Instagram is positive. It’s happy. It’s bright. It makes the users ‘feel good’. But, is the pressure to align with Instagram’s “happy” culture causing users to actually be less happy “IRL?” While no one’s questioning Instagram’s impact on users’ purchasing decisions, a recent test by Instagram could change the way advertisers and influencers use the platform altogether.
Let me explain.
Twitter is known in the social media community as probably the best way to directly, in real time, engage with your audience. But, it can also be a catalyst for bullies. Twitter is a notorious hotbed of abuse, so much so that the social platform has recently abandoned its previously “reactive” approach towards abusive content, and begun to take action on how to be proactive and preventative when it comes to abusive content. On the other end of the spectrum, Instagram looks to be the friendliest of the social media platforms. The visually-led community cultivates positive and motivational messaging, where posts that go viral tend to have a positive message, and where many of the most famous accounts are of dogs and cats.
But some mental health experts say that this positivity presents a unique problem. It encourages its users to post upbeat and staged photos that others could be misleading to others and potentially harmful. Scarlett Dixon is a primary example.
The fashion blogger posted a promoted photo of herself having breakfast, with the intention of promoting Listerine mouthwash. The photo was quickly screenshotted and posted on Twitter, where users called out the inauthenticity of the image. The user stated, “Instagram is a ridiculous lie factory made to make us all feel inadequate.”
The tweet took off, with more than 111,000 likes and almost 25,000 retweets. Dixion even responded to comments calling her fake, saying, “My feed isn’t a place of reality. I mean, who spends their time in such a beautiful city, perched on a ledge, ice-cream in hand and smile permanently affixed to her face? It’s staged, guys.”
It’s for this reason alone that experts are looking at how harmful Instagram is to its users mental health. In a 2017 survey by the Royal Society for Public Health, 14- to 24-year-olds scored Instagram as the top social platform that most negatively impacts their quality of sleep, their fear of missing out, and their body image.
“It’s a reward cycle, you get a squirt of dopamine every time you get a like or a positive response on social media,” explains psychologist Emma Kenny when speaking to Cosmopolitan about the effect of social media likes on one’s mental health.“It’s like a hit, similar to the way you feel when you have a drink. The social media like triggers that reward cycle and the more you get it, the more you want it.”
Now, Instagram is testing out a way to possibly combat these negative effects on its users, but it might be at the expense of its advertisers, and more specifically, its influencers.
Imagine an Instagram where no one but you can see how many likes or followers you have. That’s exactly what Instagram is currently testing internally. Researcher Jane Manchun Wong discovered the change in a beta view on her Instagram, and Instagram confirmed the testing with TechCrunch.
“We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get. During this test, only the person who share a post will see the total number of likes it gets,” says Instagram in a pop-up message about the feature test.
An Instagram spokesperson said that the testing is a result of the company trying to find ways “to reduce pressure on Instagram,” which is likely their way of addressing how this validation culture has been shown to hurt mental health and self esteem.
With influencers’ income solely dependent on their engagement rates and likelihood of a post “going viral,” this change can directly hurt their business. By hiding their engagement on posts, influencers could find it harder to get deals with businesses for sponsored content. Brands need to see engagement on content before tapping an influencer to rep their product so that they can gauge their ROI. It would also make it near impossible for users to figure out which posts are popular on the platform, and therefore, influential. For a social media specialist like me, it will be harder to learn what kind of content is resonating with the Instagram community.
As this testing concludes and impacts possible changes on the platform, it will be interesting to see how Instagram social media strategies change across the board for influencers, businesses and advertisers alike.
If you’re in the market for the creation of a social media strategy to fully optimize your business’s digital footprint that will directly improve sales, brand awareness, and engagement, let’s chat.
You can tell a lot about the way people think by observing the people they admire and the traits they aspire to emulate. As advertisers, we think that applies to our work as well. As we celebrate our 30th year in business, we wanted to look back not just at our own business and successes through the years, but also at the business and successes of the industry as a whole. Working in advertising, every week you encounter something that makes you say something like “Damn… I wish I’d worked on that campaign,” or, “Damnit, that’s a great line, why didn’t I think of that.”
