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Digital Responsivenessicity

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Big Orange Slide

Monday, April 27th, 2015


June 10, 2014 by Brad Stapleton

Blog-Illustration-tetris Illustrator: Bailey Bremmers (Design Apprentice)

A few years ago it would have been acceptable to build a desktop-only site or application. However, in today’s landscape of smartphones, tablets and devices, building a desktop-only experience is a poor decision. One that will frustrate users and lead to high bounce rates. If someone was out shopping and saw a discount promotion available when visiting the store’s website, they would likely take out their phone and visit the site. However, if the site wasn’t optimized for mobile, that person would be frustrated and probably never enter the promotion on a desktop once they arrive home. Alternatively, if the site was built for mobile, users at the store or at home would have no problem accessing the site and entering the promotion. Often, clients today will still choose a desktop-only site because of budget concerns. In the event that one can only develop a desktop or mobile site, mobile is by far the best solution.

Responsive is a buzzword. People toss it around too often and without any merit. Building a ‘responsive’ website or application can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like it to be. The idea of building a responsive website isn’t a new concept, there has always been a variety of screen sizes and resolutions for viewing content. The key concept is that you build content that everyone can access. Since the introduction of smartphones and tablets, this has become a larger challenge, but one that can be easily undertaken with the right amount of preparation.

Planning is everything. Without knowing exactly how you want your website to function, it’s difficult to design and develop a fully responsive website. Some people may argue that since their mobile audience is small, there’s little or no point to accommodate for those users. I don’t believe in any scenario where you shouldn’t accommodate for the mobile users. They are often the same people that use desktops or tablets, they just may be using their mobile device to check or confirm some information.

The most basic guidelines to follow while creating a responsive website are the following:

1. Identify and separate the needs of your mobile and desktop users.
2. Create a relatively simple, flexible/scalable design.
3. Use breakpoints and media queries to adjust the content and layout for desktop, tablet and mobile devices.
4. Remove or hide non-essential content on tablet and mobile devices.

There are of course many other things one can – and should – take into consideration when building a responsive website (Performance, optimized images, conditional loading of assets, etc.). However, since most websites are unique these considerations will be case by case.

Building a smooth-working, responsive site takes more time at the beginning stages of UX and design. Users definitely don’t need the same user experience across all devices. In order to build the most user friendly and cost efficient website, it’s necessary to identify the needs of your mobile and desktop users. Ask yourselves: What type of information will they need access to from their tablet or mobile device? They might not need to see a full screen image slider on their mobile device. Although, they’ll definitely want to access the contact page, contact form or hours of operation. Separate the needs of desktop users and focus your mobile strategy to help users find information on your website quickly and easily. Once you’ve determined the most important information, you can begin to design and develop the site.

I would recommend taking a mobile first design approach. Begin the design with the most necessary information and progressively enhance the content as the viewport gets larger. Thus, giving mobile users simple access to the information they require and adding more complexity to the desktop parts of the site. Taking this approach helps distinguish the most important content from the inception and eliminates the difficult task of how to reduce, remove or redesign content for mobile at a later point.

Depending on how fluid your design and development is, using breakpoints may not be completely necessary. However, since the browsers on tablets and smartphones all support them, why not go ahead and use them. This way we can more accurately design and target specific viewport sizes or devices. We can show exactly what content is needed at the top of the page and move less important info down, or hide it altogether. This is where designing with a mobile first approach will save development time. As long as the pages have been thoroughly planned and well thought out, there will be limited changes to the mobile and tablet portions of the site. Alternatively, the mobile and tablet portions become an afterthought and end up causing many development changes. These changes are often time consuming and cause for complete re-coding of sections or the site itself.

In the end, it’s about giving users the best possible experience. The best way to achieve this is to design and develop a responsive website. Developing a responsive website takes additional preparation and planning. It takes a basic approach and progressively enhances the concept for tablets and desktops. It gives the users access to the necessary information, no matter what device they’re using. It gives the user what they want – content that can be accessed by everyone. The question you should ask yourself isn’t ‘if’ we decide to design/develop responsively. The question should be ‘how’ and ‘what’ are we going to design/develop responsively.

(N)UI Revolution – Part 2

April 30, 2014 by Brian Dinga

illustration by Rodrigo Diaz Mercado (Brian Dinga)2

Illustrator: Rodrigo Diaz Mercado

In Part 1 of our (N)UI Revolution article, we discussed some of the newer tools available, on mobile devices and other gadgets, that are shaping the revolution of user interfaces and experience. 3D sensors are another key component of this change.

