Top 10 Digital Trends of 2015

We have entered a new era in which digital innovations are more individually relevant than ever before. Technology has always been people-centric, but it has transcended from task-driven tools to discovery mechanisms that fuel our motivations and lifestyles.

Many of the changes we’re seeing come to fruition this year are born from the idea of the “Internet of Self” (IoS), which Mike Elgan of Computerworld defines as the convergence of connected devices and biometrics. This connection allows marketers to gain access to more precise data and leverage a deeper understanding of exactly who their customers are, their authentic habits, desires, and relationships and, in turn, learn how to reshape business models to their preferences in a highly personalized, diverse, and predictive fashion.

Here are Laughlin Constable’s top ten digital marketing and advertising trends to look out for in 2015 and beyond:


What it is: According to Elgan, IoS is the blend of the “Quantified Self,” the concept that biometric sensors track health and behaviors, and the “Internet of Things,” the concept that connected objects communicate with each other without conscious human involvement. Data is collected from your body and sends information and commands to objects in your life to create an individually tailored experience.

How it’s being used: According to Autoweek, Volvo is creating in-car sensors that monitor driver alertness and distractions that could prevent them from focusing on the road. The technology also recognizes the driver’s dimensions and automatically adjusts seats and mirrors as soon as they get behind the wheel.

Wearables are another example – clothing and accessories that connect sensors with devices and advanced electronic technologies. They will be the ultimate form of integration to transparently monitor health, location, and behavioral information.


What it is: Unique human traits and behaviors are being used to authenticate identity through the science of biometrics. With sensors being embedded into everyday objects, and the use of these objects growing rapidly, the ways in which customers can experience and interact with brands are transforming.

How it’s being used: Instead of typing, clicking and swiping on computers, smartphones and tablets and requiring the traditional username and password credentials, we are seeing forms of interaction through embedded voice recognition, fingerprint sensors, expression, and movement and gesture systems. These are now being used to access confidential information, enter buildings, and make payments. As customers become more comfortable using their hands, voices, eyes, or movements to converse with technology, the IoS will continue to evolve.

estimote-indoor-location-300x17103 BEACONS + THE ADVENT OF HYPERLOCALITY

What it is: Beacons are a geo-targeting game-changer. They are small, low-priced pieces of hardware that use a low-energy Bluetooth connection. The technology detects customer location and pushes relevant and useful information to nearby mobile devices.

How it’s being used: Beacons are renovating the ways in which retailers, restaurants, sports stadiums, transit systems, airports, museums, and educational institutions connect with people indoors by giving them the ability to send hyperlocal messages and content based on a person’s exact location. For instance, someone may be at a museum looking at a specific exhibit and receive a push notification with additional information about the artist or specific pieces they’re looking at.


What it is: Virtual concierge technology is the idea of leveraging advanced customer data in order to customize and enhance services and experiences offered to customers. It’s really all about making users’ lives easier by using data to better serve and support them.

How it’s being used: For example, tools and services that suggest what items you should buy for your home based on where you live, what you own, your personal style and members of your household. Through IoS, these types of recommendations are getting significantly more intelligent (and automatic).


What it is: People are becoming less focused on the mass broadcast ideology and more focused on intimate, private networks. As people refine their social networks, they seek out users and brands that add value to their lives. Users are seeking targeted, group-focused communication and information exchanges. Brands will start to have more individually significant propositions to get their customers’ attention by means of their common interests, lifestyles, and ways of enhancing intimate conversations.

How it’s being used: Apple Watch has a feature in which users can send each other their heartbeats or a custom drawing. Ephemeral (display content for a short time then self-destruct) social networks, such as Snapchat, Skype Qik, and Vine, allow for a more confidential, low-risk exchange of content.


What it is: Omnichannel is a multichannel marketing approach that provides customers with a seamless experience across all touchpoints on- and off-line. The term has been thrown around as a buzzword for cross-channel done well, but it’s more than that. Due to our incomplete and fragmented data, it hasn’t truly come to fruition. IoS is changing this, as digital and traditional channels and CRM databases are merging into one tracking structure to touch users across the entire decision journey.