Accordingly, we asked around the office to see what kind of work from over the years still earned our employees’ admiration and praise. It’s a peek into the kind of thinking we have around here at G/L, and a look at the caliber of work we strive to create every single day. Here’s what a few of them had to say:
Anne-Marie Vaughn – Business Manager/Controller
Old Spice – The Man Your Man Could Smell
Like These ads are so entertaining I never get tired of them. I can only imagine how much fun it was for the people who concepted and produced them. I would’ve loved to be a fly on the wall for those video shoots! They’ve also been extremely effective in driving sales for Old Spice. For me, this represents the epitome of what an ad campaign should be.
McDonald’s – McD.L.T. commercial featuring Jason Alexander (1985)
I remember seeing this commercial on TV like it was yesterday. There aren’t many ads from my childhood that I remember fondly— this may be the only one. I loved the singing and dancing, and the styling is as classic 80s as it gets. Can’t say I was ever into the McD.L.T.— they discontinued it before I cared much about keeping the hot side hot and the cool side cool. Plus the packaging was really bad for the environment. It’s fun to go back and watch Jason Alexander in this though.
I remember when this came out (in 2007), EVERYONE would quote it. I would see it all the time on MTV, and the people in my life that thought it was funny was definitely my demographic (young millennials who still love to eat candy). Now, eleven years later, I can still remember how Starburst ran a limited-time campaign of their berries and cream-flavored candy. Why? Because of a catchy commercial.
This award-winning campaign not only increased Snickers sales by 15.9% and grew market share in 56 of the 58 markets in which it ran, but it’s super catchy and I think it’s hilarious. Here’s a great opinion article on why Campaign Live thinks it was a success.
I mean, who doesn’t love these commercials? I challenge anyone to sit through them and not shed a tear. It’s no secret that eliciting emotion is a surefire way to ensure ad recall, and P&G identified a meaningful way to use emotion to make their brand bigger than the household cleaning products it’s known for.
After signing on as a sponsor for the Olympic games, P&G had to quickly develop an advertising strategy that would resonate amongst a global audience. They came to a realization that a common denominator for a majority of their brands was their primary audience: moms. Thus, “Thank You Mom” was born—a series of campaigns dating back to the 2010 Olympics that focus less on products, and more on the people who use them. Couple that with the storyline of an Olympic athlete and a mother’s love, and you have an instant winner in the hearts of consumers all over the world. The strategy is simple, the message is authentic and the creative is powerful. The result is advertising that has a lasting universal message the brand can truly be proud of—that seems like a pretty cool experience to be a part of!
The Absolut Bottle Campaign
Plain and simple, I think this was brilliant creative due, in large part, to its simplicity. True, the brand may have been blessed by sheer luck after the vodka caught Andy Warhol’s eye at Studio 54 in the 1980s. Specifically, the nondescript shape of the bottle. Warhol found it so mesmerizing, he designed an ad for it and the rest is history.
After the “Absolut Warhol” ad debuted, the brand launched the longest uninterrupted print ad campaign ever, featuring 1,500 separate ads showcasing the vodka bottle over a span of 25 years. Each ad was entirely unique, but followed a simple creative formula—”a bottle, two words and a little bit of wit.” This formula won big—before launching the campaign, Absolut had only 2.5% of the vodka market but, by its end, the brand had 50% of all imported vodka in the United States. As uninteresting as people find print nowadays, it’s fun to think about the time when print ads were, in some respects, work of art.
More film than commercial, this ad is the perfect marriage of medium, messaging, music and simple, strait-to-the-point emotion-stirring narrative. It not only snared my attention and inspired me as a college student, but has managed to firmly lodge itself in my mind even now – a full 8-years since I’ve watched it. The ad itself is meant to establish Chipotle as supporters of sustainable farming and to remove itself from the established association with large-scale factory farming. They present this message via a story which follows the journey of an adorable little farmer who’s animated world is reminiscent of Wallace & Gromit. The emotional impact arguably comes across even stronger thanks to the unique visual style and the ability of the filmmakers to illustrate the progression of simple farming’s evolution towards an out-of-control industrial scale and then innovating again on it’s march back to the values and morals we began with. This all occurs over the backdrop of a well-aged Willy Nelson singing his rendition of “The Scientist”, humming into our eager ear holes the relevant line of, “let’s bring things back to the start.”