Gesture Interfaces are not possible without a 3D sensor. Current 3D sensors (Kinect-like sensor bars and the Leap Motion Controller) are on the way to making gesture interfaces commonplace. While the technology currently is not sci-fi Hollywood-quality, it makes it possible to start experimenting with the concepts. However, combining current peripherals (such as a gesture-enhancing glove) could bridge the gap between the ‘almost there’ and ‘mind bending’.

Recently, there has been a lot of big news around 3D-sensing technology. In Q4 of 2013, Apple acquired PrimeSense (who developed the Kinect 360 Sensor bar and its open source twins) and quickly shut down their open source 3D-sensing libraries. Microsoft created their new sensor bar independently for the Xbox One. At CES 2014, Intel announced that it was releasing a line of 3D sensors (RealSense) that range in size from a small pencil to a common webcam. Intel continued to say that they plan on releasing the new 3D sensor bars to replace your standard laptop webcam as a standard feature. Android announced Nuidroid, which will be the native Gesture Interface library on Android devices. Google is working on a 3D sensing phone currently called ‘Tango’. There are independently-funded projects out there betting on the NUI revolution: Interaxon’s Muse, which is an EEG brain wave sensor that can be used with your iOS device, or Meta’s SpaceGlasses, which ambitiously is trying to bring augmented reality and Gesture Interfaces to one platform. Startups and major research and innovation organizations have already begun to implement NUI in practical and useful ways. Military and Intelligence agencies are early adopters of touch and gesture interfaces, with plans to further explore these emerging technologies. NASA has developed their Robonaut 2 to use an intent-based interface with NUI-type inputs and controls.

Advertising has also taken notice, especially Coca-Cola! They have created emotion-stirring campaigns using 3D-sensing and Gesture Interface. Here at Grip, we are one of a handful Canadian ad agencies taking part in the Kinect for Windows (2.0) preview program. Many other 3D-sensing type installations have been created all over North America. Other startups have begun to exploit this technology for health and fitness. The applications of this technology are limitless!

3D sensing is more than just using your body to instruct software to accomplish a task. With 3D sensing technology, the possibility of bringing real world objects into a virtual world could be trivial. To a small degree you can already buy children’s toys that work with iOS apps; but with a 3D sensor bar, you can bring and use any prop with you on your virtual adventures. Even ‘magic objects’ (objects that are pre-defined within the software to have special properties) will open up our virtual worlds to new experiences. Imagine gamers buying collectable items that can be displayed in their living room. However, to use that item in-game, they will likely need to be detected holding their collectable item.

NUI isn’t just about Gesture Interfaces. It’s about interacting in ways that feel invisible and intuitive. These interfaces should be designed so that it will not require a steep learning curve, so much so that using those interfaces should feel closer to the real world rather than a virtual world. This will create a stronger connection to technology. Ideally, NUI will allow us to make technology feel more like a part of ourselves rather than become another tool to exploit.

Even with all the advantages that NUI presents, there will still be an era of transition in which UI designers will need to experiment to develop new standards. Historically [recent history], it’s been the modus operandi of Interactive Designers to capitalize on existing and established metaphors to shape our users’ experiences. Before the world of the web we have now, we saw clunky navigation metaphors, bad menus and mystery meat navigation. Lots of mistakes were made, noted and later avoided, but at the cost of countless frustrated users.

With the new technological advances we’ll soon see more and more NUI-based sensors. In the coming years, you’ll see Interactive Designers fumble through difficult-to-use and less intuitive-type interfaces until we re-establish a best set of rules for these new inputs. There could be a time when NUI will be received as confusing and hard to use, but as our users get more accustomed to these new input devices and the metaphors that they represent, it will become second nature.

New design issues will emerge and new features will need to be developed. Maybe designers will have to use modern techniques to solve problems such as using responsive design to accommodate the users’ distance from the input device rather than screen size. Standardization issues will be debated; to ‘go back’, should the standard be a left wipe or a left arm push? Until voice recognition is perfected, a new way of inputting text will need to be designed; possibly a temporary replacement for the right click. All these considerations will only be revealed when we start to experiment with building gesture-centric UI.

