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"Hobbit Office"

As you all know, we love a good mashup -- and a good parody. This beauty provides us with both. This is a series just waiting to happen.

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While branded video viewership dropped dramatically from September to October, it rebounded in November, reaching 359.9 million views, the third highest viewership of the year. This increase in viewership is thanks to the upcoming winter holidays and those industries that depend on holiday consumers to drive major business in Q4 -- retail and travel.


The top-performing brand on iMedia's November Brands in Video chart was Turkish Airlines, which drove 70.3 million views during the month. While nine campaigns contributed to the brand's viewership, 84 percent came from the airline's most recent campaign "#EpicFood."

In the campaign, Lionel Messi and fellow footballer, Didier Drogba, travel around the world as they compete to find the best food on the planet. The video is filled with the brand's trademark humor and is accompanied by a social campaign that encourages consumers to upload photos of the epic food they find while traveling using the hashtag #EpicFood. Those photos will be compiled into an Epic Food Map that will give travelers ideas of where to eat on their next trip.

Despite only being released in mid-November, "#EpicFood" already reached the No. 6 spot on the iMedia top 10 campaigns of 2014. But that is no surprise since the brand's Q4 campaigns from 2012 and 2013 -- "Legends on Board" and "The Selfie Shootout" -- both generated more than 100 million views within a month of release. The brand's use of celebrities -- those campaigns also starred Lionel Messi as well as Kobe Bryant -- along with a distinct storytelling and social component has made its campaigns so successful.

While Turkish Airlines is the only travel brand on the chart this month, December surely will bring in more hits from airlines, in particular, looking to play on the emotions of consumers heading home for the holidays.

The vertical to really put its stamp on the chart this month was retail. Three brands on the chart this month are retailers looking to capitalize on the hoards of holiday shoppers.

John Lewis comes in at No. 4 with 30.9 million views. Its 2014 Christmas ad, "Monty the Penguin," is a two-minute video that tells the tale of a boy and his penguin, Monty, who are the best of friends. While the two play together and have fun, the boy notices that the penguin is very preoccupied with couples -- a couple kissing in a black-and-white movie on TV, a couple walking together in the park, an older couple kissing on a bench. So on Christmas morning, the boy surprises Monty with a companion, another penguin sitting under the tree. As the penguins greet each other, they turn from real penguins into two stuffed animal penguins with which the boy is playing.

The video tugs at the heartstrings. But it is this emotional quality, which John Lewis infuses into all of its Christmas ads, that makes the brand such a favorite. By evoking nostalgia for childhood, the joy of the holidays, and the feeling of family in this Christmas campaign, John Lewis is creating a story that consumers want to share with each other.

It is this shareability and newsworthiness that has made "Monty the Penguin" John Lewis' most viewed campaign to date. Other factors that helped drive viewership include the more than 13 spoofs and handful of other user-generated videos spawned by the campaign, as well as promotions from other brands that use penguins as their mascots and hijacked the hashtag #MontyThePenguin, giving the campaign a longer life than it would have had otherwise.

The Christmas season is the biggest time of year for UK advertisers, and many of the country's most beloved brands use the season to launch their most magical and creative work. While John Lewis tops the pack year after year, it is in no way alone in its holiday campaigning.

Sainsbury's makes the chart for the first time thanks to its campaign, "Christmas 2014," which tells the true story of a Christmas ceasefire on the Western Front during WWI. While the retailer did promote a candy bar that can be bought in their stores within the short film -- something that drew criticism from a variety of sources -- the profits from all sales went to The Royal British Legion.

Another retailer to make the chart was Foot Locker, which came in at No.8, with 16.6 million views. The American shoe retailer capitalizes on Black Friday -- a kind of holiday all in itself -- in its Week of Greatness campaign, which it has run for the past three years.

Mallory Russell is content editor at Visible Measures.

iMedia's Top 10 Brands in Video chart, powered by Visible Measures, focuses on aggregated brand view counts across related social video ad campaigns. Each brand and campaign is measured on a True Reach basis, which includes viewership of both brand-syndicated and audience-driven video clips. The data are compiled using the patented Visible Measures platform, a constantly growing repository of analytic data on close to 400 million videos tracked across more than 300 online video destinations.

Note: This analysis does not include Visible Measures' paid-placement (e.g., overlays; pre-, mid-, and post-roll) performance data or video views on private sites. This chart does not include movie trailers, video game campaigns, TV show, or media network promotions. View counts are incremental by month.

