Ads on Instagram are already here. But are they legal?

Place your bets now please…

The facts:

  • The Facebook-owned photo-sharing site, Instagram, does not have a business model (yet).
  • ‘Official’ ads will be coming soon (if on hold), but celebrities (and their sponsors) aren’t waiting around.
  • The US Federal Trade Commission state that ads on social media must be labelled as such*.

With those key points in tow, let’s take a look at a few recent examples of how ads have begun to appear on the this particular social network –

EXAMPLE 1:  Lebron James, Nike

Copy: ‘These are simply the best!! Ultra comfy and can wear them with anything. I’m ordering 100 pair right now. #kicks #Nike #family’

Is this an ad? It could be deemed as such, certainly. Is Lebron James sponsored by Nike? Definitely. Is ‘endorsement of product across social media’ part of his contract? Maybe. This is something I’ve talked about before. In short: how do social media advertising rules work when it comes to sponsorship deals? Should this image have an #ad tag?

Let me know in the comments.

EXAMPLE 2. Kim Kardashian, Sun Kissed

Copy: ‘Sprayed tonight after watching KKTM! My legs are soooo dark! Loving Kardashian SunKissed! #AvailableAtUlta’

If this isn’t an ad, then I really don’t know what is. Let’s review –

  1. We’ve got a CLEAR product shot!
  2. We’ve got a a massive ENDORSEMENT (Kim’s ‘LOVING’ it guys).
  3. Finally, that final hashtag? Oh, hi there call to action. How you doin’?

All of these elements add up to a clear piece of advertising. Is it marked up as such? No. While you could argue that KK is endorsing her own products here (so no money has officially changed hands, and this is technically not actually ‘paid for’ advertising) and therefore she’s exempt from the advertising guidelines… but still, it’s a grey area at best.

EXAMPLE 3: Nicole Richie, Suave
(image via Ad Age)

Copy: ‘Ad: My new don’t-leave-home-without-it product? Moroccan Infusion Styling Oil from @SuaveBeauty! Check out ways to add brilliant shine to your style here:’

OK, so this works. Finally someone is using the ‘Ad’ tag properly when it comes to advertising via earned media – hurrah! The interesting point here is that the brand in question has gone on record and said that the above image was indeed part of the existing partnership between the company and Ms Richie. Again, making things even clearer. Perfect.

——  So what can we learn from this?

There are three things at play here –

1. Without a business model, Instagram, and therefore Facebook, is clearly missing out on potentially lucrative ad dollars being bought and sold on their network.

2. Celebrities, and their sponsors, are getting smarter, faster.

3. In the same way that the ASA took Snickers and Nike to tribunal here in the UK, I wouldn’t be surprised if the FTC went knocking on the doors of a few US-based brands in the very near future.

It sounds so obvious when you say it out loud but, when it comes to paid-for endorsements on social media, clarity and transparency are key.


*Here in the UK, the ASA have a similar policy but the terms regarding disclosures are not as explicit.

NEW Twitter Cards for Brands: The Impact

Twitter has quietly launched new markup documentation for twitter cards…

And brands should take note. Why? Let’s start at the top –

What are Twitter cards?

Twitter cards are a fairly recent addition to the Twitter suite of tools that allow richest media content (images, videos, and blog post previews – or ‘photo’, ‘player’, and ‘summary’ respectively) to be displayed in-stream. Launched last year with a few partners such as The New York Times and WWE, these expanded Tweets are another way for publishers to engage with Twitters in a more meaningful way.

Since June last year, Twitter has slowly released this functionality both as new partnerships with other media houses; and as developer documentation for others to add to their own websites and blogs.

Why are they useful?

It’s simple: Twitter cards enable a preview (or in some cases a full view) of the content linked to in the Tweet. This means users of the official Twitter client can consume content without leaving the app and, if they do have to click out, they have a better understanding of what they’re about to engage with.

So what’s new?

Overnight, Twitter launched three more variations of the Twitter card on top of their ex: App, Gallery, and Product.

The first two work as follows –

This one shows information about an app; including the app name, icon, description and other details such as the rating or price. If your app is in the AppleApp Store or Google Play, then the corresponding information there can be pulled in accordingly.

Result? More app downloads, hurrah! 

This new card represents an album or a collection of photographs via a preview of the photo gallery. This card indicates to a Twitter user that a gallery has been shared, as opposed to just one individual photo.

Result? More imagery = more engaging = increased CTR.