Aside from being incredibly impactful and strong in terms of delivering its message, the strongest part of the ad is its ability to present itself as entertainment. Before attempting to directly sell its audience on anything we are first guided on a journey and made to feel something thanks to the meticulous and well-planned visuals. As a student in the Missouri State design program I most likely re-watched this ad and its behind the scenes dissection over a dozen times. The effort spent in planning, constructing and shooting this video is on a scale I didn’t believe was possible for an advertisement. I would have killed to have sat in for a day and watched as those tiny pics slowly, shot-by-shot, wobbled their way across a field or were squished into pink meat cubes.
Despite some of the more unfortunate issues Chipotle has had over the years since, I still think of it as the sustainable, grass-roots burrito thanks solely to that 2-minute video I watched almost a decade ago.
Similar to Chipotle, this video blurs the line between advertisement and entertainment. The dizzying display this Ad/Music Video accomplishes is incredibly impressive and manages to present a mundane product such as paper not only as kick-ass cool, but as a limitless implement for creativity. In the process of entertaining the audience they manage to position the brand as a force for innovation as well as conservation (All paper was recycled as well as the video’s proceeds going to Greenpeace).
Coming at it from the creative perspective, much like the Chipotle video, the process and problem solving behind this production is the hero. Working in design we enjoy solving visual problems and this video takes the cake in that department. This video required north of 2 years to plan and prepare all the moving pieces before even one second was filmed. And when all was said and done, it’s an incredibly entertaining, effective and impactful video.
To me, this takes the cake as one of the funniest, most original campaigns ever. In my opinion, the concept and delivery was ahead of its time because it was so over the top. I can still watch it to this day and laugh for hours.
This is a humorous campaign as well, but what I admired the most about it was the fact that it embraced the consumer mindset of wanting to skip over a pre-roll YouTube ad as quickly as possible and instead called the consumer out for it, “You can’t skip this Geico ad because it’s already over.” You think the ads over and instead you get a hilarious turn of unexpected events that started as a boring situation. Such a clever execution with true strategy catered to the platform. On a broader scale, Geico was able to take the most boring product/service in the world (insurance) and make it funny and engaging. It reshaped how other insurance companies approached marketing as well.
These preroll ads were creative and innovative — they were the first preroll ads that were specifically formatted for the medium! GEICO took something people really don’t like to watch and turned it into something that they not only didn’t skip but watched in its entirety! An amazing feat when it comes to preroll ads. In true GEICO fashion these ads were funny too — they used cheesy music, stocky visuals and boring messaging — but all of that combined with a simple live freeze frame resulted in hilarity! GEICO stayed true to their brand while reinventing preroll ads. They showed you don’t have to spend a lot of time to get your message and name out. 5 seconds was all they needed to be memorable — a great lesson for other brands!
Burger King – Flame-Grilled
This series of print ads turned some not-so-good data (more BK’s have burned down than any other fast food chains) into a positive message for the brand. The ads show actual Burger King restaurants on fire — a twisted, fun way to remind customers that their burgers are always flame-grilled. Who doesn’t love a company that can make light of themselves — consumers love transparency and Burger King delivered.
Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised that I’ve managed to work Taco Bell into the conversation once again, but what can I say? Advertising and branding is a delicate balance… on one side, brands tell consumers what their product is, and on the other, consumers tell brands what their product is. Often times, the best campaigns make full use of the latter, embracing an identity that consumers dictate. Such is the case with Taco Bell’s “Fourthmeal” campaign – a campaign that essentially said, “We are good drunk food.” Instead of trying to promote themselves as a place for a quick lunch or dinner a la McDonald’s and other fast food establishments, Taco Bell literally invented a new meal in the day, and came right celebrating the fact that people wanted to eat their cheesy, beefy deliciousness after a late night out and probably a few too many drinks. They extended their store hours, and set the scenes of their spots in late-night alcohol-infused scenarios. Today, even as many of my peers and I try to be more health-conscious during the day, the association of Taco Bell with late-night food cravings remains the same. “Fourthmeal” always felt like something I was doing anyways but never had a name for, and when Taco Bell named it for me, it simply stuck. Twelve years after the campaign’s airing, my friends and I still say “Fourthmeal” when getting late night food.
I loved this commercial so much when it first aired during the 2015 Super Bowl. The line “The people who drink our beer are people who like to drink beer” is brilliant. It says so much about a mindset, so simply. And much like the “Fourthmeal” campaign, it’s a great example of a brand embracing what they already are rather than trying to tap into every new market. I love all beers myself, and I can certainly be found “dissecting” local craft beers and snobbishly assessing them with friends from time to time – when I’m in that mood, no matter what Budweiser told me or made, they’d probably never get my attention. But I’ll be damned if there aren’t also many times that I simply want to have a good time, drink cold beers and let that be all there is to it… Call it the difference between having a drink and just having a damn beer. Like every other cliché, annoying, white millennial male who is desperate to appear interesting, I absolutely loved Anthony Bourdain and read many of his interviews. I often think back to an interview he gave a while ago in which he said, “But look, I like cold beer. And I like to have a good time. I don’t like to talk about beer, honestly. I don’t like to talk about wine. I like to drink beer.” This campaign did a magnificent job of owning that mood, instead of trying to change who Budweiser was in an attempt to capture a part of the growing craft beer market.
As a copywriter who’s still in the early stages of his career, my eyes are always looking forward to where I’m headed, what I need to learn, and how the industry will change in the coming years. Of course, I can’t predict the future, but what I can do is try to see things through the eyes of those who have been there, done that. And how convenient – I happen to work with two of them! As Dave Geile and Tim Leon take their business into its 30th year, I felt there couldn’t be a better time to seek out some words of wisdom from them. Unsurprisingly, the insight they shared felt too good not to share with the rest of the world. No matter what your background or profession, I hope you’ll find as much value in our conversation as I did.
Without further ado, I share my conversation with Dave Geile and Tim Leon as they reflect on thirty years in this crazy business.
“What do you believe are the biggest reasons that G/L has been around for three decades?”
Dave “The culture. Not only here in the office, but how we present ourselves to new business. We aren’t sales-y or pushy, and I think that always plays well. In every meeting we have, whether or not we get the business, we always leave with a good relationship. We trust our employees and our clients trust us – as long as things are getting done, and getting done well, trust will always drive things forward.”
Tim “I think it’s been our ability to evolve. This industry and business overall has changed dramatically over the past 30 years, and we’ve been able to keep up with it and make the right changes to our service offerings, softwares, skills, and whatnot. I agree with what Dave said – we really trust our employees, and we trust them to help us stay ahead of the game. That’s had an immeasurable impact.”
Dave “Also, I think often times others focus too much on winning awards. We like to focus on solving the problem at hand for our client, whatever that may be. If our solution happens to win an award, that’s great, and we’ve got plenty of them, but what’s more important to us is the work and the results. We produce fun, good stuff, but more importantly, it’s stuff that works.”
What changes through the years do you believe have had the biggest impact on your success? Are there any specific moments that stand out?
Tim “I’d say when we evolved from an integrated marketing communications firm to more of a brand-driven strategic marketing firm. When we developed Distilled Thinking in 2003, I think that was a big moment for us. It was a long process, but when we finished we felt like we really had something unique and, most importantly, valuable to offer our clients. The second thing for me was including public relations in our offerings – it really rounded us out, and I felt the same way years ago about our digital services as we developed those capabilities and ramped up our expertise in that field.”
Dave “That’s what I was going to say… I’m answering first next question.”
If you could give some advice to yourselves 30 years ago, what would you say?