Learn more here.

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The ad-tech business has become increasingly complex because of the seemingly endless emergence of media channels, technology, and the Himalayan range of data that has to be collected, sifted through, and analyzed for golden nuggets of insights.

As such, there are numerous pitfalls along the way that make it treacherous for agencies and marketers alike to navigate. Here's a look at some of the most likely ones you'll encounter and how best to get around them using materials already at your disposal.

If it isn't integrated, what's the point?

There are a plethora of point solutions available and every company under the sun is trying to sell you some new technology to automate buying media on search, display, social, or mobile. Some are even offering tag management and conversion optimization solutions. While these are all fine and dandy and may even wow you with their individual bells and whistles, if they aren't integrated and cross-channel capable, they aren't worth the money.

Many agencies buy piecemeal solutions, only to find that they've created huge gaps that make measurement and attribution very challenging, inefficient, and potentially unreliable. Savvy clients place a premium on integration across all of the disparate online channels to better measure and attribute marketing, and maximize ROI.

If you want to genuinely maximize ROI for your clients and help them avoid headaches (and not create new ones for them), be a good service provider and provide integrated, cohesive solutions.

Give them what they need, not necessarily what you have

Some agencies don't practice what they preach. They offer up the gospel on not trying to sell but to provide useful content and information that will engage consumers. And yet, when it comes to providing solutions to their clients, they push the products they have on their shelf, instead of having a bona fide dialogue with them to discover what they actually need.

Using one-size-fits-all approach is doing clients an extreme disservice. You need to act as a consultant and get their input to help you build solutions that meet their needs. It's about providing benefits, not pushing features or "speeds and feeds."

This little agency went to market, so this little agency got some

If you're not doing a good job marketing your agency, how can you expect potential clients to trust you to market them? You need to invest in marketing and positioning your agency so that prospects (and incumbents) understand all you have to offer. You could be shortchanging yourself by not practicing what you preach about content and educating your target audience about your product.

Your agency is a brand and it needs to be positioned. Clients are reaching saturation point and have lost patience with agencies that have websites as placeholders. They don't want ambiguity; they what to know your USP and what sets you apart. Most importantly, they want to understand your point of differentiation and how you would approach their business tactically and help them be more strategic.

Approach marketing your agency with just as much enthusiasm as you would in marketing your clients' products/services.

Demonstrate how your business model is effective and how you integrate research, analytics, media, and creative to drive client business and maximize ROI. You might have the most talented people in your agency, but if you can't communicate what benefit they bring to the table to prospects, clients, and the media, other agencies are going to continually beat you to the punch.

What we may have here is a failure to communicate

If you're not properly sifting through the vast data you've collected and doing the right analysis, you're not able to make the right connections between data points. This ultimately translates into a whole lot of disparate data.

You need to use technology and industry savvy to recognize what data is significant and what is not.

The goal is to find connections you can act on by arriving at meaningful insights. While automation can do some of the heavy lifting, you still need hands-on, human intervention with a keen eye to connecting the dots. Agencies that don't help their clients discern useful data from what seems like a bunch of numbers are about as useful as udders on a bull. Remember that data is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end, and that end is pointing you to the right message, using the right media at the right time in the purchase funnel.

Look who's talking too

Social media is prevalent. There are boundless conversations about almost every subject you can think of and you want to get in on them so consumers are talking about your client's products or services. Getting them the right content is important, but, you need to know what content they want to receive. That's why you must monitor their conversations to find out what they are talking about and how best to address their needs and concerns.

You also need to get to the right people on social media who can become your brand advocates. Pumping out content you think is important is a waste. It's not about you -- it's about your consumers. Stop creating content for content's sake. Stop, look, and listen to what people are saying about your products, services, competitors, and industry. Only then you can take the appropriate action to get the desired reaction.

Ernie Capobianco is the CEO of Sq1.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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Influencer advertising

FullBottle CEO Reed Berglund believes that 2015 will be the year when marketers embrace influencer marketing and online celebrities as mainstream brand advocates. Here are the industry indicators that inform his prediction.

