30 June, 2010

From the Intern Sweatshop: Little Susie Says Buy Revlon, So You Should Totally Do It!

The basic equation for a successful Web endorsement is simple: multiply word-of-mouth marketing effects with the extensive reach of the Internet. Thank you, social media.

For the first time since 1980, the Federal Trade Commission has updated their Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials, putting the actions of bloggers and vloggers in the spotlight. The main focus of the October 2009 revision is that the relationship between a marketer and blogger must be disclosed, especially if material connections exist. Basically, if a blogger is being compensated in any way (gifts, money, etc.) for the mention of a particular product, this information must be disclosed to their audience.

The new laws have left vloggers on YouTube in the center of the endorsement controversy. Cosmetics companies and clothing retailers, as well as bath and body product manufacturers have been using YouTube to tap into their younger markets with their vlogging peers. It used to work like this: a YouTube “beauty guru” would receive free products and provide a positive review without disclosing their compensation. Information about where viewers could purchase the product would then be provided in the information bar of the video. Genius.

A vlog is way more effective than a commercial to reach this audience on many levels. Young women are actively seeking out this information; it’s different from being bombarded with commercials in the middle of Gossip Girl. They are viewing a positive product review and learning how to use the product, broadcasted from the bedroom of a girl who has a lot of really trendy stuff. Some of these videos are even more than ten minutes long, forget the thirty second spot.

Perhaps the most crucial element of this marketing scheme is the perception of credibility to this audience. Credibility seems to be based on the number of subscribers rather than accreditations or experience. Some of these users currently have more than 300,000 subscribers and are partnered with YouTube, making money off advertisements in addition to companies that sponsor them. With agents, lawyers, and spreads in magazines, YouTube super users may soon even fall into the category of celebrity endorsers. But isn’t that how it works in high school? The girl with the most friends always has the most influence, right?

The FTC policy has rocked the credibility of these “gurus,” and these ladies have had to bat their eyelashes even harder to regain the trust of their viewers. Vlogs have now been accompanied by a cutesy little note to the FTC for regulation compliance. This text ensures that regardless of compensation – their opinion is honest. They go a little something like this: “Some products I bought with my own money, some were given to me at NYC fashion week, and some were sent to complete this look. NYX Cosmetics is compensating me for this video and it is my own opinion.” Or in other words, Yeah, so I got this lipstick for free. I am really raving about it because, well, I am getting paid to talk about it. Honestly, I swear!

The FTC’s current policy is that each decision regarding misleading endorsements and testimonials will be decided upon on a case-by-case basis. Well, that’s a bit blurry. Sounds like a way to scare and protect minors at the same time to me. They seem to be the majority offenders. I imagine the legalities of a retailer entering into a material relationship with a minor may become complicated beyond the limits of the FTC. However, the FTC needed to do something about this, so I guess writing up some rules that may never have consequences was the solution. Let’s be real, the FTC doesn’t have time to launch an investigation on the thousands of bloggers and vloggers supporting products and brands.

In April 2010, the FTC conducted its first investigation based on these laws when Ann Taylor Loft hosted a preview of their summer collection for bloggers. The issue: bloggers who posted coverage of the event on their blogs would be entered into a gift card drawing and given a special gift. The concern of the FTC was the lack of disclosure regarding compensation for coverage. Ultimately, action was not taken against Ann Taylor Loft. Surprise, surprise.

The entire situation speaks to the closer eye the FTC has been keeping on the blogosphere. No one can deny the dynamic social media has added to advertising. It enables marketers to reach selective audiences and is extremely personal. The draw to bloggers and vloggers is their authenticity, but authenticity is put into serious question when they are being gifted and paid for their positive opinions.

And by the way, I was not compensated for this blog post and these are my honest opinions. Renegade is the best place I have ever worked, thanks for the three credits guys ♥!

If you are interested, the text of the FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testomonials can be viewed here. Want to check out these videos in action? Just click on the “How To & Style” tab on YouTube.com.

Ashly Oehrl, Web-wise Creative Department Intern

From the Intern Sweatshop: Little Susie Says Buy Revlon, So You Should Totally Do It!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

24 June, 2010

Video/Link Epilogue from Ehrlich Press Conference @ Renegade Productions' Studio

As promised, here's video from Governor Ehrlich's press conference at Renegade Productions' studio yesterday (via)

Some coverage here:

The takeaway: the film production industry in Maryland is coasting on fumes. Once one of the top five states for production incentives, Maryland is now in the bottom five according to the panel of pros at the press conference.

I'm curious to see what others think. What'll fix it? Does it need fixing? Does it matter? Besides throwing cash at it, what else do we need to do to bring movies back to Maryland?

Video/Link Epilogue from Ehrlich Press Conference @ Renegade Productions' StudioSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

22 June, 2010

Saving Maryland's Film and Commercial Production Industry

2.23.10 UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who showed. Great turnout. Great dialogue. Video and links from thes press conference here.

