" ad on "traditional" media as tv. The budweiser's ads are great too, but after some views you're going to zap it every time it shows on your tv.

     

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  30.  
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    Sos, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 5:50pm

    Isnt this just a flashy infomercial?

     

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  31.  
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    Twinrova, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 3:57am

    Re: Re: I say they can't mix and am sticking to it.

    "You're missing the point. We aren't watching this while waiting for content. This is the content we're watching."

    I'm not missing the point. You are. If shows are going to start adapting products as "spots" within the show, then the show loses its value.

    Last season, a Smallville episode was done surrounding Stride gum, so much so one of the characters used its trademark slogan within the show.

    If you, or anyone else here, thinks this doesn't ruin the show, you're all complete idiots. And guess what? Fans completely agreed the show was nothing more than an hour long commercial and were completely upset (despite the plot being a typical one).

    Want to bet the creators of Smallville won't make that mistake again?

    Advertising is like DRM. It's intrusive, upsets consumers, and gets more invasive as time goes on.

    Yet everyone despises DRM but thinks ads (er, content) belongs in other content?

    Given the scope of the attitudes regarding this subject, there's really no point in replying further. Everyone who seems to disagree with this blog's subject is wrong and the replies only prove it.

    There's a damn difference between definition and perception. At least consumers know the difference.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 12:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Are you intentionally missing my point?

     

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  33.  
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    jules garcia, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 2:47am

    anonymous coward

    why is Anonymous Coward such a cunt?

     

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  34.  
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    sylvia l., Sep 30th, 2008 @ 10:50am

    This video is definitely a nice breath of fresh air where viral marketing is concerned. It is light and humorous and overall very enjoyable.

    It is interesting to consider the eccentric use of a product as a means of selling the product. After all, so much of marketing today deals not only with directly communicating to the consumer, but also having the consumers discuss the product amongst each other.

    This advertisement was particularly successful because of the child-like playful and curious quality it introduced into the more mundane and boring office environment. Giving the sticky pads a slinky-toy-like attribute, the ad almost encourages viewers to go find a sticky pad and try (or rather, experiment) with it for themselves.

    This is reminiscent of the EepyBird's previous Diet Coke and Mentos experiments. I wonder if there was an increase in Diet Coke and Mentos sales since those videos went viral, as viewers themselves tried to experiment with the soda and candy, testing to see if it was indeed "real" and even trying to out-do the EepyBird guys themselves.

    It will be interesting to continue to see the responses to this video, and whether or not there will be follow-up video responses.

     

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  35.  
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    Donmartini, May 12th, 2011 @ 11:26am

    i agree with some of the comments above. the video is slightly to long I think. Pet Care

     

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