How it’s being used: Examples are often that the mobile app should match the responsive design of the website, which should thematically reflect the look-and-feel inside the store. However, true omnichannel is when data is collected and leveraged across channels and brands in order to create seamless continuity.


What it is: The Collaborative Economy is a socio-economic system built around the sharing of human and physical resources. It involves the shared creation, distribution, trade, and consumption of goods and services by multitudes of people and organizations. Great brands of the Collaborative Economy have proven to consumers that, with the right structure, they can depend on shared services more than ever.

How it’s being used: From Airbnb to Zipcar, the newest generation of users realizes the cost-benefit of a sharing society when it comes to luxury items; thus, they are getting smarter with their money and sharing costs and responsibilities with others.

Crowdsourcing has become intertwined into marketing strategies across industries. Brands are empowering customers by allowing them to dictate how the business evolves and expands. When information about products and services is shared, the value of those goods and services may increase for the business, individuals, and the community. Access to startup capital is becoming simpler with the success of crowdfunding for business services such as crowdSPRING and donation sites for entrepreneurs and those in need, such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe.


What it is: Today, we are all about sharing advice, experiences, tips, and personal stories. Bloggers, YouTube and Instagram stars, and digital producers are becoming more influential than celebrity endorsers. It’s about those who have fans with the most loyalty more than those who have the most fans. Their influence (and fees) continue to rise as they realize their power to shift brands.

How it’s being used: Visual storytelling from real people will be employed by brands to strongly communicate engrained philosophies while engaging and cultivating consumer communities and amplifying equity. With an increased use of rich content and media, visual stories crafted for marketing purposes will be able to spark a customer-driven movement, inspire emotions, and send a clear message about the brand to its evangelizing communities.


What it is: A few years ago, social was the cherished “free” platform for companies to inundate their target audiences with their advertising messages and attempt to “engage” with them in their communal space. With that notion, floods of brands added social to their increasingly complex marketing mixes. That day is gone, as 2015 marks the year when Facebook, the social network with the highest saturation of brands, is expecting their organic reach to drop near 0%. In turn, social will become true media as we know it – a place where brands pay to play.

How it’s being used: The result? Some brands will be forking over the money to get in front of users. But their strategies within social become less about “engaging” and more about getting their messages in front of their target audiences, in addition to using the space for transparently handling customer service needs. Other brands will be finding different places to play (e.g. owned branded platforms and communication channels and engagement in niche communities / groups).

mollywood-apple-payments-videoSixteenByNine54010 DIGITAL CURRENCY + ePAYABLE TECHNOLOGIES

What it is: Digital currency is an internet-based form of currency or medium of exchange that allows for instantaneous transactions and open transfer-of-ownership. ePayable technologies are a form of virtual payment, where you can pay for a good or service without the need to physically use money or credit cards.

How it’s being used: Digital currencies such as Bitcoin and Amazon Coins are reinventing currency, including who holds the power and how that money moves around globally. Users can now work around banks to pay for and exchange goods. With ePayable technologies, wallets and cards will be used less as mobile apps will take their place. With the help of Google Wallet and Apple Pay, mobile transactions are about to become the new normal. People can now sync their credit and debit cards with Samsung Wallet or Passbook and make purchases by simply by placing their phone in front of a sensor at checkout.

Think Small to Win Big

I’m fairly certain Pete Townshend wasn’t referring to smartphones and tablets when he wrote “Going Mobile” more than 40 years ago, but the dude was right.

Mobile technologies and capabilities have undoubtedly made leaps and bounds over the past few years. Remember how savvy you thought you looked with your BlackBerry (no offense to those who still chat via BBM)? While your Curve 3500 is collecting dust in a shoebox, your iPhone 6 is getting more play than Angry Birds. So, what’s in store for the reigning champions of digital marketing and advertising?

Mobile is no longer a “nice-to-have” in the marketing mix. As it continues to expand its role as a connection and convergence device, mobile should be at the core of brands’ digital ecosystems. However, traditional media like print, TV, and radio still attract the lion’s share of advertising budgets across industries. To put it simply, dollars spent on mobile marketing don’t add up to the time we religiously spend on our devices.