Maryland movies that weren't

Our friends on the other side of the building at Renegade Productions know a thing or two about the state of film and commercial production in Maryland. Over the last few years they've watched as other states (and even other countries) have created attractive incentives to lure studios and production companies to their hoods; unfortunately, Maryland hasn't kept pace. The titles above, all set in Maryland*, never made it here. The mere fact that the remake of John Waters' "Hairspray" was filmed in Toronto makes me want to hit someone in the face with a crab mallet.

An article from Baltimore Magazine suggests why Maryland isn't ready for its closeup:

Maryland's incentives, which include exemption from state sales tax, plus a 25 percent refund (up to $1 million) on all production expenses spent in Maryland are paltry when compared to states like Michigan that offer a 40 percent rebate on filming expenses. (Flicked Off, Baltimore Magazine)

The summary: When it comes to keeping the film and commercial industry alive in the Old Line State, we're blowing it. It's tougher to get projects. It's tougher to get crews. It's tougher to make a living on either side of the lens.

So, Renegade Productions is proud to welcome former Governor (and current gubernatorial candidate) Robert Ehrlich to speak about the issue. He's been a big proponent of beefing up incentives for film and commercial projects in the state, so we're sure he'll have a lot to say. He's also bringing a few friends. Regardless of whom you're voting for in November, if you care about the future of the film and commercial production industry in Maryland, it's worth checking out.

Call me Bob.

The criticals:

Governor Robert Ehrlich
Talking about how to resuscitate the film and commercial industry in MD
Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 11 a.m.
Renegade Productions Studio
10950 Gilroy Rd, Suite J
Hunt Valley, MD 21031

View Larger Map

* F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button takes place in Baltimore while the movie's set in New Orleans.

Saving Maryland's Film and Commercial Production IndustrySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

14 June, 2010

Twitter was so much simpler in the 1930s

Use your computing machine's navigation tool to "click" on the photograph for extra-ordinary size. Bully!

Further proof that the Greatest Generation really was the greatest generation: They invented Twitter.

Everyone just pack up and go home. Millennials, turn the light off before you leave.

(via Modern Mechanix by way of Urlesque.)

Other old timeyness: Branded content in 80s; His Master's Voice

Twitter was so much simpler in the 1930sSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

10 June, 2010

How my college got me to donate

I'm the first one to talk up the power of social, much to the annoyance and/or ridicule of my agencymates. But I was reminded today why it has - and always will - have its limits.

I try to remind clients that relationships work on the same principles of physics: Energy is neither created nor destroyed. It's simply transferred. You can't expect that a low wattage effort is going to yield nuclear results. You get what you put in.

With that in mind, Towson University, my alma mater, went beyond the one-click connection we've gotten so used to online. They eschewed the relative ease of link love and Facebook fans and Twitter talk.

Instead, they actually took the time to learn about me - and do something about it. It didn't take going to my blog and leaving a comment. Or checking out my LinkedIn profile. Or hitting me up on Google chat. Those are all great and all but...

They mailed me a package with all this stuff:
Included was the latest edition of the school's literary magazine. I once worked on the staff as an editor. Good times (from what I remember).

There was also a handwritten note from the Director of the Annual Campaign Development:

Mr. McDermott,
I understand you worked on Grub Street while a student at Towson so I've enclosed the 2010 Grub Street along with an announcement about English Dept. retirements. We hope you enjoy your summer and the enclosed.

Meghan Colbertson

I was a little sad to learn that four of my former professors were all retiring, but it was nice to know.

As I flipped through the lit mag, I found a donation envelope stuffed between the pages. Same strategy Ralphie employs in "The Christmas Story", placing a Red Ryder BB gun ad in the pages of his mom's magazine.

Interestingly, there was nothing in the note asking for a donation. The package as a whole was all the call to action I needed.

The appeal worked on so many levels.

It was personal.
It was relatively expensive to produce.
It was hand-assembled.
It was relevant.
And, it was gloriously analog at a time when everyone's digital.

I'm going to cut them a check this weekend. It might even clear.

How my college got me to donateSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

09 June, 2010

To Hell with Hollywood

An old college friend of mine isn't playing by studio rules. At least for right now. Award-winning filmmaker Mike Flanagan decided to get his horror flick "Absentia" made the old fashioned indie way. By maxing out credit cards and begging anyone he'd ever met for a little scratch.

And it worked, thanks in large part to the brilliant social marketing effort he and his cast set up using a one-click funding campaign on Kickstarter. You'll also find the trailer for his film there.

Posting hilarious video appeals from cast and crew to YouTube, shucking n' jiving his Facebook network, and pulling together a pretty fine list of quid pro quo items for those who donated, Mike managed to raise over $23,000 to fund his film. By the way, his goal was $15,000.

A total of 375 people ponied up. In return, Mike and crew gave away everything from autographed screenplays to walk-on roles depending on the amount donated.

Here's Mike's first appeal:

And the rest live here:
Video 2
Video 3
Video 4
Video 5
Video 6
Video 7
Video 8

Not bad for a guy whose film came in second to mine in the 1999 Towson University Media Arts Festival. Still stings doesn't it, Flanagan?

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