Category: thoughts

6 Lessons on Native Advertising from the Oscars Ceremony

In case there’s any doubt about it, the Academy Awards are the finest example of Native Advertising. This is the event in which film studios hustle their celebrities around in the largest, most extravagant show, invading the airwaves to promote not just films but a whole industry.

Oscars, Academy Awards 2013 — omarrr

Oscars as Native Advertising

In this case Hollywood is way ahead of Silicon Valley. The web best examples of Native Advertising (promoted tweets on Twitter, sponsored stories on FB, promoted post on tumblr, etc) all pale in comparison with the level of mastery of the Award ceremony.

And all that effort delivers results. Oscar-nominated films remain in theaters about twice as long as others and it is estimated that winning an award for Best Picture will bring in roughly $14M extra. No better way to sell a movie than awarding it an Oscar.

However this display of prowess is largely intended to promote the industry as a whole, keeping its relevance, extending the glamour aura and always reaching to new audiences. Here’s a peak at behind the scenes of this marketing machine we call show business.

Lesson #1: Seamlessly deliver content in stream

Interruption marketing is no longer effective. The awards ceremony is not a disruption of the tv experience; it is a tv program in its own right and a very popular one. The ceremony mimics the native format of the medium, it is neither an interruption nor an imposition in the audience. The Awards is a show seamlessly delivered as part of the stream of content.

Native Advertising — Lesson #1: Seamlessly deliver content in stream — omarrr

Lesson #2: Tailor content specifically to the medium

One of the reasons the Oscars can blend so well in the stream of tv content is because the program has been perfectly adapted to the tv format. It doesn’t disguise it self as a simple infomercial but instead it follows a known tv show format (that of late night variety).

The content is not generated to be syndicated, but rather specifically created for tv broadcast. The price to pay for a perfect camouflage is higher production cost and an end product that can’t be sold at scale.

Native Advertising — Lesson #2: Content is specifically tailored to the medium — omarrr

Lesson #3: Add value through quality & engaging content

Only true quality can keep an audience engaged. True public appeal and elimination of common ad blindness is achieved by focusing on the user experience.

TV is the perfect medium for Hollywood to deliver the best user experience through what Hollywood does best, entertainment. If the Entertainment industry can’t create engaging native content, who can?

“The real issue is how do you make content that’s compelling to a reader that doesn’t feel like an ad. That’s the real challenge.”
—Paul Rossi, Publishers Must Think Like Agencies

Native Advertising — Lesson #3: Value added through quality & engaging content — omarrr

Lesson #4: Support the brand integrity

Engaging content without a tie back to the brand is a wasted opportunity. The content created shouldn’t overtly advertise the product or brand but it shouldn’t be a total departure either. How cleverly the product is integrated into the content is part of the challenge.

The Oscars solve it by highlighting the quality of the products (awards), the entertainment value they deliver (songs & performances) and the aspirational nature of stardom itself. The Awards are positively aspirational content like no other.

Native Advertising — Lesson #4: Native Advertising should support the brand integrity — omarrr

Lesson #5: Deliver content in small bit-size chunks

Just like the orchestra playing when the acceptance speeches extend for too long, Hollywood knows how to keep the audience interest. In this case the old KISS mantra would read “Keep it Simple & Short”.

The content is perfect to accomodate our real-time, multiconnected, omnichannel world and our multi-taksing tendencies. For one night, the Oscars are a twitter stream for the entertainment industry. Lots of non-stop high-quality content requires low focused attention and is perfect to deliver continuous highs. A live performance, a movie trailer, a winner announcement, an acceptance speech, a celebrity joke; all in small chunks, easy to consume, and easy to replay and share.

Native Advertising — Lesson #5: Content delivered in small bit-size chunks — omarrr

Lesson #6: Blend in and be clearly labeled

Blending in and being clearly labeled seem absolute contradictory concepts, but that’s exactly what good Native Advertising does. And that’s also why this is the hardest lesson to put into practice; and one lesson the Oscars have been most successful at.

You don’t want to fool the reader, but on the other hand, if it’s not mimicking editorial, it’s missing the point. After all, the reason brands like native ad treatments is that they look and feel like a site’s typical content, and theoretically have less chance of being completely ignored. —After Scientology Debacle, The Atlantic Tightens Native Ad Guidelines

The scientology fiasco is proof of what a thin line publishers walk when trying to create compelling content marketing without misleading their audiences.

Done right, native doesn’t merely fit into the stream of a publisher’s user experience in terms of design – it fits with the publisher’s value proposition in terms of content. —Will the real native advertising please stand up?

The Academy Awards have cracked the nut of Native Content. They are indistinguishable from other tv content while being a unique piece of content and clearly avoiding misleading its audience. The ceremony doesn’t disguise itself as native, it is native. It doesn’t pretend to be a soap opera or infomercial. The Academy clearly proclames that this is an extraordinary occurrence, a once a year event. The awards don’t try to blend, or mimic true native content. There is no deception because there is no pretense to be what they are not.

Native Advertising — Lesson #6: Native Advertising should blend in and be clearly labeled — omarrr

Silicon Valley, watch out for Hollywood

In the case of Content Marketing, Hollywood is way ahead of Silicon Valley.
All this mastery has made the film studios behind the Oscars the Ogilvys of Hollywood. After all you know you’ve mastered the advertising game when your ad is so good it has commercials on it.

Razzle Dazzle ’em, and they’ll make you a star!

Lessons from the Oscars on Native Advertising — omarrr

How The Singularity Will Take Your Job Away

There’s another kind of Singularity approaching. It’s the one in which we all loose our jobs and we all have to learn new skills. This is not the future in which machines become so smart that we can all let the robots take over the hard labor while we retire to drink margaritas in Belize. Nope. This is the future in which you lose your job because all jobs that we’ve known are slowly becoming less and less relevant and soon will get completely outdated.