Companies need to shift gears–but not go full throttle into one direction. Mobile marketing cannot be treated like desktop marketing—or any other channel, for that matter. Mobile is more than a medium. It’s an extension of the owner; a vital personal accessory; the one you inevitably say “good night” and “good morning” to; the one who wakes you up in the middle of the night because it needs your undivided attention; the one who isn’t creeped out if you ask for directions or advice. Admit it: You are madly in love with your phone. (Fact: 75% of Americans admit to bringing their phone to the bathroom.)

Consumers who search on mobile devices are more likely to take action. eMarketer conducted a study in May 2014 and found that 50% of consumers who conducted local searches via smartphone visited the store within a day, whereas only 34% of desktop and tablet searchers combined took the trip. Additionally, 18% of local queries on smartphones ultimately led to a purchase. As consumers, our increased emotional dependency on our mobile devices is raising the bar high for brands, and it will continue to heighten as we become more reliant on products and services information that is literally at our fingertips. We frequently switch between our devices throughout the day—desktop at work, mobile on-the-go, tablet everywhere between—to search, shop, communicate, read, and accomplish tasks. We not only want, but also expect, brands to keep up with our wavering demands and quickly provide the information we need whenever and wherever we need it. With this, brands should not focus solely on mobile devices. Instead, they need to create appropriate messaging that suits their consumers’ ever-changing multi-device behavior.

Here’s the magic spell to mobilizing mobile: Marketers must tightly weave mobile into their foundational brand and digital strategies as well as pay close attention to how, when, where, and why consumers are on their gadgets in order to serve them the information they need at all the right moments. Thanks to mobile, we are able to deliver content and advertising experiences that are truly in the interest of the consumer more quickly and conveniently than ever.

Although mobile is the new cool kid on the block, marketers should not zoom out completely on its predecessors. They’re still one big happy digital family.

Going Native With Brand Marketing

Native advertising is redefining marketing boundaries in the never-ending battle to win audience attention and engagement. With users more likely to see, engage and share native ads over many traditional advertising methods, it is no wonder that brands are quickly evaluating how they can incorporate this medium into their marketing mix.1 Today’s definition of the concept continues to rapidly evolve, and the trend is showing no sign of slowing with native investments predicted to reach $4.6 billion by 2017.2  However, while it can be powerful, brands must understand its parameters to get the most out of their investment and avoid adverse effects.  Native ads land on the fine line between content and advertising, requiring brands to take an in-depth, target-focused approach to ensure the medium is drawing the user’s attention effectively. 




Native advertising is sponsored content, or the intentional placement of a brand within a space to add content or relevance to the user’s experience.  The advertisement flows within the content stream for the user.

The definition and examples of native advertising will continue to evolve as quickly as consumer content resources. The concept is not new, but it has recently created more opportunity in the digital space, giving publishers new ad space and revenue.  What started as product placement and advertorials years ago has evolved into sponsored search results, brand-generated articles, partner blog entries, or promoted social media posts. There is a broad spectrum of native ads that will continue to evolve as brands and publishers find new, creative ways to deliver quality content to audiences in native places.


The Guinness Guide to Oysters ad from 1950 is one of the earliest forms of published native advertising. The advertorial was a buyer’s guide to oysters, a popular pairing with Guinness beer.



Traditional advertising messages typically lay outside of user content, and are often focused on convincing rather than providing useful information to the user.  Because consumers receive hundreds, even thousands, of commercial messages every day, brands are looking for other ways to put their message at the forefront in a relevant, valuable and less-intrusive way.  Consumers are demanding more from brands, too.  Social media’s open forum has increased their expectations for higher quality brand content.3

The most effective advertising messages resonate with the target audience, and the same reigns true for native advertising.  Effective native advertising gives users content they want, where they want it.  Giving users valuable information makes them more receptive and likely to engage with the ad.  If the messaging is trustworthy and interesting, it can hold their attention longer while positioning the brand as a thought leader.

