Archive for October, 2010

What can we learn from Kanye?


by John Koenigsberg

“We look at the game completely different now.”                                                – tweeted by @kanyewest

The first-ever use of the term “album” to describe a compilation of recorded music is generally credited to the release of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite by Odeon Records in 1909; the term itself is derived from the fact that the square-shaped contraptions that held the multiple vinyl records looked a lot like the leather-bound photograph albums that were commonplace at the turn of the century. Over the next fifty years, interest in longer form classical music waned, the appetite for bite sized pop music exploded, along with hit-driven radio, and the notion of the “single” took root. Record companies soon observed that you could maximize profits and charge a premium price by bundling a hot single with a grouping of not-so-hot songs—thus the modern pop album was born.

The abbreviated history above brings to light an important point: “albums” as a creative vehicle have somewhat artificial origins and create implicit boundaries by virtue of having a beginning and an end.  Increasingly, we are seeing creativity become unfettered from the bounds of track one-through-twelve, adrift in an endless loop.  This opening up of the creative process has come to the forefront in the digital age. It is not at all uncommon now for bands to tweet previews of new songs or for authors to gather feedback on an unfinished chapter through their blog. This past Saturday evening, as the final credits rolled on Kanye West’s thirty four minute film ‘Runaway’, I could not have felt this conviction more strongly, nor could I ignore the overwhelming sense that I had just experienced something significant.  Since late August, Kanye has been releasing never-heard-before music every Friday for free and plans to continue doing so until Christmas—he has christened this weekly holy-day “GOOD Friday”. By year-end he will have released at least twenty-five new songs, produced, directed, and acted in his first feature film, conceptualized a Broadway Stage extension and animated version of his ‘Runaway’ concept, and released a new album called ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ for good measure.   The continuous, conveyor-belt style of this creative outpouring has been coordinated superbly through twitter, facebook, youtube (VEVO), and his own KanyeWest.com.

I ask “What can we learn from Kanye?” because of the masterful job he has done diffusing his message through such a rich variety of creative mediums.   As digital planners, we have a parallel aim—to disperse a message as creatively as possible, and in a manner that animates an underlying truth between brands and consumers.   As we survey Mr. West’s approach, I see room to incorporate some of his philosophies into our own methods.

  • Lesson #1:  Be prominent.  The debut of ‘Runaway’ aired simultaneously on MTV, MTV2, BET, with live steaming available on MTV.com, BET.com, and VH1.com—make sure people can’t miss the message.
  • Lesson #2:  Don’t limit yourself. Many of today’s most creative minds are striving beyond the formats which have traditionally characterized their field.  Kanye’s vision, for example, is being expressed through dance, fashion, photography, painting, film, art direction & set design, not to mention what he is doing musically and with live performance—each format is intended to impact people in radically different ways.  As we help shepherd brands into new and unchartered digital territories we should be just as open to experimentation; just as eager to create diverse representations of and interactions with a unified message.
  • Final Lesson:  Tend the flock.  Effective use of social channels has been critical to Kanye’s success in reinvigorating his image and exciting his fan base.  It’s not that these channels were used to invent a new persona or articulate new brand-positioning, they simply facilitated access to truth that was previously obscured.

As our paid media campaigns start to orbit around social platforms, consumers must discover that there is value, loyalty, and of course truth at the gravitational center of that universe, not a black hole.

Blind Spots: Keeping our eye on emerging digital spaces

by John Koenigsberg

The mind of the digital planner can become easily absorbed with the ever-changing digital landscape, and last weeks’ flurry of headlines about NFL content coming to Verizon-backed tablets as well as news of a 10 inch Motorola ‘Stingray’ Tablet have certainly helped keep a healthy portion of our focus squarely on tablets for now.
A glance at some of our recent posts here at MediaMosaic underscores this preoccupation—I, for one, have written about iPad at length on this blog—and it’s no surprise when the industry’s daily headlines are consistently dominated by the topic. And maybe it’s reassuring to think about the evolution of our industry as a clustering of “pillar” issues, i.e. what new devices do I need to have my eye on? Am I tapping into the best data? How should I approach privacy concerns? Am I leveraging social media effectively? How do I make sense of the highly undifferentiated network space and emergence of Demand-Side Platforms? And of course there’s a multitude of other important, widely-discussed issues we could add to this list.

But what if this focus on the “pillars” of digital progress places too much emphasis on the parts of our world that are already digital? I was fascinated by a recent New York Times article that commented on the still-sluggish sales of in-flight WiFi but highlighted the large investments that are being made by airlines like JetBlue and in-flight WiFi giant Aircell to offer significantly faster, and more dynamic in-flight digital offerings. There’s also the investment being made by Transit Wireless to take New York City subway platforms online before 2011. Surely we need to start to think about how we want to engage consumers in these emerging, highly differentiated digital environments; we are in a position to influence consumer experiences in places and in ways we’ve never considered before.

And yet, in the same moment that we grapple with increasing diversity and fragmentation in the nature of digital experiences, there is an overwhelming sense of convergence (See: Google TV), a feeling that the digital blind spots in our world are being smoothed over. The future is upon us where you can start a Netflix movie on your iPhone, pick it back up cruising at 35,000 feet on your laptop, and finish it off back home in your living room. The content is constant while the environment is variable. As we push forward, we need to be mindful that the answer to the question “where is my media running?” has more answers and requires broader context than ever before.

John Koenigsberg

John Koenigsberg is currently a Media Planner at Razorfish. Since 2008 he has worked to perfect the art of putting “heads in beds” for Starwood Hotels. At present, he oversees media planning initiatives for the Fortune 500 hotelier’s Westin, W Hotels, Le Meridien, and Luxury Collection brands. He brings with him his passion for social media, video game advertising & game mechanics. John was born and raised in Greenwich Village, NYC and has a BSBA from Boston University School of Management. Twitter: @jmko