The emergence of NUI-related technologies will bring revolutionary changes to the world of technology and, by extension, our personal lives. This will change the way everyone thinks and feels about technology. There will be new challenges ahead, but it’s an exciting time for those innovative and creative enough to take on the challenges. I hope you enjoy the NUI revolution!

(N)UI Revolution – Part 1

April 23, 2014 by Brian Dinga

illustration by Rodrigo Diaz Mercado (Brian Dinga) Illustrator: Rodrigo Diaz Mercado

Those of us who work in the User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) world know we are on the verge of a revolution.

Change can be a scary thing and when it comes to the world of user interface, it can be daunting. This change will happen so very slowly we won’t realize it’s happening and at the same time, it’ll appear almost overnight as if it’s been there all along. This change is NUI (Natural User Interface) and you are already happy it’s here.

Those of us who have been inspired by Minority Reports’ use of gesture interface have been dreaming of a future where our users can interact with our applications with more than just a keyboard and mouse. The umbrella of NUI can encompass touch devices and the extra sensors that (currently) come built into your smartphone. Orientation sensors, touch screens, cameras and voice recognition have certainly improved our UX opportunities; in fact, if the smartphones didn’t take advantage of these additional sensors (compared to a desktop), they’d be no better than a miniaturized laptop (which would make them pretty difficult to use due to their small screen size). With the emerging trend of smartphones and tablets becoming our preferred method of consuming content, it’s quickly becoming apparent that users prefer NUI and that they are adapting quickly. But NUI isn’t just about how the user is using the application environment; it’s also about using the expanding inputs that are available to us as Interactive Designers/Engineers.

Already, invisible inputs are altering the content we consume; now more than ever, our location data improves our search results. For instance, when we use an application on our phone, it is common for our data to be shaped by our current geolocation. With good reason, too! The user does not want to be directed to the gas station near their home, they want the one near their current location. It’s automatically intuitive and natural to use, without the user having to do additional ‘work’ to get the desired information.

Currently, there are many companies that are working hard to bring new sensors and wearable devices to market. These devices could make it possible to reveal the user’s basic emotions. Imagine: the era of MS Word’s Clippy would re-emerge onto the virtual scene once again. Hurrah!  (</sarcasm>) However, the new version of virtual assistants will actually appear when you are experiencing feelings of stress, rather than when the program is guessing that you don’t know what you are doing.

Assuming that mobile technology is going to single-handedly pave the way would be a mistake. While mobile technology has taken the lead in our recent advances in UI technology, it has not yet reached the pinnacle. Gesture Interfaces will emerge as the norm in the coming future. As with all evolutions in UI design (including Command Line Interface and Graphic User Interface), the previous iterations will still have practical applications, as it still will just be plain faster to use a mouse and keyboard to accomplish some tasks.

The evolution of (N)UI is already upon us, and it’s an exciting one. In Part 2, I’ll discuss 3D sensors and what they mean for the next generation of User Interfaces.

…And a Social New Year

December 31, 2013 by Eric Vieira


Evolution of the Community Manager as we know it:

The profile of a community manager will evolve. Ad agencies have traditionally structured their community management teams to focus on moderating the conversation and addressing emergency situations. We expect the responsibilities to shift client side to alleviate the stresses of a ‘middle man’ in the time sensitive environment of social, where their teams will have immediate access to appropriate resources.

The true power and value of a social team is the creation of consumable strategic content. The social team structure will be founded on four core pillars – Content Creation, Content Strategy, Content Analysis and Content Amplification – a model truly founded in the need to be seen. These pillars will deepen the connection with the consumer, triggering a stronger client confidence in content, and enabling our team to think bigger. We have begun to make internal adjustments to suit our updated positioning through the promotion of two truly deserving Social Content Strategists who have never shied from pushing the boundaries of creativity: Owen Garscadden, Director, Connections Strategy and Patrick Tomasso, Associate Director, Creative Content.

At Grip, we relate this back to a 4 leaf clover analogy where each pillar presents a leaf that empowers us with the ability to ‘manufacture luck’ – this is the notion that luck doesn’t exist, it’s simply opportunity meets preparation.

Is “buying in social” really about buying reach?

Social media buying will shift from the media company to the agency. The power of social buying may be better utilized if it is in the hands of the social content strategist for social amplification. A question to pose to the industry is whether or not our current processes are structured properly to support this real time bidding, constant optimization and socially prominent forms of content amplification. Algorithms can get us so far, but in the same way social requires a human interaction, social amplification demands the attention of a specialist. Social strategists will need to know this skill set to ensure they’re employable in the very near future. Social amplification will not become a revenue generator for agencies, but is rather a confirmation of content consumption.