Brands agree native advertising works because it serves the interest of the audience.  It engages with a more relevant message rather than focusing on click-through rates or a direct increase in sales, showing the brand’s personality and credibility within a category.




Native marketing is missing the point if it does not mimic the surrounding content, but it should not deceive the target audience.  It’s the fine line between content and advertising that makes it so effective, but also presents challenges.

Today’s evolving regulations leave room for interpretation and margin for error.  Brands and publishers are left using their own moral compasses in content, placement and disclosure.  Without proper transparency, users can be misled, perceiving a native ad as a bait-and-switch tactic rather than an informative and useful brand piece.

And creating the right content requires work.  Native advertising pushes marketers to develop creative, relevant content for consumers without a direct sell of the brand.  The value propositions are less overt, but the messaging complements the brand while adding value to the user’s experience. This philosophy better aligns with how consumers use media today, but the obscurity leaves brands evaluating native opportunities with caution.

The New York Times introduced T Brand Studio, their in-house native advertising content team, with an elaborate article sponsored by Netflix on female incarceration. The ad included video and informational charts within the editorial, providing insight and emotional stories to pique interest of the target consumer segment while promoting the season premier of the Netflix’s series Orange is the New Black.


Marketers are intrigued by the user engagement possibilities, but the results can be difficult to directly quantify because it is an investment in the long-term brand building.  It may fall short if confined to only traditional ROI metrics because it can be subtle brand messaging rather than direct selling. And, unlike traditional ads, every native advertising opportunity is unique.  Ads are likely not reusable in other media, so time and resources need to be invested in creating each ad without the econ­­­omies of replication.




STAY FOCUSED ON THE TARGET.  Only mimicking content is not enough – it must align with the goals of the target audience as well.  Rather than simply extending your current marketing messaging, start with a deep understanding of and focus on the target segment.  Knowing the wants, needs and desires of the target will inspire authentic content that is more likely to resonate. Speaking too broadly will not only dilute the message, but is more likely to alienate your target because they won’t see the value.

Johnny Walker partnered with Thrillist’s brand partner program, Allied, to create “Scotchtales.” The custom content series of whiskey-centric articles included expertise and tips for their target demographic of the modern gentleman.


PARTICIPATE – DON’T MISLEAD.  A native ad should be positioned naturally within the surrounding content, in a place that makes sense, to keep the focus on the content rather than the brand. However, transparency is necessary. Tricking the user into clicking on what they believe is editorial content diminishes the brand’s credibility. The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Native Advertising Playbook provides recommendations for “clear and prominent” disclosure, and it is beneficial to always err in favor of the target.  No ad is worth betraying the target audience.

Buzzfeed offers “social advertising” with custom social posts created by Buzzfeed based on the brand’s identity and goals. Advertisers are labeled as brand publishers at the top of the post. Hidden Valley partnered with Buzzfeed during the launch of their updated product recipe that they proclaimed as “the new ketchup” to promote new product uses for consumers.


FIND THE RIGHT PARTNER.  Brands must take full ownership of their ads, including placement.  Native advertising has opened new ad space for publishers, but brands must evaluate the opportunity to decide if the partner and placement is a good fit.  It may be where the target audience is, but irresponsible execution of the ad can be off-putting to the user. Brands must work with credible partners that align with their priorities to ensure the ad meets the brand’s objectives.

Brandvoice is Forbes’ brand-generated content that is published alongside editorial and user content in print and online. Brandvoice content is labeled and linked to an explanation of the program for the audience. IBM partnered with Brandvoice to publish business-targeted editorials by IBM’s thought leaders that supported their “Smarter Planet” brand positioning.


UNDERSTAND THE VALUE.  As with any media, opportunities must be evaluated to determine how they fit in the marketing mix to achieve an end goal. The goal of native advertising is brand building, and it is better measured by understanding the correlation between user engagement and the probability to purchase within that segment.  It is more accurate to measure awareness and attitudes rather than focus on traditional ROI metrics.




