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Being a millennial can be a frustrating experience. Baby boomers, awesome–you garnered the strength to survive global warfare and are named after your phenomenal sex lives. Silent generation, damn impressive–economic depression warranted you unquestionable grit and perseverance. But millennials? All we did was have the good fortune of being born at the turn of the century. Yes, I am a millennial.

We’re often toted as lazy and egotistical, and it’s not impossible to imagine us wasting away in basements, smoking and playing board games. Board games are vintage, and vintage is in. Even the word ‘millennial’ feels like it could have been created during a particularly angst game of Balderdash (It’s a noun. It’s our generation, mass-texts the quiet boy sporting the unisex American Apparel leotard, maintaining his observed vow of cyber-silence…).

When it comes to consumerism though, we are changing how advertising works. “By 2018 [millennials] will have more spending power than any in history,” MediaPost reports, and companies such as Rosetta Stone are already generating campaigns to target the particular sensibilities of our generation. In accordance with our growing social mindedness, companies will have to offer more than just a product.

Successful millennial advertising will be about not only what a brand can offer, but also how they choose to offer it. According to a study conducted by social media agency Laundry Service, Instagram-styled images received almost 6% more click through rates than traditional photos. As a generation dependent upon technology, the ever-increasing influx of information available to our keyboard savvy fingertips has to be utilized by advertisers. And following the success of user-generated campaigns by companies like Coke, it seems that we want to not only see ads in a familiar format, but to be featured in them as well (insert crack about our self-centeredness here).

As MediaPost notes, my generation’s “taste for images and videos that feel more “real” is beginning to change the way that all advertising might look in the future.” Here though, ‘real’ has to extend past product satisfaction. Real must mean experience. Real must mean feeling like an individual, while also guaranteeing peer approval within a generational whole. It’s like the images below–blending old standards of quality with new advertising models will spell success for many 21st century companies.

Images courtesy of Tumblr

 

 

In 2014 we’ve experienced an upsurge of socially minded advertising, with a wide range of campaigns to address topics such as hunger, the environment, access to housing, body image and self esteem, gender, and sexuality. Despite this variety of topics, these campaigns all have one thing in common—a susceptibility to preference profits over people.

Photo courtesy of AddictingInfo

Advertising with a positive social message appears tactful, inclusive, and proactive. And fundamentally it is, however, while advertisers are doing a better job of evaluating the demographics of widespread consumerism, the social issues featured in their campaigns need to feel valuable and authentic. As demonstrated by some of the same campaigns linked above, successful advertisements are prey to a number of criticisms.

  • Generalizations and Stereotypes: Gay advertisements can often appear patronizing. “Maybe the issue is that because homosexuality — unlike race, say — is invisible, advertisers feel they must state as loudly as possible that the characters in their ads are gay,” Salon offers, but that is no excuse for generalization. Similarly, ads can unknowingly perpetuate the exact stereotypes that they are looking to debunk. Inserting into popular culture, for example, the notion that young girls can in fact grow up to be professionally scientific, can unintentionally draw unwanted attention to the historical precedent of girls finding challenges doing just that.
  • False Promises: Greenwashing, or when a company “spends more time and money claiming to be green through advertising than actually minimizing its negative environmental impact,” can cloud advertising judgment and present a false sense of environmental conservation.
  • Exploitation: The ‘social experiment’ nature used in many body image campaigns is manipulative, takes advantage of consumer trust, and preys on human psychology. Comedy troupe Above Average spoofed the set-up quality that many of these ads rely on.

The success of socially invested campaigns cannot rely on traditional industry metrics for measurement–CPMs lack the ability to truly track the impact of real time social change through branding. As advertisers increase the presence of socially minded campaigns, they have to recognize their social responsibility to create equitable advertisements as well. Success will now have to mean something much larger–a balance between profits and people, and an ethical approach to storytelling where personal struggle, whether it be socioeconomic, gendered, sexual, or something else entirely, is never commodified for business growth.

Such criticisms are not to suggest that advertisements cannot have positive social messages. The combination is one that advertisers should actually be mindful of. Their abnormal access to widespread social media presents a unique opportunity for mass activism, awareness, and passionate cause marketing, both consumer and brand driven. However, advertisers must be equally as vigilant. The importance of increasing profits will always call into question the motivations behind socially progressive advertisements. That doesn’t mean that advertisements can’t benefit the companies they profit and the people they promote, but the wellbeing both must be considered. In 2014, we can have the best of both worlds.