The Sleeping Giant Awakes!

Google+… If I had one social community to hang my hat on (for brand building) in the next 12 months, it would be Google+. Their platform integration into everything they do makes it an absolute powerhouse. From Google’s algorithm instantly indexing Google+ content, giving it greater value within search results, to the importance of it influencing SEO/SCO strategies, and +Brand pages showing up in the significant right-hand column real estate, Google+ will easily win the ROI value comparison. Google’s recent introduction of “+Post ads” is a brilliant depiction of the next web and the evolution of how we communicate as advertisers. Our content strategies are more than just “posts” when they can be amplified around the web. When you think of the network Google has available to promote your richest content, simply putting ad dollars to promote within Facebook or Twitter seems too limiting. With Google, your content now has an opportunity to gain contextual relevance within a user’s web behaviour. Imagine Honda Canada posts a question to its loyal customers, asking, “What’s your favourite Honda – tell us why?”, then promoting this post within an Auto website to potential car purchasers. That’s when social content delivers true utility – while influencing consideration and, ideally, purchase intent. This simple approach also keeps the community un-cluttered with brand messaging that algorithmically doesn’t deserve to be shown to you. That’s huge.

What does content look like in 2014?

Another significant change to what “social content” is was highlighted with Google’s recent algorithm update, Hummingbird (great article). A significant shift to conversational search results from keyword search results is now affecting 90% of all searches. This notion that your web content’s keyword strategies no longer take precedence in the same way they once did changes the game. Google has placed significant value on content relevance (are you providing utility?) and authority (being recognized by your peers) within its search results. In true evolution, they are recognizing that social doesn’t need to stay on platforms, it is now contextually relevant to web browsing “wants”. You can say that Google is essentially humanizing itself. This isn’t a new thought by any means – content is exactly what it has always been. People still need value and utility from content and there needs to be an idea behind it, however the importance of what content is has grown immensely. The role of social has evolved. It is no longer about your content living within its given platform, but rather how it can support a search result or simply live on the web. How can my content be considered relevant when someone is contextually in the realm of considering my category/product/service (ZMOT)? To think that Google is now indexing TripAdvisor and Yelp as “social content” suggests a significant shift into how our brands need to think when producing “social content”.

The SEO Paradigm Shift

November 19, 2013 by richardbramer

Google’s recent move to remove all organic keyword data from all analytics reports has certainly garnered some attention. Countless posts have been written to highlight, debate, scorn and in some cases dismiss this final step in a long drawn-out process of removing keyword-specific referral metrics from a website’s data pool. Many search engine optimization (SEO) analysts and digital marketers panicked, dreading the inevitable client explanation for loss of data, as well as the impact on their capability to optimize and increase conversion through rich, organic search traffic. Solutions and workarounds were put forth, none of which were 100% accurate, but all of which combined to salvage a solid SEO metric and reporting amalgamation moving forward.

What hasn’t been given sufficient attention is how Google’s move affects the goal of SEO, and what this move means in the overall direction of search results, and where achieving top rankings in search results is headed. When viewing this move alongside other recent updates from Google affecting search results, it is clear that SEO has entered, and still is entering, a major paradigm shift. The traditional, tactical role of targeting keywords through on-page SEO elements (adding more keywords) and building anchor text-optimized links has been replaced with quality content marketing that provides utility, demonstrates topical relevance and earns popularity among social connections. In other words, a more personalized search is being introduced that won’t rank sites based on how relevant they are to specific keywords, but instead on how useful they are at answering queries to you and to your online community.

It all began on May 21, 2010, when Google introduced encrypted web search, removing certain referrer strings from the code and then announcing that all users logged-in to Google properties would not have their referrer keyword data reported. Over the next three and a half years, more and more users remained logged-in to Google while searching (now the norm) and top browsers (Firefox and Chrome) implemented SSL encryption, eliminating roughly 50% of keyword data worldwide. Then, on September 23 of this year, Google made all searches “secure”, cutting off all keyword data, and thus heralding the “data apocalypse.” Except, of course, from their paid search advertising meal ticket.