Native advertising is a quickly evolving concept that presents the opportunity for brands to connect with their target audience in a valuable way for engagement that rivals editorial content.  The challenge is adding the right content in the right context, but when done well, brands will create a meaningful connection with their target that goes beyond what most traditional marketing methods are able to deliver.  Those that most accurately understand their target audience will find the most effective native ways to add to the conversation, resulting in more audience engagement and brand strength.



1.  Sharethrough, Inc and IPG Media Lab, Native Advertising Effectiveness Study, 2013

2.  BIA/Kelsey, U.S. Local Media Forecast, 2012

3.  Forrester Technographics Digital Consumer Community Report, September 2012

4.  Hexagram and Spada, State of Native Advertising, 2014


The Top Ten Moments Of #MUISS

Laughlin Constable was proud to sponsor the 2014 Insight Summit Series Digital Advertising + Marketing Summit, held at Marquette University on 3.19.14. There were many moments that made this year’s event special, but here are our top ten favorites:

  1. LC Shines – Who can resist an opening keynote that includes Beyoncé, Elon Musk, and Flappy Bird? Or a UX presentation from a former punk rocker. Or workshops that unlock the secret to SEO success and how to get the most out of Google Analytics? Many thanks to Paul Brienza, Sean Barry, Trisha Krautkramer, Erin Ebert, and the rest of the LC team who made this year’s Digital Summit a success.
  2. Tweeting Up A Storm – The Digital Summit was a success, and attendees let everyone know via Twitter. Within hours, #MUISS was a trending topic in Milwaukee, generating 1.5 million potential impressions and @LaughlinOutLoud was mentioned hundreds of times – a  perfect representation of the digital world we live in.
  3. AOL Gets Programmatic – Michael Treon, VP Platform Solutions at AOL, discussed programmatic advertising and how it will shape the future of marketing, merging creatives and engineers to come up with time-saving solutions.
  4. Google Rewind – With the massive search engine changing almost every day, it was entertaining to walk down memory lane with Jen Keller, SEO Specialist, and see what Google looked like in the late 1990s, mid 2000s, and just last week.
  5.  #SketchNotes – Jennifer Torres (@jentorres) stole the #MUISS Twitter show with her creative and visually engaging SketchNotes
  6.  UX Drunk Test – Laughlin Constable’s User Experience Strategist, Brady Pierzchalski, highlighted how UX shouldn’t make users feel stupid by showing this video of a person using Windows 8 for the first time.
  7. Tell a Story – Closing speaker Susan Sachatello, from CUNA Mutual Group, encouraged brands to focus on what they stand for, and tell that story to your audience well. She also urged marketers to recognize who your audience is, but who they aspire to be and meet them there with your brand story.
  8. Embrace the Chaos – Taulbee Jackson from Raidious talked about real-time marketing and how advertisers must embrace the chaos. “You have a real time focus group happening all the time, whether you know it or not.”
  9. #SwipeRightForFun – Did you know? The dating app Tinder was originally going to be called Matchbox. And co-founder Jonathan Badeen has indeed been on a Tinder date.
  10. Sell out! – The Digital Advertising + Marketing Summit, including pre-summit workshops, sold out for the second year in a row. Don’t miss the next Insight Summit Series event.

2014 Media Trends

Does the fast-paced digital ecosystem make your head spin?  Do you feel it’s impossible to keep up with the next industry buzzword?  Laughlin Constable can help.  Here at LC, we work hard at staying on top of these trends and applying them to our daily practices.  We enjoy seeing where the industry is heading and what that means for us as marketers.  We are optimistic about the future and look forward to exploring it together with our clients.

Enjoy the chart below, which takes a deeper look into four topics you’ve likely heard about but still might be unclear on… native advertising, online viewability, big data and programmatic buying.

[click the image to enlarge it]

Get Connected. Your Customers Expect It.

Meet Taylor. Her fancy for high fashion has had her seeking online retail therapy for the majority of her 23 years. Dying to don the latest trend-setting little black dress, Taylor clicks – impulsively adding this stunner to her favorite online retailer’s shopping cart. Her mind starts to fill with visions of her flaunting the piece at her best friend’s New Year’s Eve party when she suddenly remembers she’s low on cash until her next payday.

