THE BLOG

Starbucks Ad—BMW product placement

Since the Federal Trade Commission has been talking about “cracking down” on brands, ad agencies and PR firms in the social media space, I thought I’d take a better look at the FTC’s actual language.

In a nutshell, the FTC wants social media “influencers” to clearly attribute posts as being an ad, sponsorship or endorsement if they show or mention a product in which the influencer has had some engagement with the brand or its agency. Back in April, the FTC actually sent out letters to 90 celebrities they believe have been some of the “worst” offenders on social media. I think this move is starting to get attention now that the FTC is serious. The FTC has also taken action against a brand or two directly.

While I believe in truth-in-advertising principles, the FTC’s new rules, compared to the product placement rules in TV shows and movies, don’t seem fair to brands and agencies that rely heavily on brand ambassadors and influencers. Why? Mainly because the FTC wants influencers to “clearly disclose” a “material connection” in the first 3 lines of an Instagram post. Ugly, right? Have you ever seen a TV show put “#ProductPlacement” text directly on screen when a character or reality star is drinking a #paidplacement coffee or driving a #paidplacement car? No, you haven’t. But they want it to happen in social media.

The FTC has essentially given two options:

1. Use a hashtag like #Ad or #Sponsored in the beginning of your post, separate from the other hashtags at the end (and apparently #Partner is not good enough).

2. Use a disclosure like “Company X gave me this product to try…” or “Company X gave me [name of product], and I think it’s ______.” This is very similar to the FTC’s guidelines they developed for blogs, back in 2011.

I think option two is a fair enough solution by the FTC, especially for people like the Kardashians who literally speak like a brand’s paid actor on their social media channels. But what if an influencer didn’t plan on writing anything about the product in the post? Many influencers merely wear, or show, a product in their image and hashtag the brand (because it’s often harder to see logos on mobile’s small screens), which to me, is exactly the same as product placement in a TV show or movie. So what is the FTC’s position on product placement in TV or movies?

The FTC has expressed the opinion that under the FTC Act, product placement (merely showing products or brands in third-party entertainment content – as distinguished from sponsored content or disguised commercials) doesn’t require a disclosure that the advertiser paid for the placement.

Great. Let’s follow the stated FTC Act for social media then, right? Not so fast. Because this is how the FTC answers a make-believe influencer question on their official site:

Q: If I post a picture of myself to Instagram and tag the brand of dress I’m wearing, but don’t say anything about the brand in my description of the picture, is that an endorsement? And, even if it is an endorsement, wouldn’t my followers understand that I only tag the brands of my sponsors?

A: Tagging a brand you are wearing is an endorsement of the brand and, just like any other endorsement, could require a disclosure if you have a relationship with that brand.

Because the FTC uses the word “could”, I feel they have allowed an opening for interpretation and that everyone should follow the FTC Act on brands in third-party entertainment. After all, don’t we as consumers go to social media for entertainment and news? Why, in this respect, should social media be treated differently? And remember, these are the same social media platforms where political ads don’t have any disclosure mandatories. (But I’m no lawyer and my agency will defer to what our clients’ lawyers decide.)

No matter how you decide to treat social media influencers, it’s worth reading these two documents from the FTC. I would love to know your opinions on all of this.

FTC Endorsement Guides

FTC Brand Disclosure

Lastly, if you want a good laugh and you are not easily offended or mind the F-word, watch HBO’s John Oliver have a little fun mocking all of Starbuck’s paid placement this month:

FTC’s social media “Product Placement” rules vs. TV/Movie product placements

We don’t know of many U.S. advertising and creative agencies that have Highlight Reels. In the U.K. they call them “Showreels”, but I don’t think that’s a familiar term on this side of the pond. Production and post production companies have been using highlight reels for as long as I can remember, but ad agencies seem to go the traditional route with Case Study videos. Sure those work. A case study video gives a potential client all the facts, figures, insights and behind the scenes thinking that factored into the end product. But who wants traditional? Who wants a PBS documentary when they can get an MTV music video!? Well, not Seed Factory. That’s why we just finished a highlight reel that’s a pretty fun watch. No, it doesn’t let you understand our big ideas, strategy and planning capabilities in-depth, but it gives you a feel for what we can produce for you. Maybe we need to start cranking out some traditional case study videos next, but until then let’s go with the rock n’ roll.

Seed Factory Highlight Reel 2017

When people think about the Outdoor Sports Industry and which cities and states it thrives in, they usually don’t think of Georgia. What comes to your mind? California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon? Probably. But did you know that Georgia is only behind California, Florida and New York for outdoor recreation consumer spending? From what we can gather, that stat includes the Bicycling Industry, Boating Industry and Motorcycle industry, but not hunting, fishing or wildlife.

So perhaps if you’re a Marketing Director looking for an agency to help grow your brand, the fact that we’re located in Atlanta might be better than you think. In fact, we have a lot of great outdoor companies already based here, including Vibe Kayaks (a current client) and past clients — Wahoo Fitness, Olympia Outdoors and BlueWater Ropes. Then there are many others like Mizuno, Tifosi, Triumph Motorcycles, Yamaha Boats, Thomson Bikes and many others all based in Georgia. Nearby in TN, we have American Bicycle Group (Litespeed) and a few others.

