Being the Worst and Other Disruptions

3 min read

Beer,_fire,_selfie_-_San_Francisco_Giants_World_Series_2014_celebrationBe yourself. Famous advice from parents, gurus, and advertisers across the ages. It’s easier said than done, especially if you’ve got to make a living. And if you happen to make your living online, in front of an audience of millions, what exactly does “keeping it real” even mean?

Snapchat, the self-deleting video-sharing app, is growing fast as a venue for enterprising digital creators and adventurers. Though for many it’s just the safest way to share video of parties and other potentially compromising situations, a fortunate few are able to use it in more lucrative ways. Like Shaun McBride, aka Shonduras, who in the past year has visited Disney World and Disneyland, hung out backstage at Austin City Limits, and helicoptered over Alaskan glaciers, all on sponsors’ dimes.

With the introduction of Snapchat Stories just over a year ago, and the sponsored Our Story introduced just last month, Snapchat, like Vine and YouTube before it, is creating opportunity for a media-savvy bunch of Internet celebrities, many of whom have managed to parlay their millions of followers into careers. They may be famous only to those under twenty, but for a lot of brands, that’s like saying they’re merely made of gold. Tad Friend, in a recent piece on digital video for the New Yorker, quotes the chairman of multichannel network Collective Digital Studio: “The play is that billions of dollars in TV advertising is going away—everybody zaps past the ads, and kids don’t watch TV anymore—and we all have our hands out, waiting for it.”

Friend’s New Yorker story is a long read, but well worth it for its insights on the medium and its profile of Andrew Bachelor, King Bach as he’s known on Vine. If you watch King Bach’s Vines – six-second looping videos which the article categorizes as “curated images of idiocy” – you may be inclined to agree with Friend’s assessment of the form. But his reporting also uncovers Bach’s technique, which is finely honed, as is his awareness of persona and audience. You don’t get almost ten million followers without a really good strategy.

Another standout of the six-second form has been Jérôme Jarre, whose recent Snapchat project promoting the Nicholas Sparks film “The Best of Me” got the “making-of” treatment at New Yorker video. It’s interesting as a document of the technique, but also as a look at an art form that’s barely had time to exist before jumping (or was it pushed?) into the service of commercialization.

Speaking of which, the micro video is finding additional relevance in a marriage to longer forms (meaning, in this case, videos of 30 seconds or more). Five-second pre-roll video is the perfect length for short video clips, because who wants to watch an ad that’s as long as the feature?

With that in mind, Kate Spade has been using five-second pre-roll snippets of its “Waiting Game” video, starring Anna Kendrick, as part of its holiday campaign. They’ve been very effective. But CMO Mary Beech tells AdWeek that a non-excerpt, Vine-style clip, featuring Kendrick in a more off-the-cuff mode, has been even more successful.

From youth culture and fashion, we turn to the loftier subject of “America’s Worst Colleges.” The feature article, by New America Foundation’s Ben Miller, ran several months ago. One of the colleges topping the list, Chicago’s Shimer College, is continuing to get press from this undesirable distinction.

As time goes on, however, the bad news has become more positive. Shimer is an unconventional school with a passionate bunch of graduates and supporters. Their enrollment has been dropping steadily for years, perhaps due to their hard line on primary sources and the Socratic method. Their numbers probably haven’t helped either. As their more recent press makes clear, there’s something to admire in Shimer’s approach. Oddly, this opportunity for authentic disruption may be the break they’ve needed all along.

Photo by Matthew Almon Roth ( via Wikimedia Commons.