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At The Relevancy Group, we live and breathe email marketing. We work with some of the biggest email marketers in the industry, as well as all of the top ESPs. And while we try to act as honest brokers in the work we do, we are still consumers when the work day is over. As consumers who receive a lot of commercial email, we are just as likely as anyone else to engage with great emails and ignore those that aren't so great. So once again, as the year approaches its ending, we bring you our list of the 10 most innovative emails of the year.   
 
Like last year, this wasn't a contest you could enter. (However, we might change that in 2015, so stay tuned.) Email marketers had to get into our email inboxes, or get noticed and shared with us by people whose opinions we respect. And again, there are no prizes other than bragging rights. The categories reflect our thoughts on which types of emails are most strategic in nature and, when done right, can have the biggest impact on a marketer's business. We've included the email services provider used by each of the winners, because on some level either their services and/or their platforms helped these emails get into our inboxes, get noticed by us, and ultimately, get on this list. So, without further ado, we bring you this year's winners.

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Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection puts forth that those who adapt to their environment are the most likely to survive. This evolutionary theory of "survival of the fittest" extends beyond biology and into business, where only the strongest and most robust will succeed. In the business of marketing, how will the "fittest" survive? By investing in programmatic at the right time.

It is increasingly clear that programmatic adds great value to a company's business model. A recent study by Forrester and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) found that client-side marketers felt that programmatic helped their marketing plans with better targeting (76 percent), faster media buys (50 percent) and cost savings (68 percent). In short, programmatic helps businesses create better ads faster for a fraction of the cost.

Programmatic also helps businesses take advantage of what was once considered a threat -- divided consumer attention across multiple channels. Accordingly, the Forrester and ANA study found that 59 percent of marketers thought programmatic helped to manage buys across multiple channels.

In my last column, I addressed this rise of the second screen. Interestingly, the Interactive Advertising Bureau recently found that 82 percent of American adults watch TV while using an internet-connected device at least sometimes. Additionally, 43 percent of Americans who multitask regularly are more actively engaged with brands as they are more likely to both research products online before buying them and pay more attention to TV commercials.

Programmatic helps marketers better engage with multitaskers

These multitaskers, who are predisposed to brand engagement, are a key audience for marketers -- especially those who spend more time researching major purchases, such as a tablet or airline ticket, where the consumer is committed to buy but simply unsure of which brand. Programmatic data has made it easier for individual brands to demand their attention.

For example, the travel industry experiences an increase in marketing spend around the summer and winter holiday seasons as consumers look to book their next vacation. By leveraging big data, marketers can target travel shoppers based on their location, past preferences, and booking behavior. However, with programmatic, travel marketers can more efficiently target the multitasking consumer across multiple channels. As consumers are repeatedly exposed to a brand, programmatic allows for a more engaging experience to influence their final decision when booking a trip.

Programmatic helps marketers flourish in today's business landscape, by reducing advertising costs and increasing sales revenue and conversion efficiency. The benefits of increasing engagement through programmatic can have a big impact on the bottom-line. An average 2-3 percent increase in efficacy can translate to significant revenue dollars. With lower costs and higher conversion rates, these businesses thrive.

Programmatic gives mid-market advertisers a competitive edge against ad goliaths

Advanced technology has levelled the playing field to allow the middle market access to the analytics and targeting tools that were once only accessible by the big players. Lower transaction costs brings inventory within reach. Additionally, the premium buys and complex mix of long-tail inventory through programmatic makes access to quality inventory an affordable reality. With additional creative and targeting tools, mid-market advertisers can compete in this new advertising ecosystem.

In the marketing world, the theory of survival of the fittest rewards those who adopt advantageous technology solutions, like programmatic, to fully leverage audience data for better ROI. As data takes on an increasingly important role in advertising, the relatively low barriers to entry make it easier for any company to keep up. Data is a powerful tool that all marketers should have in their arsenal. Those who do not embrace the data-driven approach of today will be left behind.

Kiran Gopinath is founder and CEO at Ozone Media Solutions.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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When Smithfield Foods approached the popular southern restaurant chain Waffle House with a mobile rewards idea, neither could have imagined the success they would find with simple gamification. In a unique partnership, the two companies created "Waffle House Race For Rewards," an app that allows customers to earn points by eating at Waffle House and purchasing Smithfield Products at the restaurant. One point is rewarded to customers for simply eating at the delicious diner. Five points are rewarded to those who purchase Smithfield Food products at Waffle House including pork chops, chunked ham, city ham, and most of all -- bacon.