That’s all well and good, but it’s this next third one that I find most interesting:

The Twitter product card can represent different products by showing an image and description, along with up to two customisable fields that let you display more details like price or ratings.

On both web and mobile, it would look something like this –

Result? MORE. SALES. It’s that simple. 

In short: this is fantastic.

This basically says that brands can now, with a simple piece of html markup, preview actual products, for purchase, including reviews and/or pricing information into their followers’ Twitter streams. Combine that with some decent tracking and you finally have what looks like a decent social sales ecosystem.

Think about that for a second; instead of ‘Hey! Look at this thing we’ve launched! [link]’, you now get ‘Hey! Look at this thing we’ve launched [image] + [price]’.


We’re already talking to our clients about getting this markup integrated into their websites’ product pages, and we’ve got a funny feeling a few of you might be too.

Exciting times indeed.


Five key takeaways from Social Media World Forum 2013 #SMWF

Looking for ways to get social media traction at your place of work? Read on –

This past week, the 2013 European Social Media World Forum (#SMWF) conference took place in London and yours truly was lucky enough to not only attend, but also appear on one of the panels.

More on that last part shortly but first, my remit for the event was simple:

How did I get on? That remains to be seen, but here are five key takeaways that are definitely worth paying attention to.

1. Zero budget does not mean zero spend.

‘We got our social media up running internally with zero budget!’
‘Social media was a cost-free way to get our message out!’
‘We had no extra budget from our stakeholders, yet we still managed to get it launched!’ 

These statements are all fundamentally not true.

All meaningful efforts in social media need that most valuable of any company asset: hours. Without time, none of it would happen and without effort, none of it would happen properly. This seems like an obvious statement but you’d be surprised how many times it is said, heard, and believed within corporate circles. Next time someone tells you social media is cheap and easy, tell them: you’re wrong!

2. ‘If it doesn’t work on mobile, go home!’

The above statement was said by Dominic Burch (pictured above), head of social media for UK supermarket chain, Asda (part of the Wal-Mart group). This is huge. Why is this huge? Asda’s target market is Mums.

Back in 2010, Google Chief Exec Eric Schmidt took to the stage at Mobile World Congress and said his new motto was ‘mobile first‘.  Three years later and big corporations are catching on. Not only to this future-proofing concept, but also to the fact that their audiences have moved. Mums are mobile first, which means you have to be too.

Also: 56 RTs and counting.

3. Pirate Ships work.

Many of the speakers at #SMWF spoke today about ‘working outside of the rules’ and ‘circumnavigating process’; this is typical pirate ship behaviour. What am I talking about? Let me explain.

Back in days of old, pirates were able to out-manoeuvre large naval ships by being low in number, agile in their approach, and surprisingly daring in their gold-gaining strategies. Many social media teams started out in the exact same way. The lead social media head spots the opportunity to make revenue, breaks away from the pack, shoots, scores; and then – and this is key – begins to recruit more pirates to his/her cause (additional takeaway: if you can’t find another pirate internally, ‘network your face off’ within the business – Nissan’s head of social did this for years until he had the support he needed to launch the dept. formally).

From global finance companies, through to every day supermarkets – the pirate ship methodology works. If they can do it, you can too.

4. Know what you are, but also know what you’re not.

Cordell Lawrence from Jack Daniel’s gave a superb presentation in their ‘Telling, not Selling‘ session on what and how authenticity drives their social media output. All of their efforts stem from a clear brand ethos and strategy that informs everything they do both above the line and below the line, throughout social media.

The key take out (for me at least) was the ‘What Jack is’ and ‘What Jack is not’ slide. This is textbook brand strategy; strong brands know what they are, but stronger brands know what they are not. e.g.:

  • Jack is traditional.
  • Jack is not trendy.
  • Jack is whiskey as a craft.
  • Jack is not whiskey as a product.
  • Jack is friendly.
  • Jack is not silly or cute.

I’m from a branding background and seeing this kind of strategy warms the cockles of my heart. On top of that, and coming from an experienced community management perspective, these kind of guidelines are essential for delivering an on brand and on target social media tone of voice.

5. Help others to help yourself.

This last one really does read like some kind of meaningless platitude that wouldn’t go a miss out of a nursery book at bedtime. HOWEVER. When it comes to selling social media usage upwards in the chain of command, this could never be more true.

To provide context, and please forgive me – this really isn’t rocket science, the question and answer ran as follows:

Q: ‘How do I convince my manager that we need to use social media?’

