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The Art of Propaganda in the age of social media

October 8, 2014

 

The “Umbrella revolution”, named after the protection the demonstrators used against police tear gas, triggered an unprecedented response from the citizens of Hong Kong. From the day the police fired 87 canisters of tear gas at unarmed students, debates broke out between friends who sympathised with the pro-democracy demonstrations and supporters of the police force.

Hong Kong umbrella revolution tear gas man

Defiant protester braves the tear gas

Source: Mashable

Never has there been a political issue so divisive in Hong Kong, with people openly venting their political frustrations by sheer numbers – even the ones who appear seemingly apolitical had something to add to the conversation. These heated arguments, often in 15-20 long threads, led to subsequent un-following, un-friending on Facebook and even removal (or departure) from WhatsApp groups amongst those who had differing views on the political debate.

Through social media, everyone had a soapbox to vent their opinions, share videos and posts they felt that added to their plight. Beyond the call for genuine universal suffrage, the movement is as much a fight to protect the rights people currently enjoy in Hong Kong, as it is to safeguard the freedom of speech, of expression and of the press. Can they imagine a world with state-controlled media, blocked searches, and restricted access to certain websites and apps?

Over the past couple of years, the increasing presence of the Chinese state has been apparent. The government has employed many tactics to maintain control of the press and the spread of pro-democracy messages and news. Last year, outrage was provoked over free-television licensing when newcomer HKTV was denied of its TV licence bid, allowing TVB – the main commercial TV station in Hong Kong – to continue its strong hold on the news. Dubbed CCTVB (mocking its relationship with the state-owned CCTV station in China), the locals maintain their scepticism over the neutrality of the station’s reporting.

The democratisation of journalism

The rise of citizen reporters, however, means that news is no longer distributed through the traditional channels of television, print and online. Twitter, weibo and Facebook, in particular, are filled with streams of people’s own raw footage capturing the turn of events of the Umbrella revolution. In one video – a burly man was overheard saying that it would cost $300 HKD (approx. £23) to remove a barricade. And in another, an “anti-occupier” was asked how much he’d been paid off to disrupt the movement, to which he answered, “That’s none of your business!” – a slip of the tongue, perhaps?

Through social shares of news and distribution of video footage captured on smartphones, people are left to make their own judgements. Did official forces pay triads to intimidate pro-democracy protestors? Were people paid to disrupt and aggravate the peaceful protests or attend anti-occupy rallies? If the attendees of the rally are to be believed, it would appear to be so. In one news report by i-cable, a subscription channel, one senior citizen said she came because the head of the village told her to do so, and another lady, with a heavy accent, said she was part of a tour group and thought she was going to go shopping before quickly being pulled away by her tour guide for saying too much.

The future of Hong Kong?

The Chinese Communist Party has a huge task at hand – and the world is watching. Not only is the state propaganda machine having to control the news flow of the Occupy movement into mainland China, the state is also dealing with (what it deems as an “internal affair”) how the demonstrations are perceived, and the spread of unfiltered content in the age of social media.

The party believes that a strong hold over Hong Kong is the only way of guaranteeing its stability. The fear is that if the party loosens its grip, Hong Kong will slip towards disorder, spelling disaster for the rest of the country. It is, after all, an “internal affair” they are dealing with.

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Marketing to Generation Z

Marketing to Generation Z

August 14, 2014

Interest around the Generation Z demographic sparked once again over the past week following Ofcom’s annual ‘Communications Market Report’. The research found that children and teenagers were the most digitally savvy age bracket in the UK — with children as young as six able to navigate their way around digital technology as quickly as the average 45 year old.

How-to-Speak-Gen-Z_First-and-last-cards

Source: McCrindle Research

Described as the “first tribe of true digital native”, Generation Z covers those born around 1995 to present and has grown up with easy access to the internet, social media and emoji speak. Not only are Gen Z-ers the most tech literate generation, this cohort is also deemed the “holy grail of brands” according to Marketing Magazine, as they now make up a group around 2bn strong worldwide (23% of the population in the UK).

Members of Generation Z have some interesting characteristics which provide food for thought for brands looking to market to the consumers of tomorrow.