Dave “Believe in yourself. Damn the torpedoes! When we started this agency, it was three weeks after my wife told me our second child was on the way, so I thought: ‘this is either going to be the greatest thing ever or the worst decision of my life.’ But we had the confidence that we can do it, and if you care about what you do and the people you work with, things are going to work out. And here we are 30 years later. So, just believe in yourself.”
Tim “Stay relevant. You can’t become complacent. I truly believe that what we do today is better and different than what we did three years ago, and what we do in three years will have to be better and different than what we do today. It’s always been that way and always will be. Stay relevant and be prepared to adapt.”
How does your philosophy towards marketing today compare to your philosophy 30 years ago?
Tim “There used to be a quote on my door from David Ogilvy that said: ‘It’s not creative if it doesn’t sell.’ And I don’t think that’s changed. It can be creative as hell but it has to be strategic and it has to move the needle. In fact that’s even more true today with how metrics-driven marketing has become. Our clients are getting measured on performance, and it’s our job to help them there. Tactics have changed, but the philosophy never has.”
Dave “I’d echo that. Our job is to build your brand and make you money. That’s always been the goal.”
As advertising has changed through the years, what are the essential truths of the industry that never have?
Tim “Well, there’s the same thought that it needs to sell. But to go further I’d say relationships matter. The relationships that we have with our vendors, our employees, former employees, clients, whoever – they all have an impact. Don’t discount the value of a great relationship. Through the years there have been so many opportunities that came about from being referred by someone who liked us or who worked for us. It’s had a real business impact to work hard at maintaining good relationships with everyone that we’ve been involved with. I’d also say it’s always been important to hire good people and let them do what they do well. Inspiring a positive work environment means trusting your employees and giving them the chance to make things their own.
Dave “Yeah, you know that’s – “
Tim “ – Oh! And watch your cash flow. This industry is and always will be streaky. Be diligent so you’re prepared to weather the ups and downs.”
Dave “… what he said. I’m going first again next question.”
What are some of the most prominent lessons you’ve learned about business overall?
Dave “Be a partner to your clients. They will always appreciate it. I know agencies who will nickel and dime clients at every turn, even putting you on the clock for a quick phone call. That’s not how you build good partnerships or relationships. Great partnerships are defined by working through the tough times – having the tough conversations and trusting each other to truly want what’s best for the other. Business is about relationships, and that’s why we’re always transparent and upfront, so that we can establish that trust.”
Tim “I should’ve saved the cash flow answer for this one.”
Dave “Find the good in things. Not everything is always as it seems, but there’s always good in there, and that’s the story worth telling.”
Tim “For me it just means serving clients, brands and people with everything we do. It’s how we conduct our lives here. We work with people who want to positively impact the world around them.”
How do your goals today compare to your goals thirty years ago?
Tim “Well at the start it was just making it. (laughs) Survival. Wondering how am I going to put food on the table this week… Now what’s changed for us is thinking about what our legacy is going to be. You don’t think about that when you start, but now that you’ve proven to yourself that you’ve got a successful business model, you think about what that legacy is going to be. How it’s going to live on.
Dave “Yeah exactly. How do you set it up to go on. I think if the place can’t go on without Tim and I here, then we’ve done something wrong. You look at agencies whose founders have long gone but their legacies are as alive as ever. That’s what you think about now. That’s what we want to leave here. A place that you everyone else can take and continue to build.”
What has been the most rewarding part of the last 30 years?
Dave “I think for me it’s watching people grow. I think about employees who started with that spark but didn’t quite have it all fleshed out, there was a nugget of brilliance at a time, and now years later you see them and they are just unbelievably talented all the time. Over 30 years I’ve seen lots of employees go from fresh out of school to creative directors and marketing executives and whatnot, and it’s just been so fun to see them grow.”
Tim “For me it’s just that the place has always remained a part of our lives. It’s gratifying to build a business and a culture and it has such a big impact on your personal life too, and the thing is through it all… we’re still partners. Other than my wife, I’ve spent more time with Dave than anybody else! A business partnership is like a marriage, and this marriage works, and that’s a really amazing thing to have.”