A: Simple. Find out what their objectives are; find out what their KPIs are; find out exactly what that person needs to do to do in order to attain their bonus at the end of the year and then show them how social media can help them achieve those goals.’

You’d be amazed at what making your boss look good in front of his boss will do for your efforts in social.




Never-ending enjoyment (for a limited time only)

Consumers are craving the unique and brands are catching on…

— the following article is a trend-spotting piece that I wrote which ended up not being used. It is published here, with permission, and totally unchanged. Enjoy —

In this time-pressured digital age, the modern city-dweller has to be militant with their time allocation.

Friends (and family? maybe) come first; obviously, but how can brands break into the hallowed ground between 7pm Friday and 6am Monday?

Word of mouth marketing has never been stronger, yet while false scarcity isn’t any new kind of rocket science, all across the globe brands both big and small are coming ‘round to the idea that to be there today, you need to be gone tomorrow.


Time Pressure
“Time Pressure is an almost universal experience for residents of modern cities” says Associate Professor at the School of Physical, Environmental, and Mathematical Sciences, Dr Paul Tranter – and he’s not wrong. Cities everywhere suffer from the same issue: scarcity of time. There is simply never enough time for consumers to do or see everything. Commuting, working, commuting, sleeping; the cycle never ends.

They are in what the New York Times refers to as ‘the busy trap’.

The race to be ‘different’
‘Be different’, ‘the Amazing, every day’, ‘Challenge everything’, ‘Make the most of NOW’ – Brand taglines are constantly falling over themselves to be unique, to stand out – two brands share at least one of the slogans above.

Been there, done that
Ever connected, the global village is now smaller than ever. Finding that one cool venue, or that amazing trip, that no one on Twitter or Facebook has seen or done is now more difficult than ever before. Consumers not only want the amazing, but they also want the kudos of discovering the remarkable – a thirst for being first, if you will.

Combine these three elements and you find yourself in a whirlwind of one-off experiences that are continually attempting to better what’s gone before…


1. The rise of the Speakeasy
From New York to London or Sydney to Shanghai, knowing what secret door to push at exactly what time and on what street is the true mark of a local’s ‘knowledge’. You can find whatever you need on the streets of the world’s busiest cities, from Cocktail Clubs to Breakfast Clubs; the speakeasy of 2012 has it all.

The Mayor Of Scaredy Cat Town, London
Situated behind a fridge door of a greasy spoon in London’s Spitalfields district, this underground cocktail bar serves up Bloody Marys and bites for those that ask for a meeting with the Mayor upon arrival. He’ll be seeing you shortly.

Crif Dogs, NYC
A greasy hot dog takeout store somewhere off the East Village is the destination. Cunningly named ‘Please don’t tell’, the bar itself is hidden through a hidden panel inside the restaurant’s phone booth. Once inside, the drinks are classic and the crowd are cool.

Eau-de-vie, Sydney
Hidden away at the back of the Kirketon Hotel, is a similarly themed destination. Deriving its look and feel from the prohibition-era United States of old, getting down down-under has never been easier (or more incognito).

2. The pop-up shop, bar, restaurant, hotel, play
The ‘pop up’ is king (and already fairly well-known in the retail space). However bigger brands are getting involved and the retail trend is evolving into other spaces, spreading its unparalleled wings and setting course for the exclusive.

— Branded stores
Coca-cola, Marmite, IKEA, Louis Vuitton – all these brands and many more have each experimented with temporary locations. Mainly located in areas distinctly matched to their audience (Apple’s iPad store at SXSW springs to mind), they all deliver in very much the same pattern: iconic style, on-brand personal experiences and, more often than not, high-end transactions for consumer of today, keen not to miss out on what’s before them.

— Theatre: You, Me Bum Bum Train
A play for the individual, sold out within 10 minutes of tickets going on sale late last year. Each audience member is sworn to secrecy, and then taken through their very own version of ‘the bum bum train’. Designed to provide the epitome of unique experiences – the train’s passengers never have the same experience twice. Ever.

— Hotel: Papaya Playa Project
85 cabanas make up this Mexico-based, eco-friendly pop-up hotel. With its ‘stay’ only scheduled for five months of the year, bookings are drying up fast and, as with nearly all examples here, the attraction is in the unique. A Berlin-based ad-agency has been brought on board to fill the cabanas with stories… but only while it stays.