Common traits include:

  • A sense of entrepreneurial spirit – Generation Z watched their older siblings struggle to find work and so they are focused on boosting their CVs by doing work experience or holiday jobs. Generation Z don’t plan to follow the same path as those who stuck to societal rules only to be drowned with debt in bleak jobs market. In fact, seven in ten Gen Z-ers want to start their own business and say they would rather save money than spend it
  • They don’t just want to make money; they also want to make the world a better place. The generation that has grown up since 9/11 and through a recession spends a lot of time worrying: about world peace, global warming and the likelihood of parents losing their jobs
  • Most of Gen Z are younger than Google and they are more tech-literate than adults in their mid forties. They don’t use texts and message one another using emoji. And as a result, Gen Z-ers have shorter attention spans (around eight seconds).
  • Gen Z-ers are less narcissistic than the selfie-obsessed millenials (between the ages of 20 and 36) and 69 per cent would rather be cleverer than others than better looking.
  • Due to Generation Z’s upbringing under the pessimism of Gen X parents, members of this cohort are resilient. Generation Z don’t need to feel special and have a sense of realism fed to them from a young age.

Just as Generation Z face a ‘Grave New World‘ as they grow up, brands and marketers, likewise, are entering a brave new world to build brand equity and trust with this group of true digital natives.

 

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The best 2014 World Cup adverts

June 29, 2014

We are well into the knock out stages of the riveting 2014 World Cup. Not only have the games delivered, statistically, the most successful World Cup ever in terms of goal-scoring with 136 goals, the 48 action-packed matches at group stage was also one of the most talked about international sporting event on social media. According to Twitter, 300 million tweets have been sent to date compared with 150 million during the whole of the 2012 Olympics. It seems to be that everyone and anyone is sports pundit nowadays.

Nike the last game

Source: Nike

Of course with any major sporting event, how can we forget the epic efforts brands go to cash in on World Cup fever? The concept of branded entertainment is reaching new heights with brands adopting the traits of narrative constructs to convey powerful stories, as seen in the Beats and Nike short films – both non-sponsors of the World Cup. These days, the short 30 second branded/ product “advert” just won’t cut it to get the attention and kudos from today’s audience.

Here’s a personal selection of five of the best World Cup 2014 commercials:

Beats By Dre – The Game Before the Game

Nike – The Last Game

Nike Football – Winner Stays

McDonald’s – GOL!

Adidas – House match

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A brief history of Times New Roman

June 10, 2014

For typography fans, The Times Newspaper commissioned this short film based on its renowned typeface Times New Roman, as part of the paper’s new ‘Unquiet Film Series‘.

Times New Roman font typography Unquiet Film

The third instalment, in the collection of short films, celebrates one of the most recognisable typefaces of our time, albeit a “default, boring, robust, honest, classic, proud” font as described by those who star in the film.

A fascinating and splendid look at this famous typeface, which takes in both its historical and cultural relevance as well as current incarnations for the newspaper.

The video is part of nine short films, with four videos already released looking at:

  • The Power of Words featuring leading Times’ columnists and writers
  • Question Everything – a review of the paper’s investigative journalism
  • Times New Roman – a new font is born
  • Photojournalism – an exploration of The Sunday Times’ history of commissioning photojournalism

Catch the series here: www.foreverunique.co.uk

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Emerging Global Web Trends

May 27, 2014

An interesting presentation on how consumer trends, behaviours and mobile connectivity have shaped e-commerce and social media offering in non-English speaking countries. In China for example, apps like WeChat is much more than just a messaging service, the platform also offers Facebook-like status updates, photo blogging, mobile contact exchange, payment platform and virtual wallet. Earlier this year, WeChat had a viral hit during Chinese New Year with its Xinnian Hongbao “Red Envelopes” seasonal promotion.

 

wechat hongbao

 

The gifting feature inside WeChat gives users two options to send money to friends. The first allowing users to transfer lucky red envelopes directly to a specific person. The second, and offering a more fun, option enables you to send money to a group of friends and let them “snap up” the cash randomly between them. For example, if I send a RMB 100 ‘red envelope’ to a group of five friends, they might each get 15, 40, 10, 30, and 5 yuan. If there are more than five people in the group, only the first five get money.