In addition, rewards were also tied to picking stock car racing winners from Smithfield's sponsorship of Richard Petty Motorsports. Every week, customers could select their top five stock car drivers and earn one point for each driver that finished in the top five of their race. This strategy made engaging gamification possible as customers could cheer for their favorite driver with fun stakes.

By incorporating a CPG brand, sports franchise, and a popular restaurant retailer all in one gamified app, this campaign brought massive success to all parties. In fact, Smithfield Foods saw bacon volume double over the course of this launch. Brand awareness and positive perception increased for NASCAR and Waffle House, as well as foot traffic for the restaurant chain. It's a clever example of how even something simple and delicious -- like bacon -- can be used to enhance marketing effectiveness.

Waffle House's senior marketing manager Shelby White speaks to iMedia about this inventive mobile strategy and explains how the partnership was able to engage customers on a variety of verticals.

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Article written by media production manager David Zaleski.

"Vector Illustration of a fist holding bacon" image via Shutterstock.

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The financial services sector may not always seem like the most exciting place to play when it comes to content marketing. It's a heavily regulated space with a lot of "me, too" tactics that don't really add to the conversation. However, it's a natural fit for content marketing. There is a real need to address consumer pain points, and financial brands have the opportunity to educate them through insights from industry experts to build trust. Here, we'll look at four ways brands in the financial sector can use content marketing to build trust and connect with audiences.

Don't underestimate the importance of context

It starts with providing the right content at the right moment, like when consumers have a decision to make or may have strong opinions about a larger issue. Financial planner/author Dave Grant works with teachers and their families to achieve financial balance, but when Illinois passed a piece of legislation that could potentially affect their pensions, he decided to act. According to his article originally published on On Wall Street, Grant first read and reviewed the bill to put together a thorough analysis. Then, he posted a response to why his audience (teachers) could get behind the initiative, gaining thousands of views. Why? Because he touched on a locally focused, current news story that would matter to his audience rather than making broad strokes that could come from any voice, at any point in time.

Don't be afraid to take a bottom-up approach

Most brands would think of launching a corporate presence before giving its leaders the chance to post at will. However, there are a number of investment managers and financial advisors that have taken to social media to address the needs of savvy Twitter users. Fact is -- it's sometimes easier and more straightforward for individuals to build a following and create shareable, engaging content on their own. Leverage the voices of your best talent and let them lead the way before needing to develop a fully fleshed out corporate social strategy -- with the right compliance guidelines in place, of course.

Play to your strengths

Brands in the financial sector have another great advantage to tap into when creating content: lots and lots of rich, robust data. Such an abundance of figures naturally gives brands the opportunity to develop meaningful trends, insights, and, of course, infographics. With beautiful and educational images like The Millennials' Guide to Asset Allocation and Should You Bank in the Cayman Islands?, Mint.com uses data to communicate a story in a clear way, leaning heavily on statistics to demystify finance for a young, web-savvy audience.

The right voice (and medium) can travel far

The financial sector usually isn't the first one to be labeled as sexy, but TD Ameritrade has upped the game by creating ThinkMoney, a quarterly financial print magazine for active traders that is highly stylized and more than a little snarky at times. Featuring beautiful design and a healthy dose of edginess with articles like "How to Neuter Your Trade" and "It's the Math, Stupid," TD Ameritrade delivers unexpected content in a new voice and using an old method. Just because finance is serious business doesn't mean you have to take it seriously all the time.

With the challenges of heavy regulation, it's easy for financial services brands to slip in to old habits by using venerable mainstays like analyst reports and direct mail. But with today's digital tools and shifting consumer preferences, marketers now have the opportunity to promote financial literacy with content marketing that actually adds value. Which brands do you think are leading the cause?

Sam Martin is the senior content strategist at OneSpot.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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Predictions? Humbug. Never done 'em, never will. As a research analyst, predictions are antithetical to my methodology, which is research followed by analysis. My job is to work with data, information, and pattern recognition to draw informed conclusions -- not gaze into a crystal ball.

The scene thus set, let's look ahead to the new year and what it will bring insofar as content marketing is concerned. Based on my research in the field, I'm seeing seven overall trends in the field that will develop and strengthen in the coming year.