3. The one off, to never be seen again
‘Did you see that?’ – ‘Did you hear about this?’ – ‘Wait, you actually WENT there?’ – these are the questions that’ll be asked about our next batch of examples. The crazy, the out there, the experiences that everyone wishes they were there to experience. Instead, they just read about it on Facebook and hope they make the next one…

— British Airways Olympic Restaurant, ‘Flight BA2012’
While this example should probably be in the ‘pop up’ section, the sheer exclusivity of the execution has pushed it into the ‘one offs’. Only open for a mere six days in April 2012, the 54-seater British Airways ‘cabin restaurant’ served food from celebrity chefs and based its dishes on the menu from 1948, in homage to the year the country last hosted the Olympic Games.

— Bompass & Par, Truvia
B&P, jelly mongers by trade, are becoming known for their food-based brand tie-ins. As recently as last summer, they flooded the roof of London department store Selfridges for the launch of a calorie-free sweetener known as ‘Truvia’. 45min trips to the top of the building (pre-booked, WAY in advance, naturally), promised a true ‘journey of discovery’ the likes of which have never been seen before and will doubtfully ever again.

— Projection Mapping Madness
From Nokia to Angry Birds, electro-cars to 80s pop songstresses – the use of Projection Mapping is almost passé in its usage. But nothing signifies the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ nature of the one-off experience than really well executed piece of projection mapping. The Vivid Light Festival at Sydney Opera House is a recent favourite…

Be there, or watch it on YouTube.


Without a doubt, brands are experimenting with experiences. While they might seem like just more YouTube fodder to the cynical, unique branded encounters are what today’s consumers CRAVE. They strive to be different and, to cater for this hunger businesses are getting in on the act.

If Apple is getting into the pop-up marketplace, then one may wonder if this trend has already jumped the shark. But, as the research shows, the notion is already evolving; cross-category, cross-market and cross-borders. Brands will work harder, and innovate further to get into the eyeline (and mindshare) of the paying customer.

Which brings us back to our consumer: time-poor, cash-rich. Give them something special, premium and – dare we say it again? – unique, and they’ll cancel tea with their own Grandmother just for you.


What day is it today?

Moleskine entry: Dec 15th, 2009

What day is it today? 15th? I think so. That’s right, ten days ’til Christmas, I remember.

It’s been a fair while since I emptied my thoughts into this moleskine of mine, but excuses I have none. Instead I have nearly three months of hard work to look back on. 1000heads is treating me well, very well.

It’s hard work, challenging even, but in the best of ways.

I can’t talk about any of of the stuff I’ve working on, obviously. However, let’s just say I am in exactly the right place at the exactly the right time; I’ve seen the future, and it’s very bright indeed.

It strikes me that it might be some months until this entry makes it out onto my blog. So apologies in advance if this seems out of time at all.

I wonder if, in time, I will be able to talk about what I’ve actually worked on, i.e.: projects of the past. I’m finally getting to grips with how fast this place moves; last Wednesday I helped out with creating an invitation for the Ovi Daily App Awards. Between us we nailed the copy, design, look and feel and just for good measure, a comedy QR code to boot.

Ovi Daily App Invite

They were signed off, printed and sent out within 24hrs and, by Friday, blog posts were already springing up. Amazing.

I understand that this might just be par for the course for some of you but, coming from a veritable behemoth of an organisation, this is not how it’s done ‘client side’.

I’m yawning as I write, I must be boring myself.

Writing from a plane (again), we’re headed for Helsinki. There’s a man two seats away who spoke at OpenLabs. Remember that?

Seems like such a long time ago now…

A date in October

Moleskine entry: October 19th, 2009 (maybe)

You have a lot of work to do.

Not least the epic workload of the pages that have gone before.  A job, not small, but not important either – at least, it would seem right now.

I want to be able to do my job my NEW job to the best of my ability but currently, I don’t feel I can. There is… the learning process. The transaction process that which, over time, defines how your tenure will be judged… information… there is much. Relationship building, plenty.

You have a lot of work to do.

Another begins

Moleskine entry: October 6th 2009

Only just mind.

Unfortunately, in my infinite wisdom I managed to hit the ‘off’ button on my alarm this morning. OFF instead of SNOOZE. The latter would’ve made sure I was up before 7am. The former ensured that I found myself stirring a little after 9am. Bugger.

Up, like a shot. It’s 9:11. Shower. Teeth. Shave. It’s 9:20. Pack. Spray. Earphones. Leave the house, it’s 9:25. Walking, fast, I trip and stumble. My ankle cries out and I follow suit. Limping, I make it to the station. It’s 9:35. Coffee, rain and the 9:41 arrives on time.

Today is my first day at 1000heads and so far it’s going swimmingly!