Like most her age, Taylor goes about her day driving through the digital space. At each turn she is reminded of this fabulous frock; Facebook retargeting, delightful email reminders, banner ads. Payday arrives and the LBD is finally hers. After completing a survey and becoming a Facebook “Like,” Taylor now receives frequent discounts and engaging content focused on her fashion-forward lifestyle. Let the loyalty games begin!

Nikesh Arora, SVP and Chief Business Officer at Google, recently stated, “There is reasonable probability that in the next five years, half of all advertising will occur online.” It is also projected that over the next five years, CMOs will be involved in IT more than CIOs. Online shopping is becoming the preferred method for many consumers across generations, whether it is on desktop browsers, mobile browsers, or app-based storefronts and thus, digital marketing budgets are expected to continue to grow considerably in 2014. Today, they are already averaging 30% of overall media spend.

The challenge? Not all marketing executives, media planners, analytics experts, or IT managers have the tools and actionable data they need to make informed decisions about how to utilize their budgets. More importantly, marketers get why tying these marketing channels together in real-time is valuable, but making it happen seems like an insurmountable and very expensive proposition. Companies need to focus on being omnipresent; in other words, the brand should appear in all the right channels at all the right moments throughout the customer decision journey. Customer engagement isn’t just a “nice-to-have” in today’s ever-changing world. Customer engagement is a “must-have.” Customers expect their voices to be heard anywhere at any time, and then receive an accurate, personal, pleasing response as quickly as possible.

The good news for our industry is that it is continually on the rise. Laughlin Constable has worked with hundreds of brands throughout the decades, guiding them through these challenges. Our agency has helped our clients create smarter strategies and enable real-time, omnichannel marketing that is already leading to improved engagement, conversion and loyalty. More great products, solutions and case studies are on the way; so stay tuned, or should we say, stay connected!

Reaching “Peak Bullshit” and Where We Go From Here

I’m a college graduation speech junkie. When you ask interesting people to share life lessons, not surprisingly, it can make for some pretty great stuff.

My favorite of 2013 was Jon Lovett’s address to the graduates of Pitzer College, which the 30-year-old former Obama speechwriter later excerpted in a piece for The Atlantic called “Life Lessons on Fighting a Culture of Bullshit.”

You had me at “bullshit,” Jon. Being that the recession created skeptics out of even the most trusting among us, I’m willing to bet his point of view will strike a cord with you too. It’s kind of hard not to agree with statements like this:

“One of the greatest threats we face is, simply put, bullshit. We are drowning in it. We are drowning in partisan rhetoric that is just true enough not to be a lie; in industry-sponsored research; in social media’s imitation of human connection; in legalese and corporate double-speak. It infects every facet of public life, corrupting our discourse, wrecking our trust in major institutions, lowering our standards for the truth, making it harder to achieve anything.”

You can see where I’m taking this as it relates to brands. Phoniness is becoming a liability and, conversely, there’s more opportunity than ever for brands that are honest. In a McKinsey & Company article about the rise of socially conscious consumers, the growing importance of brand integrity is spelled out in the stats:

“At the same time, consumer trust in corporations has declined by 50 percent since the crisis. Consumers now trust only one in four companies on average. The dearth of trust in the marketplace makes it an agent of differentiation. As a result, the correlation of trust to brand equity has increased by 35 percent in the past three years. Trust, once an afterthought, can even help companies enter new market categories.”

Jon Lovett not only recognized a similar demand for sincerity in his commencement speech, he argued that it’s led us to an important cultural tipping point:

“I believe we may have reached ‘peak bullshit.’ And that increasingly, those who push back against the noise and nonsense; those who refuse to accept the untruths of politics and commerce and entertainment and government will be rewarded. That we are at the beginning of something important. We see it across our culture, with not only popularity but hunger for the intellectual honesty of Jon Stewart or the raw sincerity of performers like Louis CK and Lena Dunham. You see it across the political spectrum, from Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts to Chris Christie in New Jersey to Rand Paul in Kentucky.”