Likewise e-commerce sites like the popular taobao offer consumers “a mix of amazon retailing, ebay services, PayPal payment with a dash of Google search”. In 2012, transactions reached RMB 1 trillion ($160bn). To put that in perspective, in the same year total sales on Amazon.com were $61bn.

If you’re looking for how cultural differences impacts internet and consumption, there are useful comparisons to be drawn.

 

The Emerging Global Web from yiibu (H/T WebCurios)
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A round up of the best 2014 April Fools’ stories on the web

April 1, 2014

The old adage “If you can’t do it well then don’t do it all” seems to ring true when it comes to April Fools’ pranks.

April Fools ’ Day – a day when journalists expect to be inundated with fake products and announcements, brands just can’t get away with going into it halfheartedly by sending out a poor press release and clogging up a journalist’s inbox just for the sake of marking the occasion.

Over the years, the likes of Google through its products like YouTube, Gmail and Google Maps have seriously raised the game for well-executed April Fools’ pranks. The first of April isn’t just a day for mindless fake announcements, but a chance to raise brand awareness. And with a well-designed press release with optimised links and high quality assets, it can help boost brand searches and conversion, whether that’s to reactivate a forgotten Gmail account or trigger an impulse purchase for an innocent smoothie. You really want that marmite smoothie, don’t you?

So what have been the best April Fools’ jokes this year? Here’s a round-up of the best brand hoaxes of 2014:

Google Maps x Pokémon - Riding on the popularity of Twitch plays Pokémon, Google is calling on the Pokémon fans to “catch ‘em all” as it leaves Pikachus, Mews and Bulbasaurs in different locations across the globe. According to Google, the ultimate Pokemon master who collects every single Pokemon will be invited to Googleplex to participate in the final round of hiring.

google-maps-pokemon-challenge

While on the note of recruitment, Google also allows you to AutoAwesome your CV by adding special effects to your resume.

 

Emojify the web! As an emoji addict and fan of expressing everything through icons (((o(*゚▽゚*)o))), Google Translate now allows you to read all your favourite web pages using emotive illustrations. I’m game.

 

Can you feel the force? Inspired by Star Wars, online retailer, The Fowndry is launching Star Wars Force paint available in two colours: The Dark Side – Carbonite and The Light Side – Hoth White. A coat of this special paint on any surface of your home not only boosts wifi connectivity in the home but also improves your ability to commune with the dead.

Star Wars Force paint april fools fowndry

 

Source: The Foundry

Microsoft announces SmartClippy technology – Promoted Tweets are now no longer confined to boosting new campaigns. This year, Microsoft promoted its gag using Twitter, billing the googly eyed paper clip as the one paperclip for everything in your life.

No more butter-side down bread – Likewise, Sainsburys followed suit with some Twitter advertising to promote its April Fools campaign. Although the formula they used to calculate the perfect bread-slicing method could have been a press office story for any other time in the year

On the subject of toast, Warburtons “announced” plans to build a new office in London – TWO in fact – sandwiching the Gherkin. A simple idea that drove some nice interactions on Facebook.

Warburton april fools gherkin 2014

Source: Warburtons Facebook

YouTube announces upcoming viral video trends – Forget flashmob marriage proposals, planking and harlem shakes, YouTube thinks it knows what the biggest viral video trends will be in 2014.

Google Japan launches magic hand device for smartphones– everything always sounds way more advance in Japanese.

And lastly for my South London friends, according to BrixtonBuzz, Brixton will be undergoing a major rebranding exercise. Anyone fancy drinks over at East Clapham market on Friday?

Brixton East Clapham renamed

Source: BrixtonBuzz

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Food, glorious food

March 26, 2014

For those who were completely mesmerised by Lurpack’s slickly edited sequence of chopping, dicing, peeling and mashing can feast their eyes on this “chromatic porn food series” (as described by the food film vimeo channel) by Proximity BBDO Paris for Carte Noire.

Carte Noire rose advert

The series features four mini films as part of Carte Noire’s “Couleur Café” campaign, which ran a couple of years ago but is only getting attention from the likes of Adweek now.

The four shorts in the series covers rose (cream profiteroles), green (a pistachio tiramisu), red (a chocolate-raspberry millefeuille) and yellow (a mango-passionfruit mousse).

Here’s to delicious food artistry…

 

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