But not knowing which specific keywords are driving traffic to your site is not the end of SEO, as we know it. There are several workarounds that allow us to estimate with accuracy, such as measuring your site’s rankings in the search results for various keywords. Although this is only an indicator, if a ranking for your top referring keyword has improved to a top position, you can attribute any increase in volume, engagement and conversion to this change with a fair amount of certainty. Another solid method for inferring keyword data is by creating a custom segment within analytics to isolate all users coming in from the “(not provided)” source and then view which landing pages they are arriving on. From this, you should be able to establish which keyword, or at least which keyword theme, is driving traffic. The other two obvious methods would be to use Bing keyword data (depending on share of traffic) as a representative sample for overall organic search traffic or to derive insights from your paid search campaign results.


With this custom segment we can determine volumes around menu, delivery, and location keyword themes.

The most important takeaway from this move by Google is how it fits into the much larger puzzle of recent search updates that have completely re-shaped the practice of SEO. First off, the integration of all Google accounts along with the growing share of users that are always signed in while searching has led to a larger influence of Google+ within the search results. Websites that have been +1’d or content that has been shared by anyone in your network (or your network’s network) will have a significant advantage at ranking highly for relevant searches. For example, if you are searching for pizza delivery and someone in your Google+ circles has +1’d a place close-by, a website that would normally rank on the second or third page of results may now rank in the top three positions. Highly localized and personalized search means Google is clearly not finished trying to make Google+, and its seamless connectivity across all Google entities, a significant player.

The latest update to Google’s algorithm, known as Hummingbird, is an update designed to address the rise of more specific, long-winded and diverse searches such as “organic/vegetarian restaurants near the Air Canada Centre.” People are not simply searching for broad, general keywords anymore. In fact, 20% of searches every day are new and unique. The new Google algorithm – with its patented synonym identification based on co-occurring themes – allows it to parse full questions (as opposed to parsing searches keyword by keyword), and therefore allows it to identify and rank answers to those full questions within indexed content. In other words, Google is now understanding more conversational searches, as well as crawling sites in a more topical and contextual manner. While keywords are still important, more weight is being placed on how keywords interact to tell a full story, demonstrated by a recent SEO trend of over-investing in high-quality content from authoritative sources.

When you combine Google’s removal of keyword-specific data from site analytics, the recent rise of local and personalized search results and the shift in algorithm to focus more on topical relevance/authority, it’s clear that SEO will never be the same. Gone are the days of measuring keyword volumes and cheating the system through technicalities. Now that we’re all logged-in to Google most of the time, user tendencies, location and network all have an impact on search results. Furthermore, the Hummingbird algorithm update has broadened the scope of how Google crawls sites and understands content, setting the stage of more emphasis on high-quality, utilitarian content, in more conversational and topically relevant settings. So this “data apocalypse” and accompanying tweaks to what sites match our queries is actually an exciting and welcome development in the world of SEO. The lines between SEO and generally solid digital strategy are becoming increasingly blurred, as the focus is no longer on the keywords themselves, but on the audiences and their immediate needs. It is now near impossible to be lazy about creating and optimizing content – a welcome development from where we’re sitting.

Code Red

November 1, 2013 by lucyfosterfriesen

gripBlog_image_CODE RED

People in advertising are a trendy bunch. It’s always fun to be in the loop, to know the lingo, and to be a part of the conversation du jour. Learning to code is red hot right now in digital circles and beyond. While it’s great that coding has become a larger part of the cultural lexicon, I think everyone would benefit from stepping back and taking a minute to think about why they’re doing it and what they hope to accomplish.

Keep in mind that this is a field. People dedicate many hundreds of hours to learning it. That doesn’t mean you should be intimidated, but it also means you shouldn’t expect to pick it up in a day. To me, it seems that a good goal in all of this is to become more familiar with the way coding languages work, what they’re best used for in your industry, and what to be aware of when working with each.

Here’s how to keep your learning focused:

- Start small and think about your goals
- Define a project for yourself
- Make something!
- Talk to and check in with people who know what they’re doing

Look into workshops and websites. There are so many to choose from. I’m a big fan of Ladies Learning Code and will be attending one next month. If you’re interested, get out there! Learn the building blocks of web development. Language specific options. Code School teaches web technologies in the comfort of your browser with video lessons, coding challenges, and screencasts. Learn to code via a fun racing game. Learn how to make awesome websites. Dash teaches HTML, CSS, and Javascript through fun projects you can do in your browser. A women-run not-for-profit group working to empower everyone to feel comfortable learning beginner-friendly technical skills in a social, collaborative way via in-person focused classes. Gentlemen welcome too!