 

“We all know CPM stands for ‘cost per thousand,’” alleged MediaPost, but if some of my friends are any indication, that claim is far from the truth. When asked what CPM stood for, albeit at 9A.M. and before a solid cup of coffee, real people responded–

  • Certified something
  • Crunchy Peanut Butter Muffin
  • A protein used in lab
  • Cost Per Monkey

Photo Courtesy of ButtonPushingMonkey.Wordpress

With ‘Cost Per Monkey’ probably being the best answer I got, things aren’t looking good for advertisers who depend upon CPMs to make profit. And I know that the acronym has something to do with Latin, but thousand doesn’t even start with an ‘M’…

It’s abundantly clear that CPMs are not easily understood by everyone. And if the term itself is not well known, how can we be expect people to further understand its purpose? Although impressions and viewability are hot topics in the advertising industry, this general lack of understanding poses a major threat to the generation of authentic interactions between users and brands. It’s not even an issue of transparency. The information is available, but advertisers and consumers just don’t understand it.

“In reality, when you talk about ‘impression”;in the CPM sense, you are actually getting a potential impression,” AdAge writes, however “an impression should mean an engaged consumer.” An engaged consumer is more likely to remember a product, and hopefully buy it, too. But engagement comes from understanding, and as one particularly confused friends wrote, CPMs leave many of us feeling distinctly “OMG what?” OMG, or perhaps Confused, Pissed Off and Moronic, indeed.

 

Are computers becoming more human? If this week’s press is any indication, the answer would seem to be yes.

As reported by NPR, for the first time ever a computer has successfully passed the Turing Test, an industry’s benchmark for accrediting intellectual thought to machines. Although the bot, named Eugene Goostman, was only able to persuade a third of the judges of its humanness, and valid scrutiny surrounds Goostman’s true capabilities, the achievement nonetheless demonstrates advancements for computer intelligence.

And bots aren’t only pretending to be humans, they are beginning to perform human jobs as well. The Associated Press (AP) announced that it will use story-writing software to produce the tedious corporate earnings reports for non-high-interest companies, and bots are also being used to keep World Cup venues safe. The question remains, though: are computers actually becoming more human, or just getting really really good at pretending?

NPR seems to believe the later, and we agree. As the publication writes, “it’s one thing to be able to express emotions and another to really feel them.” While computers may now be able to feign a range of human emotions and accomplish a variety of previously human tasks, do they really feel anything in the process? Can a computer experience the frustration that prompted AP to push monotonous tasks like earning reports to bots in the first place? Can a computer celebrate a win at the World Cup while sweeping for suspicious packages? Probably not.

This fascination with computer-human relationships is a hot topic across many fields. As NPR notes, we’re dedicating entire movie plots to it. 2013’s Her best explores this complicated advancement.

Photo courtesy of ThinkProgress

While Theodore might just be an overly paranoid man (I mean, look at that brooding), and Samantha an exceptionally perceptive bot, the disconnect between the two demonstrates real world implications about the future of computer and human interactions.

As NPR duly notes, “what makes a computer seem human isn’t how we perceive its intellect but its affect.” Scarlett Johansson (Samantha) might portray a damn good human, but as with bot writers and bot police officers, computers may not be be able to interact with us in truly genuine ways. Theodore’s frustrations were felt by many who saw limitations in Eugene Goostman’s passing of the Turing Test. “Computers don’t even go about making small talk the same way we [humans] do,” but genuine believability is a highly subjective experience.

Turing himself brings up an interesting point about determining genuineness: “how can you tell? After all, how can we know for sure that anybody else is really conscious, except by a leap of faith?” At Are You a Human we’ve chosen to put our faith in humans first. Although we are constantly allotting this benefit of doubt to each other, we aren’t reading to extend that courtesy to computers just yet.

 

Right now, the issues of viewability and ad fraud are being treated like a bad rash that just won’t clear from the face of digital advertisements. They’re annoying, they’re ugly, and rather than preventing them we often find ourselves scrambling for solutions after they’ve already spread. While the Media Rating Council has been working to improve low industry standards, a recent blog from MediaPost offers three ideas of its own to fix these blemishes.

Image courtesy of RojerThat

  1. Impose Real Penalties: “Advertisers and agencies should implement zero-tolerance policies and shut off services and networks completely for all future business opportunities when they have experienced fraud…Demand full refunds on campaigns, not just for the fraudulent portions. Recover fees from agencies.”
  2. Remove Artificial Incentives: “One of the biggest drivers and ‘enabling conditions’ of robotic traffic fraud is media buyers’ desire to push overall costs-per-thousand down. As easy way to cut CPMs in half is to use robots to double a site’s or network’s traffic. We need to focus more on cost-per-business-objective, not just on cheapening intermediate metrics.
  3. Remove Automated Site Sign-Ups: “Interact with real people, always. networks and exchanges make it easy and automated for almost anyone to sign up and get ad tags… How about insuring that there are real people behind sites.”