So other than our smart thinking and great creative, what are some advantages of working with an Atlanta advertising and PR firm like Seed Factory? How about great locations for photography and video shoots. Too stretch the legs after a long client-agency collaborations, we have road bicycling on the Silver Comet trail and mountain biking at Sope Creek 15 minutes from our office. Go 45 minutes out of town and we have a couple of fantastic lakes for water sports, then there’s the Appalachian trail for hiking which is just an hour north of Atlanta, and the diverse outdoor town of Chattanooga for a great variety of scenic location backdrops and great climbing. As a bonus, the white sands and turquoise waters of the Caribbean are a short (5 hour) drive away for SUP, boating and other water sports photography and filming. There is also some of the best mountain biking in the country 3.5 hours away in Brevard, NC with Pisgah Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Bottom line is, we’re passionate about the Outdoor Industry and the Bicycling Industry. Maybe you should give our agency a visit and then take a ride, climb or paddle with us.

Outdoor Industry in Atlanta? Absolutely.

Jake on Santa Cruz Bronson, Brevard NC

A few of us around here have finally gotten into our mountain bike groove this summer and it feels good. Atlanta has the good fortune of being situated 3 hours from a few of North Carolina’s best trails–the Pisgah/Brevard area and the Tsali/NOC area. I’ve been a huge fan of Tsali for about 16 years and it has been named a Bike Magazine top trail (or something like that) so we rode there 2 weeks ago and in Brevard 3 weeks ago. Let me say, for as long as I’ve been a proponent of Tsali, we rented some Santa Cruz full-suspension bikes from The Hub and had way more fun at Brevard. So I have to say it, after 16 years of being a Tsali, and a hard tail fan, I moved my riding allegiance to Brevard and I’m in the market for a full-suspension 650b. It doesn’t hurt the Brevard, NC has one of the coolest bike shops in The Hub. They have a tiny bar in the back of the shop that serves regional beers. That was two and three weeks ago. It was tough to admit that I’ve fallen out of love with Tsali, but after about 18 miles on the left and right loops, the thrill was gone. Perhaps I can blame it on too many tree roots from too many wheels traveling it over the past 16 years.

Last weekend we decided to travel only 1.5 hours to a spot near Dahlonega in N. Georgia. Guess what? After switching my allegiance to Brevard, I suddenly had a new favorite trail system that’s even closer to home! I’m not even going to say the name of this one because I like it so much. It’s anywhere from 12-26 miles of single track with some seriously fast and flowy sections, plus of course, a lot of good climbs. Yep, summer is on–3 weekends in a row of great rides with some mid-week local trails mixed in. And now I’m mid-flight to the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market and I’m sticking around to ride the chair-lift delivered tails and downhill of Park City on Saturday. Make that four weekends of epic rides!

And the “everything else” part of this blog post? Well NOC near Tsali has amazing white water kayaking and rafting. And Brevard, (Transylvania County, NC) has amazing waterfall hiking and a slick rock natural water slide for cooling off.

If you’re at a bike or bike components/accessories company and are looking for a new agency, please give us a ring. I promise we’ll take you to my favorite new, undisclosed trail system between meetings.

-Mark Sorensen
Creative Director

Mountain Biking and Everything Else Outdoors

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 1.14.44 PM

As the warm summer weather is upon us in Atlanta, we are getting outdoors a lot more. The miles are being put on the staff’s bicycles while the hiking boots and trail running shoes are being laced up much more often. We’re hoping to put in some epic trips this summer before making it to Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City, come August.

Are you preparing for Outdoor Retailer already? It’s only 3 months away and we’d love to help your brand get ready for a great few days of setting orders with all the outdoor store buyers that will be there. It’s also a great time to work on your company’s publicity and set as many appointments with journalists and bloggers as possible. We can help make sure you get time with influencers that can give your brand crucial visibility.

Is your brand’s visual identity as sharp as it can be? Is your photography, typography and brand personality ready to stand out from all the other manufacturers at Outdoor Retailer? Have you found a brand, and product positioning from which you can win by uniquely owning it and honestly upholding in an authentic voice? We work with many outdoor brands to help fine-tune the brand’s position, or help develop it from the ground up.

Speaking of mileage being put on the bicycles, we just wrapped a bicycle video for our Wahoo Fitness client. The video is to help promote the RFLKT and RFLKT+ smart bike computers in their line of ever growing smart phone enabled fitness technology. We spent an amazing day in the north Georgia mountains a couple weeks ago, shooting footage for the video that we just finished editing and color correcting. They’ll post it to their YouTube account soon and then we can add a link to it for you to view. For now though, this blog’s image is a frame from the video. At the same time, we just finished the 4th photo shoot for the RFLKT magazine print ad campaign. We worked with a young outdoor photographer based in Santa Barbara, California and the images turned out fantastic. Two of the ads have already run in Bicycling magazine and we’ll get them posted here soon. If any outdoor industry or bicycle industry companies have advertising, PR, content development or design needs, we can help with amazing creative concepts and strong execution.

