Nuit Blanche, where were brands at?

For those unaware, Nuit Blanche is an annual art event here in Toronto that takes place one magical night in October,from dusk to dawn. It involves people roaming the city streets viewing and experiencing art installations. It goes by different names across the world but it’s the same concept.

This year while walking from exhibit A to a watering hole 40 mins away (public transit and cars were in major gridlock,hence), I found myself reflecting on more than just the existential crisis the world is experiencing, through quantification of a paradoxical analysis (art speak). I started to wonder why brands missed out on this chance to talk to their people on a night when they’re out and about, in no hurry to get to somewhere and with no particular agenda in mind. Now I know art purists are probably thinking – How dare! this is an art event, I don’t want to see no advertising hoopla! – But hear me out. I’m not talking about an in-your-face billboard trying to sell insurance while wishing everyone a happy Nuit Blanche. I’m talking about brands that could very easily engage in a non-intrusive, relevant manner. Some broad product categories that could have used this opportunity to say hello:

#1: Hydration brands: A hoard of people walking the streets for hours, common sense dictates they’re going to need hydrating. Every Shopper’s Drug Mart I walked past had people lining up to buy precious H2O. Where was Dasani/Vitamin Water? Being present when relevant shows brand care, few booths around town wouldn’t have hurt. On the same note, I’m sure coffee would have been much appreciated too.

#2: Active lifestyle brands: Something about all that walking makes you think about how you need to get more exercise – good time to be reminded of Adidas’ Fall collection of trainers. If Subaru could have a guy spray painting what they called “the art car”, I’m sure Adidas could have had a giant shoe installation. subaru

#3:Foot Care brands:  At some point I wanted nothing more than a quick foot massage – reminded me of OSIM’s foot massager chair – the type they have installed in some malls. What a great chance for a bunch of these to have been installed around town that night.

#4: Charging Stations:  Portable phone charging stations! It doesn’t matter whether a battery/phone manufacturer or Telcom took the initiative, but “my phone is dying” was the most heard line all night – why? Logical. People constantly had their phones out snapping pictures and tweeting their experiences. Nokia, you were a sponsor, why no friendly gesture of this sort?

Speaking of sponsors, Tourism Toronto was one of the sponsors – I couldn’t help thinking how a few interesting informational displays about otherwise sparsely ventured into neighbourhoods would have made a nice read, for locals as well as those visiting.

On a slightly unrelated note, it was awesome to see artists incorporating brands into their art, Vespa I hope you saw this creature someone created out of Vespa body parts (spotted around Kensignton)vespa

In the world of social media,what had me baffled was the official Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Twitter handle’s lack of response to questions asked. The account was only used to send out (albeit pre-composed) tweets all night, but not reply to any – this is the megaphone vs walkie-talkie approach some brands are yet to comprehend when it comes to social. Automation is NOT the way,especially when it counts the most. Also, why no app this year?

I’m sure there are a host of other ideas, and I agree, some of these ideas might not have been able to achieve much given the sheer numbers, but it’s the thought and presence that counts sometimes. I’d love to hear what you think – should brands have found a way to be relevant to this mass of pedestrians or would that take away from the art?

Instagram, not so insta anymore

instagram-video-appInstagram: the app that turned the average Joe into a pro photographer, boasts of over a 100 mn users as of February this year and was named app of the year by Apple in 2011(Source:Instagram blog). Its users have been snapping up their breakfast bagel, their awesome lives and even their bathroom tiles. Now, video comes to Instagram. 15 whole seconds of it. Suddenly the app’s Kaizen philosophy appears to have taken a detour.

In a scramble to have it all, the world of social media has progressively become somewhat akin to the Cola wars, with Facebook and Twitter at the helm. It started with Facebook buying Instagram and Twitter buying Vine. Then Facebook rolled out hash tags to get on par with its 140 character nemesis, and now, to take on Vine, Instagram launches video.

While this is all turning into one big content creation party, before you race out to shoot an #igram video to combat a burning FOMO starting to stir within you, consider this: it might not be watched.

The video app market is over fragmented with offerings, some merely differentiated by length constraints – there’s Viddy which allows upto 30 secs of footage, Keek, which allows 36 secs and Socialcam which is uncapped. Then there’s the recent Vine, which challenges your creativity with a 6 sec limitation,which in my opinion, can be fun if done right(my thoughts on Vine here).  Instagram brings its cache of awesome filters over to video, but has failed to ask itself a crucial question –is this just an attempt to compete with Vine and push a technology platform or will it enrich the current Instagram experience? I fear it takes away from it.

The platform might be amazing for its video shooting capabilities, I don’t doubt it. I can also see how this is a juicy bone for brands chasing the famed “content marketing” wagon. The caveat I offer to both would be, don’t bet on your friends/consumers being as amazed as you are with your #birthdayshenanigans and #soundsoftheocean clips, shot with the X-pro II filter.

micro-publishing media

In the online world of social publishing, there has been a gradual swing towards documenting micro-moments. Sharing is encouraged, but in mini morsels that can weave in and out of busy lives without being an interruption. Under these circumstances, 15 second footage of your life seems like a short film. More so if it’s shot in Lo-Fi. Instagram took the photo-sharing baton from Flickr and ran with it, when it comes to video however, the party may have moved elsewhere.

A sense of media fatigue has begun to set in; the popularity of Snapchat is right on the dime with the trend of see it and/or forget about it. Its ephemeral nature makes it interesting. Infact, brands looking to get on the next wave of social would do well looking into this app, especially for limited-time promo code offers and teasers.

What works for Vine is that it lined up with behavioural shifts (instant/fleeting/micro), Instagram-video is an offering that isn’t all that insta nor very differentiated and clutters an otherwise idle, scrolling user experience.

One can only hope there’s an opt out of the video stream.