As Dave Morgan, CEO of Simulmedia, notes in the MediaPost blog, “clearly, there are a lot of folks focused on solutions.” And solutions like these are good, but penalties and removals lack some of the forward thinking necessary to sustain long term industry improvements. We need to be more proactive about targeting the sources of ad fraud as well as their effects, all the while ensuring that every ad is really reaching a real human. Proactive Acne Treatment is called proactive for a reason, and it’s time for the ad industry to adopt some of that dermatological urgency.

 

We know that not all online advertisements are watched by users (advertisers themselves probably don’t even watch them). But did you know that some ads are still not even viewable? As reported by MediaPost, despite viewability gains being made by the advertising industry, the issue has not gone away. Its a lot like plucking off the head off of a dandelion, or in our case ad fraud. When we forget to pull up the weeds/hackers as well, the problem is just going to grow back in a more creative, and likely problematic way.

Photo courtesy of WoollyGreen

According to Kevin Lenane, ad viewability is plagued by a number of issues–multiple videos appearing per page, video partial appearance, inconsistencies with video autoplay and audibility. Engaging with online ads is already a limited sensory experience, and by eliminating sight and sound, users are left abandoned by advertisements. It’s not like we can taste an ad, even though that would be awesome.

The larger problem though, is that most often neither advertisers nor users know that any of this is happening. As MediaPost prompts, it’s time for the industry to try something new–knowledge. We need to know the issues of viewability “BEFORE the campaign runs at the media plan stage, DURING the campaign as a blacklisting/whitelisting opportunity, and AFTER the campaign as an analytics and optimization check.” It’s time to pull some weeds.

 

This captcha has gone viral, receiving mass attention on Twitter and Tumblr.

Image Courtesy of Twitter

The phrase is a bit silly, but it accurately captures the feelings of frustration that often come with trying to solve a captcha. It’s a lot like this–

Gif courtesy of Teendotcom.Tumblr

And it’s not just white girls who are having issues with captchas. According to a study conducted by Stanford Theory Group, a section of Stanford University, this ability to ‘even’ is a problem experienced by all types of Internet users. The study found that across a variety of users, image captchas had “an average solving time of 9.8 seconds and three-person agreement of 71.0%, and audio captchas being much harder, with an average solving time of 28.4 seconds, and three-person agreement of 31.2%.” And those statistics are from 2010, when captchas were as easy as this–

Image courtesy of Developers.Google

In 2014, as bots have gotten smarter, the captchas we encounter are much harder. It’s no surprise that four years later many Internet users still can’t even.

 

My parents always advised me that two wrongs don’t make a right, but on the mobile dating app Tinder, two right swipes can now make love… or at least a memorable one night stand. But what is Tinder getting out of this ménage à trois? According to Business Insider, the company is hoping to get paid for its services.

Like many mobile apps, Tinder’s simplicity attracts users–swipe right to accept a potential match, swipe left to reject them, and then wait. However, Tinder has recently considered installing ads into the app’s user experience. While advertising is only one option that the company is exploring (others include user subscriptions and premium features), the move could anger the apps large number of millennial users.

Business Insider reports that the ads might not be as inconvenient as anticipated, though. Fox and USA Network have already tested unique advertising models on Tinder, creating fake profiles for favorite TV characters to generate buzz around popular shows. And come on, who wouldn’t swipe right for Danny Castellano?

Photo courtesy of Business Insider

Photo Courtesy of Business Insider

Sifting through hot celebrities might be fun, but fake profiles also increase the potential for more unrequited swipes right. And while I might find myself cruising through season one of The Mindy Project, I’d rather be binge watching it in bed with someone else. Advertisements need to work for users as well as the companies that produce them, and frankly, my thumbs and I are already growing tired.

 

Ad Age recently published an article called “ Most Digital Ads are Still About Direct Response, Not Branding.” For those who aren’t familiar, a direct response campaign runs ads that encourage the consumer to do something (think: click here for a free sample of our 100% natural weight loss supplement) where as a branding campaign runs ads that tells the consumer about the brand, its slogan and it’s value (think: Coke’s “Open Happiness” campaign)

But even though digital ads are leaning toward direct response, there’s a subsection that’s dominating: mobile. Mobile is a hot space and as the saying goes, form follows function.  Small screens just aren’t ideal to deliver longer, more lasting brand messages. Mobile platforms are also positioned really well to be part of the internet of things (click here to download our app, which will send you push notifications, which will use your location data to send you coupons which will lead to sale conversions) Lastly, the way we consume on mobile is different: It’s fast and user controlled, which also fits well for direct response campaigns that invite users to do one simple task.

This article, though chock-full of stats and charts, was great and worth a glance.  It certainly made me interested to see how branding giants will integrate with the changing digital form. But…with Facebook and Instagram recently announcing their premium video inventory and social platforms like Tumblr and Pinterest opening ad space, it seems like the big brands and their Madison Ave. money are influencing a changing in form.

 
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