To the surprise of no one, Instagram (130 million+ users) has officially integrated video capabilities, thus mimicking its biggest competitor, Vine (13 million+ users), in much the same way parent company Facebook incorporated the hashtag from its biggest competitor, Twitter, last week.

In anticipation of the big reveal by their rival, Vine co-founders took to their platform early this morning to launch a six-second teaser of upcoming features and enhancements. Here are some noteworthy things that can be deduced from these clips: Vine drafts, which will allow users to pause and return to their creations, the repositioning of the camera button to the bottom-centre (à la Instagram) and the addition of categories (à la Pinterest).

Do these changes measure up? Not quite.

Video on Instagram, currently available on iOS and Android, is quite literally the “Instagram of video” we’ve all been waiting for. Its focus on beauty, simplicity and community has lead to an easily adoptable action by the masses: users are able to edit and cut videos to produce 15-second clips, apply one of 13 unique filters and define the cover frame that will appear in followers’ newsfeeds. The most notable tool, called “Cinema,” automatically stabilizes video to avoid shaky camera work, for when we’re actually living in the moment.

Instagram’s most obvious stab at Vine was calling out its competitor’s lack of integration with desktop and alternative social networks, an area in which the much-loved Instagram will obviously excel, and this will likely lift Facebook’s heavy mobile ambitions.

Where marketing is concerned, several household names including Lululemon and Taco Bell have jumped at the opportunity to integrate Instagram’s video capabilities into their social content strategies. It has yet to be confirmed, however, what types of ad products will be made available for the service.

Have you filmed your first #instavid? We have.



Social media snobs were revoked the ability to scoff at those incorporating hashtags in their Facebook statuses late last week. Not long after Facebook introduced Verified Profiles and Pages (à la Twitter), hashtags have made their debut.

The hashtag has been utilized to provide contextual relevance (in such few characters), to filter and share content, and to ignite conversations since Twitter’s early days – and has since been adopted by everyone from Instagram to Tumblr. It has become an integral part of the way consumers digest information: from news to sports events, to award shows. Hashtags are seen as a means to describe an emotion, a thought, or a theme of a shared photo, and have quickly caught on with the masses – even the late adopters – as a means to share culturally relevant trends and to get more “likes” (#instadaily, #iphonepicsonly, etc.)

Shortly after the one-year anniversary of their Instagram acquisition, Facebook has incorporated the hashtag. The billion-strong network has been answering to the increase of interest in niche networks by integrating the services, and has brought in the hashtag in the same fashion. Content shared from external services (like Instagram) will be functional, allowing users to pull up the feed and search results of friends, pages they follow and public profiles. Users are then able to post updates directly, paving the way for a more real-time experience and giving Facebook a head start on populated content.

What does this mean for marketers? In terms of ad products, it has yet to be determined. In terms of content, it will help us reach the consumers we’ve lost in the constant tweaking of the Facebook algorithm. We can become relevant again, and capitalize on the once-promising EdgeRank optimization of a “Merry Christmas” post! It is important that we consciously avoid abusing the tool, and instead incorporate it in an organic way, mirroring consumers’ social activity instead of alienating them. It is a chance for us to interact with the massive fan bases built over the years.

What do you think about hashtags on Facebook?

Facebook posts its status update on television.