The world is changing. Little by little at first but exponentially faster each passing day. We first saw the music, film and travel industries shake, then it was publishing, media, news, and next in line are the postal service, hotels, taxis and a long tail end. Soon, no business model will be left untouched. The one thing stopping many from acting is the Upton Sinclair theorem:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

Don’t assume, like others might have done before, that this is not about you. It is. Your time has come. No matter what your profession is, no matter what you do. Your time’s up. P2P, freemium models, crowdsourcing, robotics, 3D printing, democratization of information, digital assistants, portable computing, big data… All of it is causing an overhaul of all business models and with it a destruction of jobs.

The Singularity by omarrr

Behind the scenes computers have started a job that we haven’t ’explicitly’ commanded them to do. That of defragmenting, breaking into small chunks and optimizing every task they are involved with —and computers are involved in just about everything in this world.

This is step one of robot take over. It’s not bad. It’s actually good, but it means that we all need to adapt or be run over. Your job description in the 21st century is yet to be written.

How exciting!

Micro-Agile vs. Macro-Agile Methodologies

For the last couple of years I’ve been using agile methodologies for many of our development projects. Granted agile is not an obvious fit for a digital agency but I have actually experienced how agile methodologies protect our teams in the face of inevitable —mostly client-driven— change.

Some of the most useful tools include clear iterative cycles, sprint reviews, and stakeholder and customer involvement (or UX in lieu of final users). However, as effective as agile has been it hasn’t entirely resolved all the issues surrounding marketing project deliveries.

Project Development Methodologies

The agile approach is mostly employed during development and left out of the earlier and subsequent phases of product creation. This is not a concern in companies in which the main core competency is software production (eg. software development companies, production studios or startups) since non production-based phases are so rare. In the case of a digital agency, however, the product is not the core deliverable, the value added to the customer is. Which in turn means that software development is a byproduct of advertising agencies and receives only limited attention. (Some might think that this is a very naive approach to what the spirit of digital agencies should be. I might be one of those.)


Since the life of a project is only partially concerned with development, traditionally only said phase employed agile methodologies (which, I should remind the reader, are software development methodologies and therefore describe operations concerning the development phase alone.)

Micro-Agile Methodology by omarrr

This is what I’d call Micro-Agile; agile development applied only to a segment of the overall project life cycle. In the case of marketing campaigns we could consider that the whole project consists of Discovery, Planning, Development and Post-development.. Of all those phases, most agencies only use agile techniques during the software development phase (if at all).


As beneficial as this approach is, it could be improved by simple magnification. This is what I call Macro-agile; the enforcement of agile methodologies to the whole life cycle of a project going beyond the development phases. This new territory is not just limited to definition and delivery but also encompasses the management and planning of the Agile process itself (becoming a Meta-Agile methodology of sorts).

Macro-Agile Methodology by omarrr

Macro-Agile —just as Micro-Agile (or traditional agile)— deals with the complexities of customer feedback, proper project definition, goal assessment, success definition, etc. and these affairs are present during all phases of marketing campaigns.

The distinction between Micro-Agile and Macro-Agile is similar to the distinction between Agile software development and Agile project management.

Macro-Agile lies in the heart of the Agile Marketing movement and represents, in my opinion, the first attempt at a methodological approach to resolve the multiple issues present in digital agencies and to resolve the challenges in the face of a rapidly evolving market and customer expectations.

Towards a transparent interface

Through the history of technology, humans have moved from physical interfaces to virtual —graphical user— interfaces. The former being a sometimes a true interface to the machine and sometimes a control panel to the bigger instrument being interacted with. Computer screens display an array of virtual interfaces to interact with the abstract computer brain. Many times this virtual interface is a metaphor for the real world (aka the now infamous skeuomorphism).

Because of the changes in the nature of our interfaces our actions are also mutating: from Press to Click to Tap. Similar, yet each leaner that the previous. If the simplest of actions is the tought, what does it say about the interface?

The most intuitive interface is the no-interface interface.

Do we still need a graphical user interface? Will interfaces become leaner and eventually dissapear? Yes. We can already speak to ask and command (eg. Apple’s Siri). Soon we will send commands with our thoughts; and those commands will be complete concepts that require no intermediary or interface to be understood by our computer. Do you want to turn the lights on? No need for a switch (physical or digital), you only need to get your idea across to the machine. Clap your hands, say your command out loud or just think it. The machine will pick it up and act accordingly. The interface is the communication channel and it is becoming more and more unobtrusive.

The computer of the future is a personal assistant and she has no apparent UI.

The naked President

The president of the next generation —the one to be elected 30 years from now— will be the naked president. He is the tween today with a Facebook account, self pics taken in his bathroom, inappropriate drunk tweets, and no concept of private social interactions.

The naked President by omarrr

The future president is shamelessly posting pictures of his abs to Instagram right now. He’ll be our naked president. While our current leaders try to get away with “experimenting with marihuana but not inhaling it”, the naked president will have signed countless petitions to finally legalize pot in the 50 states. And through the power of aggregation we will have access to all such petitions, as well as photo albums, music playlists, etc, etc. All this digital junk will be archived for posterity as it will be the past of all the constituency. Everything and anything that has ever been public will remain public and everybody’s past will be forever exposed.

But, honestly, thirty years from now all of today’s political and ethical issues will be tremendously outdated by the constant overexposure to both raw and adulterated reality. Add to that the generational shift and we willl have a complete moral renaissance. When everybody is exposed, nobody is exposed. So prudes be gone and welcome the unfiltered generation.

No privacy —yes— but more honesty.

And a naked president.