Outdoor Industry Ad Agency—Ready for Summer and You.

We are hoping this Halloween that you BUILD your brand equity vs. killing it. We’ve listed below a few ways brands have killed their brand equity…don’t let this be you!

1. Be a Social Media Zombie – don’t respond to questions or comments.

2. Frankenstein your brand tone and personality.

3. Beat your customers bloody with mundane, repetitive messaging.

4. Be a blood-sucker – take your customers’ valuable time without giving anything beneficial in return.

5. Don’t treat your consumers to anything entertaining.

killyourbrand_moody

How to Kill Your Brand Equity

We’ve had a busy fall at our Atlanta ad agency with a couple of new business pitches. We won one, and didn’t win the other. We’re really excited about the business we won because it is in the outdoor industry and the company has huge potential to become a major brand, but we can’t talk about it yet.

The one we didn’t win was Zoo Atlanta. Even though we won’t be partnering with them, we still wouldn’t change the opportunity of being involved in the RFP process. Our teams’ really enjoyed coming up with several creative campaigns for the non-profit and liked the concepts we presented.

Maybe more than our feelings about our proposal, we felt proud of the fact that we made it to the final round, and were one of the three agencies that presented to Zoo Atlanta. We’re a boutique agency and had a feeling we might have been “punching above our weight”, but it was fun and we concepted some very creative, strategic ideas. Maybe if you are the marketing director of a zoo or an applicable brand, you’ll take a look at our work and give us a call.

Look for great new work in the outdoor category coming from our Atlanta ad agency and Public Relations firm in the next few months.

Komodo  Frog-jump-closeSnakePhotoOpp Atlanta Zoo pitch Ad

A peak at a few of the experiential ideas we wanted to produce for the Zoo’s new Spring exhibit.

Ad Agency New Business for Outdoor and Non-Profit Clients

After nine months of planning, 900 names, 30+ logos and taglines, more than 20 teaser ads and over 300 press event participants, our team was thrilled to officially launch Navicent Health.

The healthcare system, formerly known as Central Georgia Health System, has the second largest hospital in the state of Georgia (second to Emory), but was a virtually unknown entity outside outside of its core counties. Made up of more than 6,000 employees and 30+ facilities and service lines, we had the opportunity to rebrand the entire healthcare system. A new name, logo, tagline, brand standards, website, a brand essence video, press event and other content items are just many of the ways we’ve partnered with Navicent Health to unveil their new brand and mission. For more information, see our case study.

 

Healthcare Brand Launch

That headline gets your attention doesn’t it? It’s actually not far from the truth. While we’re not offering our services for free, we do want to point out one very simple marketing solution that, if your company sells a product and isn’t doing this, you’re missing out on free branding. Any company that is in a category like sports, outdoor, bicycle, music or any other type of performance, competitive or passion category absolutely needs to include a sticker in every product package that gets shipped to any distributor, retailer or consumer.

If you’re lucky enough to be in a high-interest category like sports or outdoors, your consumers will happily be brand advocates if they are just given some simple tools. Like a sticker. If your sticker makes it on the back of their car, do you know how many people see that? It’s free branding. And what if they have some other great brands’ stickers on the back of their car? Instant borrowed equity and synergy with other like-minded brands.

Consider it social media for the real world. And it stays on your consumer’s “wall” for a lot longer than a “Like”.

The only catch? You’ll have to shell out 12¢ for the sticker. 

Here’s one place you can buy stickers.

 

 

Free Marketing for the Sports and Outdoor Industry

Hegarty On Advertising, Turning Intelligence in Magic is written by John Hegarty, who I would consider one of the great minds in modern advertising. His agency, BBH which started in London and now has offices in New York, Singapore and other global cities, is behind the amazing campaigns for Levi’s from the late 80’s through the early 2000s. His outlook on creative, business, clients and branding is so honest and direct that it cuts straight through all the marketing jargon that other books ply. He touches on what Bernbach taught us about modern advertising and discusses what he learned in his early career, which influenced the great work his agency does today.

Instead of continuing to describe why this book is a must read, let us just give a few excerpts:

“Always remember that all information goes through the heart. Or as James Stephens, in his book The Crock of Gold, said: ‘What the heart feels today, the head will understand tomorrow.’

“You have to accept the creative process is completely dysfunctional. If you deny that fact, you will ultimately fail.”

“Great brands that continue to be succesful are so because they don’t think like a conventional brand owner who is obsessed only with themselves and the belief that the world revolves around them and their product. The key to great marketing is never stop thinking like your audience.

“So, in true BBH style, we put the brand at the centre of the advertising, made the product the hero (in fact created a product demonstration), but wrapped it in emotional power.

As a creative, account director, planner or a client, it’s one of the best advertising books I’ve read since “Hey Whipple, squeeze this!” by Luke Sullivan.

 

 

 

An Advertising Book Worth Reading