April 9, 2013 by David Crichton

Facebook is about to launch Facebook Home. The elevator pitch is essentially this: people don’t talk to apps, they talk to people, so instead of seeing a screen of apps on your phone, you see all the friends you interact with, instead. At first blush, it seems like a cool concept – bringing the phone back to what it was invented to do — connect people. Whether we are seeing a shift in how mobile devices are used or simply another way to waste time, remains to be seen. But I digress, the point of this article isn’t about how cool Facebook Home may or may not be. It’s about the “cool” way Facebook chose to advertise it: with television. Over the weekend, Facebook ran a television commercial, created by Wieden and Kennedy touting the new offering. Just to recap: Facebook used television to sell a social media product. Traditional advertising, used to sell what many are calling the demise of television and/or branding. A “share” or “pull” medium sold by “push” media. I won’t comment; I’ll just lay the irony out there. Another point of interest is the commercial itself. It makes no sense, and really gives no clues as to what Facebook Home is or does. Apparently I’m not alone, as the many “comments” reflect the same sentiment. The spot depicts your typical scruffy-faced, gen-something-gadgeter on a plane playing with his phone, as a bunch of weird stuff starts to happen around him – people in overhead compartments pop out, cats run around the cabin, etc, end on logo. And that’s pretty much it. If I hadn’t come across the online video while searching for the spot, it’s likely I would never have been able to understand what the spot was saying. The real idea is in the video, albeit not as “creative”. What’s even more interesting is once I knew what the spot was trying to say, I couldn’t help but think of the “original” version of the spot, done by Cliff Freeman and Partners for Prodigy, back in 1995. That’s like a century ago in internet years. But the spot (and the rest of the campaign) was brilliant. One spot showed a woman smashing a banjo on the side of a deserted dusty road, screaming that she couldn’t learn to play it. Up rolls Barry White (yes, The Prince of Pillow Talk, himself) in an old green bus, with a route sign that reads: MUSIC. The doors open and Barry rumbles, “Havin’ problems baby…beatin’ up your banjo?” The woman gets on the bus and all manner of musical chaos breaks out; banjo players, gospel singers, disco fever. The spot ends with a replication of Prodigy’s graphical user interface – one of the first to use one – showing all the different user groups available. A voiceover explains, “Music… just one of the many user groups on the new Prodigy”. Now keep in mind, this was when the internet was in its infancy, and you actually had to PHONE for a subscription to Prodigy, who was attempting to group interests together on one platform to make sense of the this new medium. As a consumer you got it: your computer is the bus, pulling up to all the stops that interest you along the information highway (Yes, that’s not just a joke phrase in meetings, unfortunately that is what we used to call the internet). Similar to the Facebook Home spot, except far clearer in its explanation for something not understood, or even known about for that matter.

Social Media may be the new marketing darling, but as we often stress within our walls, it has to be grounded in the basics of advertising. What are you selling, who are you selling it to, and what is the simplest and most compelling way to tell them. As Mr. Freeman said in referencing his spots, “We’re talking in a language that everyone can understand.”

The original by Prodigy:

The video :

Hi, I’m a GRIP Social Media Intern

April 3, 2013 by Janet Ha

Social Media Intern of Steel

Hi, my name is Janet Ha and I’m a Social Media Intern at Grip Limited.

Before you start deliberating on how my role is probably another run-of-the-mill internship that doesn’t go beyond community management (including but not limited to drafting out Tweets for accounts I’m not allowed to touch with a ten-foot-pole and creating Facebook ads of questionable quality), let me be the first to say:

Grumpy Cat

I’m not your regular intern. This is my fourth* social media internship and the second agency position I’ve held since starting at Humber College’s Bachelor of Creative Advertising program. I’m what you may consider an “internship pro” when it comes to the social space.

So what makes Grip different when it comes to social?

Good Guy Boss

Working as a Social Media Intern at Grip has been a re-education in social media. Grip uses social media in such a way that doesn’t exploit followers and yet leverages brand pillars to spark engagement between brands and their online communities. That being said, the Social Content Team at Grip is not your average community management department. First off: they’re not Community Managers, they’re Social Content Strategists. To paraphrase Shakespeare: What’s in a title?

Jobs in social media are often assailed with questions on their validity in the industry and whether or not those holding the positions are full of it. For example, you cannot append “guru” to the end of your title without being scoffed at as some kind of ignorant poseur. So what difference do the words “content strategist” make? Yes, we do perform expected community management duties like answering questions and comments on client social media platforms, including the creation of crisis management strategies for situations that would make any PR rep tremble with fear from the looming media onslaught.

Disregard Fans, Acquire Engagment

We partner with Accounts and Creative teams to create content and digital strategy decks, monitor industry trends, exchange memes internally and basically have a work hard, play hard mindset that translates into compelling content, outstanding metrics and an optimistic future for social media in advertising as a whole.

Social Media Intern is the official job title on the contract I signed with HR in December, yet I have worn many hats in this role and have accumulated invaluable agency experience. My internship contract with Grip ends this week. It was a fantastic experience and I will use these lessons in advertising for good. How do I know? That’s because by the time this blog is posted, I will be Grip’s latest Social Content Strategist.

Thank you Grip, for the best internship I have ever had.

*I hear you ask: “Why so many internships?” I much prefer working to gain experience in the industry I’m passionate about than folding clothes and slinging coffee (that’s another thing you don’t do in an internship with Grip!).