Are you being skeuomorphic – and why knowing helps you on YouTube

Last Thursday, I popped in to Google@MindShare’s ‘Connectivity Creates…’, to hear why timing is everything, authenticity is crucial and tried out Google Glass – amongst a host of other topics, all related to digital creativity and audience engagement.

Scott tries on Google Glass

Trying out Google Glass

The BAFTA reception area was laid out with turf and shrubbery, giant flowers and trees, all below a cloud filled blue sky and with a resplendent Google logo spread across an entire wall. The delegates arrived, dropped damp coats and umbrellas with the coat check and after a revitalising coffee we headed into BAFTA’s large screening theatre to hear some of Google’s folk share their thoughts and give us a peek into some of the things coming our way.

Here’s a copy of the morning’s agenda and some cherries I’ve picked for my highlights:

Could employees be their clients and customers?

Mark Howe, Manging Director Agencies, (NACE) talked about the way that advertising was extending to take advantage of second and third screens using an example of Top Shop where viewers can interact and “be the buyers” using Google+ Hang Outs and an app – which made me wonder what organisations could do if they took a similar stance to “be their clients” and enabled their employees to compare their perspectives interactively – what different views of client and customer opportunities they might unearth.

Mark also talked about timing and making sure to create experiences by aligning broadcast with emails or ads that would show at the time that programs when relevant content was running. An old adage perhaps, but “timing is everything”!

A ‘Bat Phone’?

Harry Davies, Lead Product Marketing Manager, Large Customer Marketing talked about “New Moments” and used an example of researching the purchase of a tablet across various devices that many of us now own, to the point where Google maps gave him a route not only up to the front door of the store, but with their internal ‘street view’ up 5 floors in a lift, and across the floor to the stand where the product could be found. He also demonstrated some web contact cards where a button could be pressed to get in touch with him – but only during the hours he’d specified.

It struck me this was a bit like Commissioner Gordon’s Bat Phone – when he needed help, the number was right at hand and Bat Man at the other end – really useful for customers to get help, and employees to surface expertise in a flash.

Why context in search is increasingly important

Mike Warriner, Engineering Director, Google demonstrated some really exciting ‘context’ search in Google. He searched on ‘Lincoln’ to be presented with the US President, the town in the UK and a car. Narrowing this to the president by clicking a picture of President Lincoln, he got more of the information he wanted. His next question into the search bar was “who is the current president?” and the search remembered his previous query, assumed the context was the United States and returned Barack Obama as the top result. The next search was “what is his wife’s name?” and again, rather than searching on just the words, it returned Michelle Obama, and there were a couple more queries down a similar path.

This notion of ‘context’ was a theme through other elements of the day – where data, timing and geographic position are all being used to shorten the time between seeking, finding and ultimately taking an action (buying, learning, discovering etc.)

Avoiding skeuomorphism – and the need for authenticity

Hamish Nicklin, Head of YouTube and Creative Agency, Google and YouTube Partner – Ruth Crilly: A Model Recommends then talked about the nature of YouTube, and that if we look at this only as another platform to place our TV ad’s, we’re guilty of ‘skeuomphism‘ (in a nutshell, something modern that retains design elements of it’s predecessor but which are no longer needed and so only decorative – such as rivets on a crockery pot that’s been modelled on a metal pot).

Ruth gave some great examples of the difference between a blogger’s content and brand developed content and focused on viewpoints and perspectives. Ruth found that her content worked best when she was on location, and captured content when she was speaking with experts in the field, and that when she videoed herself reflecting on this afterwards, the engagement dropped significantly.

Ruth hammered home how pivotal ‘authenticity’ is – that honest, consistent opinions are crucial to building and sustaining viewer engagement, and that a brand push stands out like a sore thumb, but that a genuine review of a brand can come across really well, provided that brand is credible in the blogger’s world and to their audience.

The Three YouTube archetypes

Hamish broke YouTube into three approaches:

Campaigners – who take offline content and make it relevant on-line, citing Dove’s Beauty Sketches‘ as an excellent example of taking a brilliant concept of ‘revealing real beauty’ to life on-line in a way that could never have worked as a TV advert (highly recommended viewing if you’ve not seen this extremely popular video already – prepare to be moved!).

Collabroators – who involved their audience in engaging ways. Hamish used an example of gamers who were encouraged to invent meat dispensing hats for ‘Fridge Raiders‘ snacks – with some hysterical results.

Channels – where brands move into brandcasting, and Hamish used O2 Guru’s as an example, where help tips are filmed and broadcast to assist cell phone users to solve technical issues (building brand loyalty whilst reducing visits to O2 stores and calls to help lines).

Learn by doing

The sessions closed with David Bruno, Senior Creative, and Joao Wilbert, Senior Creative Technologist both at Google Creative Labs, London. They showcased a number of examples of work that looked at encouraging the use of Chrome to sync phones to tablets and laptops with an interactive game called SuperSyncSports, and Google’s take on a Jam that brings musicians together on-line to create music with JamWithChrome. They also talked about Chrome Web Lab, a collaboration with London’s Science Museum, to open up a physical exhibit digitally to build on viewer interactions (sadly, now closed).

Each of these was built from a one line summary of what the project aimed to achieve, that was then sketched out, prototyped and brought to life – all under the auspices that you have to try things knowing that failure will help you improve them.

The morning concluded and back in the reception area we had the chance to try out Google Glass which was amazing! In the morning when Harry had demonstrated the way that Maps was developing and Mike had talked about context and geo location driving search, Glass brought much of this together.

The glasses are brought to life with a tilt of the head or by saying “ok glass” and a small screen in your peripheral vision pops up with a menu that you move either by looking up and down at it, or by tapping on the stem of the glasses. You can have it shoot video, take a picture – and share those instantly – you can get directions, see pictures of where you’re going – much of what you can do with Google Voice today, but by talking at a tiny screen. What I hadn’t appreciated until afterwards is that there’s no ear bud that you pop in, you hear the voice through the side of your head where the arm of the glasses rests.

Really impressive!

My take outs:

  1. timing is everything – plan multi-platform campaigns and touches sensitively to how they work together to create novelty and cohesion
  2. context – where you are, and where you’ve just been will be increasingly relevant in the world of digital experience design
  3. authenticity – audiences on different platforms and viewing different formats have different expectations, but all rely on the authenticity of the originator as a key element of engagement
  4. Google Glass is extremely cool (even if I may not look so cool wearing them!)


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2 thoughts on “Are you being skeuomorphic – and why knowing helps you on YouTube

  1. […] Great content tends to get picked up, reworked, ‘spoofed’, and ultimately amplifies the original content. You could argue that the above are commercials – a particular category of content. The Dove ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign, Fridge Raiders ‘Meat Hat’ and O2′s Gurus, are some other great content examples that aren’t traditional commercials, but build their brands – I’ve written more about those in my blog on getting the best out of YouTube. […]

  2. […] using location aware and ‘previous question asked’ sensitive responses (more on that in my previous blog here), all enabling us to create our own stories like the one in the […]

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