Marketing can’t create trust in this environment, it can only magnify it. More and more, people are looking into the practices and policies of the companies they choose to hand their money over to. Do they treat their employees fairly? What are their environmental policies? Where/how are their products made?

That’s why I think Jon’s parting advice to the Pitzer graduates is as relevant to brands as it is to individuals:

“All you have to do is avoid BSing yourself — in whatever you choose to do…be honest with yourselves, and others…reject a culture of insincerity by virtue of the example you set.”


Photo: Vagenda Magazine

I started down my path as a marketer in the late 90s as a media major. One of the first things I observed about the industry I was preparing to join was how off-base, out-of-touch and sometimes downright insulting too many of its messages targeting women were. Sadly, not much has changed since then (which still amazes me given the significant consumer purchasing power women have had for decades). But I do think it’s finally about to.

As a women’s issues advocate and an account planner at an agency that gets it, I’ve felt the momentum building toward a fourth wave women’s movement — and, concurrently, a tipping point-level demand for more media accountability — for a while now. Then a few weeks ago, this widely-held presumption was recognized as an official consumer trend by Kate Muhl of Iconoculture (my favorite research resource). From Kate’s “The F-Word Returns” trend brief:

Thanks to post-recession economic realities, a 2012 campaign season that brought women’s issues to the fore, and public figures like Sheryl Sandberg, feminism is back — but with a witty, social-media-fueled twist. Both women and men are participating in the conversation, and taking misguided brands to task.

 Yes. Yes. Yes.

One of the most entertaining examples of “taking misguided brands to task” is the hilarious parody commercial Ellen DeGeneres created for Bic’s “For Her” pen series after the brand attempted to recruit her as its spokesperson last fall. But, as Kate points out, “Women (and men) are no longer sitting in a passive position waiting for the entertainment industry to channel their irritation into lampoons and parodies.” They’re taking matters into their own hands and, in doing so, are forcing worldwide change:

  • Just weeks ago, Reebok dropped their sponsorship agreement with rapper Rick Ross because of social media-fueled pressure surrounding song lyrics referencing date rape.
  • Miss Representation, the advocacy organization behind the fantastic documentary by the same name, introduced the hashtag #NotBuyingIt during this year’s Super Bowl to call out brands that rely on sexual objectification to sell their products and are currently raising money for a #NotBuyingIt app that will let users photograph, map and share sexist ads.
  • Ford India’s leaked ad mock-ups depicting bound women in the trunk of a car sparked online outrage and resulted in the termination of several of their agency’s employees. (Again, keep in mind that these ads never even ran.)

Possibly the best example how tired consumers have become of the media’s hyper-sexualized, perfection-obsessed depictions of women came not from yet another outrageously disparaging ad, but from an unusually relatable one — Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” video. Unless you’ve been off-grid for the last week, you’ve probably seen it and/or had discussions about why it was such a big deal. Although some have made relevant arguments about the limitations of Dove’s message, it’s clearly proven that authenticity is an approach that women will not only respond to, but champion.

Women have become so used to media that creates and preys on insecurities (there’s a lifetime of that BS inconveniently stored in our brains), which is exactly why the Dove campaign feels so revolutionary. And the message it sends to the industry couldn’t be any clearer: It’s time for a more progressive and respectful way to communicate with women.

“Girls get the message, from very early on, that what’s most important is how they look, that their value, their worth, depends on that,” says Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D, an author and filmmaker internationally recognized for her work on the image of women in advertising. “Boys get the message that this is what’s important about girls. We get it from advertising, we get it from films, we get it from television shows, video games — everywhere we look. So no matter what else a woman does, no matter what else her achievements, her value still depends on how she looks.”

The price our society pays for this environment is high: girls are increasingly learning to self-objectify, women are twice as likely to suffer from major depression than men, 65% of females exhibit eating disorder behavior, and 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

This is not just an industry issue (and certainly, within our industry, there are many exceptions) or potentially a bottom-line issue, it’s a social and moral issue propagated by other cultural influencers as well. Yet when media shapes culture, like it does in this always-connected digital age, not taking responsibility for our role in it is…well, irresponsible.