The content stack

The next big thing in content marketing technology, the content marketing stack, will develop significantly in 2015. Content stacks are necessary to consolidate the eight content marketing use cases identified in research we published on the content software landscape. No use case is an island. As organizations mature and become more strategic in their content marketing initiatives, it becomes imperative to seamlessly link execution to analytics, or optimization, or targeting, for example. We'll soon see end-to-end offerings from the big enterprise players: Adobe, Oracle, and Salesforce.com. All are scrambling to integrate multiple content point solutions into seamless "stacks," similar to the ad stack. In fact, content stacks will talk to the ad stacks, helping to integrate paid, owned and earned media. A couple years out, these two stacks will comprise what we refer to today as the marketing cloud.

Culture of content

Content is bigger than just the marketing department. It's rapidly becoming nearly everyone's job -- and with good reason. Not everyone in marketing is a subject matter expert. Or understands customer service or sales concerns. Or is charged with recruiting new employees. Or develops new products or product features. That expertise and knowledge is embedded deep within the enterprise. Organizations that foster a culture of content by educating and training employees to participate in the content ecosystem can better ideate and create useful, meaningful content at scale that addresses numerous goals and serves a wide variety of internal, and well as external, constituencies. Watch for many more organization to follow the lead of companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods, and Nestlé. They will train and empower employees, partners, and stakeholders to create, ideate, and leverage content.

Real-time

Time is a luxury, and will only become more so as brands face the challenges of remaining relevant and topical. Moreover, research indicates real-time campaigns can raise literally all desirable marketing metrics. Success in real-time is grounded in content strategy and often isn't real-time at all in the literal sense. Instead, it's meticulous preparation and advance creation of relevant content assets that can be deployed at the appropriate time or moment. Starbucks, for example, has content for warming beverages locked and loaded, so when the snow falls in your town, you're tempted by that pumpkin latte. Training, assets, preparation, workflow -- all these and more are elements of "real-time" marketing.

Social media normalizes

Social media will fade into the background. It's not that social media is going away. But it's fading into the background, which is a good thing, because it denotes normalization. "Social" will become just another channel, like search or email (the bright, shiny objects of earlier eras). Social media software vendors will reposition as content marketing purveyors. Their offerings will essentially remain the same, but this new positioning is more topical, and more broadly relevant.

Native standardizes

We define native advertising as a form of converged media that's comprised of content plus a media buy. Native is surging in popularity, much more quickly than best practices are being established to govern it. This growth will fuel more disclosure, transparency, and policies in 2015 as native becomes much more closely scrutinized by regulators, industry associations, consumers, publishers, and brands.

Rise of context

For most of digital marketing's relatively short history, personalization has been the ne plus ultra of sophisticated marketing. Addressing the customer by name, knowing their age, gender, date of birth, purchase history -- all these data points help marketers deliver messages that are more meaningful and more relevant -- and that, by extension, result in higher conversations and deeper loyalty.

Personalization is now being supplanted by technologies that can drive even deeper marketing and experiential relevance. Context's untapped opportunity is to get an extremely granular understanding of customers, then to anticipate their needs, wants, affinities, and expectations, and develop unique insights to power better marketing across all devices, channels, localities, and brand experiences. Context, in other words, takes not only the "who" into account, but also the when, where, why, and how. Simply put -- it's deeper targeting, and more on-point messaging.

Rebecca Lieb  is an analyst, digital advertising/media, for Altimeter Group.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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User-generated content (UGC) has quickly grown into a powerful marketing tool. A recent study by Crowdtap and Ispos found that Millennials trust UGC 50 percent more than other media. UGC is also 20 percent more influential when it comes to purchasing. And the UGC phenomenon is not quite as new as some may think.

The 10 best user-generated campaigns of 2014

Companies like Threadless and GoPro seemed to have UGC practically baked into their business models, and Doritos has been running its "Crash the Super Bowl" contest, the largest online video contest in the world, since 2006. Many credit 2005 as the year UGC went mainstream. YouTube was born, Facebook opened to a broader audience, and Yahoo bought Flickr. Today, it takes a unique idea to truly get noticed in this crowded space. It's not enough to simply push out a run-of-the-mill hashtag contest.

Burberry's 2009 campaign, "Art of the Trench," started a major trend in the fashion and beauty industry. Now countless brands are aggregating photos of their customers wearing their products. Amidst the many copycat UGC campaigns out there, this year there were a number of campaigns that stood out for their unique and innovative qualities. Here are the 10 most outstanding UGC campaigns of 2014.

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