I want to comment on a brief story at MoCo News about Blyk, entitled "Blyk Advertisers, Skeptical on Subscriber Numbers, Just Don't Get it" referencing a story at New Media Age (which is a subscription site). Apparently there are media buyers in Britain, who are thinking that 28,000 Blyk customers in Britain is somehow too small a target audience, that the "numbers needed to be plenty higher" and "doing a campaign was more hassle than it was worth".
Any advertising executive who looks at this number (28,000 youth on Blyk, and thinks it is too small an audience is totally missing the point of Blyk.
Wrong measure. Lets go back 50 years. If you measured television advertising by the "size" of the ad on the screen (square inches, square centimeters, equivalent to column inches on a newspaper or the magazine page size) - the economics of TV advertising would have been astronomically IN-effective. Far too costly.
But we know today, that most of the second half of the 20th Century, a major TV ad campaign would outperform a major newspaper or magazine ad campaign. The TV introduced the moving image and sound to what was static ads on magazines and newspapers (like on cinema ads); plus the TV was more immediate, consumed simultaneously (like ads on radio).
What Blyk is doing is going beyond the interruptive ad model that we have in magazines, newspapers, billboards, the cinema, radio and TV, and still about half of the ads on the internet. Blyk is also going past the inter-active ad model we have on the other half of the internet (ie Adwords on Google). What Blyk is doing, is creating a new engagement advertising model.
CO CREATE ADS
User-generated advertising ! (or more accurately, user-co-created-advertising).
This is a total shift in the advertising paradigm. No longer is the perfect ad campaign designed in New York, with the ultimate supermodel (or sports hero) selected as the spokesperson for our brand; now the users themselves select which is their favourite celebrity to be used in the ads. No longer is the brilliant ad graphic designer selecting the absolute most amazing colour shade for given product, whether lipstick or designer suit or Nike sneaker or BMW. No matter how perfect the artistic vision of that graphic designer, there are always more of an audience who have a favoured OTHER colour than the one selected. Now the colours are selected by the consumer of the ads. No longer is the dialogue in the ads produced by a master award-winning copyrighter on Madison Avenue, now it is co-created with the teenagers who are accustomed to mashing, who co-create all the time on social networking sites, and who prefer to write in their cryptic grammr & spellng of txt mssgng.
What we are witnessing with Blyk, is the dawn of the next Era in advertising, a new Golden Age. They aren't the only ones doing Engagement Marketing, for sure. But they are very visibly leading that space and thinking, in particular for the whole English-speaking world where most major Ad companies reside.
An Advertising Executive who dismisses the 28,000 Blyk customers, is very literally cutting off his/her future. These 28,000 customers have already LEARNED to co-create and customize the advertising for themselves. They will actively REJECT the old-fashioined interruptive ad models, as utterly speaking the wrong (old) language.
These 28,000 will never go back.
These 28,000 will bring in their friends. The subscriber numbers on Blyk UK will continue to grow. That is an ever increasing segment of the youth market that can't be reached with old-fashioned media methods.
POWER OF ALPHA USER
But much more importantly, they are influencers. The customers that Blyk is signing up are brought in by invitation only. Blyk is giving limited numbers of invitations to its major brands, so they can bring in THEIR influencers.
We write about Alpha Users in the book and on this blog (the Alpha User was brought to the mainstream marketing terminology only in 2004 when I released my third book 3G Marketing with Timo Kasper and Sara Melkko). The Alpha User is the ultimate influencer. We discuss Alphas in two separate chapters with Alan Moore in our book Communities Dominate Brands. As we quote numbers calculated by the social networking analytics specialist firm, Xtract, only 2% of any given community's membership are Alpha Users, this is far less than the Early Adopters the marketing concept that is more than 30 years old. Early Adopters were the previous advertising target for most campaigns. With Alpha Users we can target exactly who influences the market success of any given product or service.
FIFTY TIMES GREATER REACH
Assuming Blyk is careful with its early invitations to its service, and Blyk has used its partners to help target early invitees, by using the 2% rule-of-thumb, these 28,000 Blyk customers WILL influence (not that they have the capacity to influence) 1.4 Million UK youth customers.
That is the number. Not the 28,000 who are on Blyk today. They will directly be influencing the purchasing decisions of 1.4 Million British customers. No other media can find or target the Alpha Users this accurately (nor indeed, efficiently). This is the power of Blyk. On TV you pay through the nose to advertise on "Ant & Dec" or Big Brother and you hope that of the TV show's ten million audience, a part is in your age bracket. Then you hope they are not fast-forwarding past your ads. Then you hope your ad talks to them. And you hope that causes actions in the consumer to go buy your products or services.
On Blyk, all customers actively refine and customize and co-create the advertising experience. They want to make the advertising ever better. They want to engage with the brands. And as they do, they become evangelists for the brands. As Alan Moore says, we embrace what we create. These 28,000 UK youth customers are the hidden gold, the black gold of the 21st century.
The ad executives who look at the numbers and think 28,000 is too small a demographic, that they could get a larger reach on a youth magazine, are dynosaurs, soon to become extinct. Their jobs will soon be eaten by their younger more new-media savvy colleagues.
ENGAGEMENT TAKES CREATIVE EFFORT
Those ad executives who think that a campaign on Blyk is "too hard" - it takes too much work, creative effort, to make happen - those are lazy and deserve to be fired. The mobile phone is the newest mass media channel (the 7th), it is the furthest-reaching mass media, and it is a very tightly restricted mass media. Like radio in the 1930s and 1940s, when compared with magazines, newspapers and cinema. It was a very restrictive media. You could not show the product. And the ads were horribly short. The radio ad design had to learn to use sounds (imagine a coca cola can being opened, the sound of the fizz, that kind of sounds). That didn't stop radio becoming a major mass media.
The mobile phone has the smallest screen. The attention span is often very brief. We take it as a most personal mass media channel, and want all our ads on it to be customized and personalized. We often do other things while consuming content on the phone. These all make it a challenge to produce successful ads on mobile.
That means it is more rewarding for creative talent. They can excel. It is not something that just about anyone can do on their camcorder at home or on a PC screen by cut-and-paste methods, like today you can create web ads. Mobile is challenging, but it will also be rewarding.
When the engagement marketing campaigns are developed for mobile, those will be the masterpieces for the ad industry in the next decade. Learning that today, any intelligent forward-thinking ad executive needs to get to mobile ads today. Few countries have strong cultures in mobile ads (like Japan, South Korea and Spain) so in most markets the industry needs to learn from the begininng.
But Blyk is a clear leader in this space. Their 28,000 customers are influencers, their power goes far beyond their number - and these influencers, once they "go engagement" they will never go back to interruptive ads. And for ads on Blyk (and other mobile advertising platforms) - yes, that is hard work. You have to learn what is Engagement Marketing. You have to surrender some control to the community. You have to invite them to co-create and join. You have to reward them. But if you do, there is a career path in advertising for the next decade. If not, you go on counting eyeballs on TV and your advertising career will soon disappear.