Advertising is the greatest industry. Ever.

When people ask me what I do for a living, I can’t tell you how proud I am to say, “I work in advertising.” The outside perception is that all of the people in advertising are fun, creative and outgoing, work in loft-style offices and wear jeans and sneakers. Well, they’re right. We do. However, beyond the stereotype we carry, there is so much more to it than that. You know it, and I know it. We are an interesting mix of people in all areas of expertise, under one roof.

Every day I walk by the strategists and planners who can define everything and anything, down to why you chose to wear Converse on Tuesday.

Every day I talk with the art directors and designers, who translate messages, concepts and ideas into images, pictures and art. Most of them know Lorem Ipsum by heart.

Every day I see the media team who speak a second language of acronyms: CRM, SEM, DMA, CPM, GRP and CTR. OMG.

Every day I run into the producers, who miraculously manage to secure locations, wrangle talent, make sure there is beef jerky at craft service and of course, control the weather, because they, together, are God.

Every day I work with account service teams who are truly the hub of all communication in the agency. Putting client needs first, they usually forget to eat lunch. And sleep. Wait, they don’t sleep.

Every day I see the PR folks who know way more about AP style than Microsoft Office.

Every day I walk by the studio production artists who are always ready to lend a hand with a smile, even though it’s the client’s 26th revision.

Every day I pass programmers who design code, write new code, understand existing code, modify existing code and verify that existing code still works. All under the influence of Mountain Dew.

Every day I work with magical retouchers who can transform a Pontiac into a unicorn—because they can.

Every day I see the highly caffeinated social media crew, who run around with laptops in hand all day, thinking 20 tweets ahead of you.

Every day I work with the ladies of accounting who help organize the potlucks and tirelessly remind us about our timesheets, while proudly sporting Packers sweatshirts.

And, every day I see my favorite, the writers. They get people to act using only words. They come from all walks of life and always find a way to make me laugh. Hell, I like them so much I married one.

Like I said, the outside world thinks we’re fun and creative. In fact, according to a recent study (to be unveiled next week) in Ad Age, 69% of consumers do think that advertising has the power to make our world a better place. Some said that it would be a fun job to have. They are correct (again). We do have fun.

So there you have it. We are surrounded by the most amazing group of people on the planet and the fact that I realize that makes me feel pretty good. How do we ever get bored in this business? The answer is, we don’t. We wear jeans, we swear and we’re paid for our unique thoughts, squeezed fresh from our brains. We’re in advertising, and it is good.

Stop yelling at the TV. Start talking to it.

A conversation with your TV might currently consist of a string of expletives after your football team fumbles. Or maybe a gasp of disbelief after a particularly jarring episode of Downton Abbey.  But according to a recent AdAge article, a partnership between Viacom and Zeebox is giving consumers an opportunity to further engage with their TVs via a platform called SpotSynch.

Zeebox is a website and mobile app that can be utilized in conjunction with TV consumption. As stated on their website, “Zeebox is your TV sidekick – an interactive second screen that makes TV more social, clever and fun.” For example, you can tweet about what you’re watching, chat with friends that are watching the same program or even get more information about a topic being mentioned on TV by clicking on a tag dubbed zeetag.

With SpotSynch, digital ads relevant to a commercial will appear on Zeebox while the spot is being aired, giving advertisers an opportunity to immediately engage and interact with what might otherwise be a passive TV consumer. Looking at recent stats, this makes a lot of sense.

  • 28% of boomers looked up a product advertised during a TV show (Source: GfK MRI iPanel Reporter, Fall 2012)
  • 85% of tablet / smartphone owners use their device while watching TV at least once a month with 40% of them doing it daily (Source: Nielsen, November 2013)
  • 53% of US Internet users use their computer when watching TV, 16% use their smartphone and 9% use their tablet. (Source: Ipsos Media CT as cited by Interactive Advertising Bureau, “Screens: What Are Peple Doing…and Why?” May 16, 2012)

To read more about these multitasking trends, check out this neilsenwire article that provides insights into simultaneous usage.