In case you’re not in-touch with millennials and unaware of how we like to merge words together to create new ones, meme-vertising means: advertising with the help of memes. If you don’t even know what memes are, I can’t help you.
There’s been some debate in ad agencies about using memes as a way to promote a brand. The divide has never been greater on the issue, as some think using memes is “like totally the new big thing” while others think it’s “silly and ineffective - only well-produced ads are what consumers [AKA me] want to see dammit!”. I like to avoid forming opinions about subjects until I’ve done due research, and thanks to the two consecutive flu’s I got last month, I had enough time to do just that.
A look into the past
Every decade brings a new popular method of communication. There was a time when print ads were actually the most effective medium to help a brand reach a young audience - funny, isn’t it? That’s when newspapers hired witty copywriters [like myself] to improve a client’s ad in the newspaper and help it get more responses. Art got incorporated into that process a while later, then they sold bigger ad spaces until there was a big ad where two spreads full of news articles used to be. I’m not sure if the idea of just selling a 40-page ad instead of a newspaper was ever discussed, but I guess newspapers were already old news by then [pun intended].
Print media evolved to become not only newspapers, but also magazines, newsletters, journals, brochures…and a whole bunch of other things. Later, they started segmenting further to accommodate every niche market there is, such as: teenage girls, young men, LGBTQ, adventure seekers…if there’s a list, it’s long! This niche-targeting helped advertisers focus on spending their money to reach the right audience: the consumers who actually need their product. It also created opportunities to sneak branded content into regular articles, which didn’t seem like advertising and made the brand seem more trustworthy. You probably knew all of this, but reminding you of it now, does it not resemble of any of the advertising trends that we’re seeing today?
A look into the present
What was happening with print media before social networks is now happening to social media. We have platforms that cater to every single market-niche there is. One major difference is: you don’t need to start a magazine or get hired by one to create content. Every single one of us has the ability to create content and some of us reach an even bigger audience than a magazine! We refer to the successful content creators as ‘influencers’, but what they really are are a one-person magazine. People follow them and check their content because it resonates with them. Me following Josh Ostrovsky [AKA thefatjewish] on Instagram today, for example, is just like how my elder sister bought every issue of Seventeen when she was a teenage girl who listened to Back Street Boys and experimented with hairstyles in the hope of looking like one of the Spice Girls in the 90’s.
However, there is such an overload of online content today, that the social networks are developing their technology to help you filter content and only see what resonates with you rather than giving you full exposure to everything out there. The downside to that is: you’re less likely to become an influencer today than you were before. On the plus side though, you’re also less likely to get sucked into political debates that often lead to an exchange of f-bombs, or discover that your aunt is homophobic.
Wasn’t this supposed to be about memes?
Memes are another outcome of this online content overload. People like memes because they’re easy to digest and share with others, but also because they express an idea in a humorous manner. As with most ideas out there in the world, not all memes are gold. The fact that they are so easy to create, makes it possible for anyone to create them. That’s why many of them appear to be rudimental and poorly designed - which is why many people in the ad industry dislike them. We just like to look at beautiful pieces of art, and at times, we put that above the purpose of the content piece. However, if you think about it, memes have been the method of choice for many advertisers who successfully managed to capture the attention of large audiences and even convinced them to vote for them/their referendum (i.e. Trump, Brexit, Satan…etc.).
Someone who also managed to utilise memes successfully and gain a lot of attention recently, was an agency called Social Chain when they were promoting the movie Bird Box on Netflix. The agency basically created memes using images from the movie and circulated them on social media. These memes didn’t read like ad copy, but were rather funny memes about regular daily experiences. They just simply used images from the movie to create those memes, like the ones below:
If everyone who watched the movie were me, then they probably saw the Bird Box memes on Twitter, wondered “What the heck is Bird Box?”, and wanted to understand the context of those memes, so they watched the movie. There were other factors at play in this case such as: casting Sandra Bullock for the lead role, putting the movie up in prime view, and [most likely] using influencers - but the memes definitely played an essential role in giving the movie the attention it received.
If you want to know more about how Social Chain promoted Bird Box, you can watch their video here where Katy Leeson [Managing Director of Social Chain] explains the fish meme strategy and why it worked.
So should I make memes for my insurance client now?
It depends on what kind of memes you make, and what the strategy you use to give an insurance client [or any client] more exposure. Memes aren’t usually made by brands, they’re made by ‘regular’ people. If an insurance brand started posting memes on their social pages with their logo on each meme, and their carefully written ad copy asking the consumer to buy insurance plans [this is how most people who oppose the use of memes in advertising imagine them being used], they would come off as a brand trying to speak “today’s lingo”. Just like when Hillary Clinton learned how to dab on Ellen DeGeneres, or when she said “Pokèmon GO to the polls”, those memes would look more forced than a cheer to Kim Jong-un in North Korea.
But let’s say we created memes that didn’t sound “addy” and we circulated them using the right influencers, who were able to create intrigue about that insurance brand. There would probably be a lot more visits to that brand's website, and with the right funnelling strategy, we could even increase sales! Why is that so far-fetched? Wasn’t advertising supposed to be the most progressive industry on the planet that understands all communication trends of today's age? Weren’t ad agencies big believers in exploring new possibilities and seeing potential where it’s usually missed? Or is that just interview talk that never gets followed up with real action?
A client called me crazy for proposing such a strategy to him once, but I took that as a compliment. In a world where consumers have endless options to skip ads and are overloaded by content, we need to be more creative in grabbing their attention, without annoying them. We need to create context and not just content. Sometimes the ideas that seem crazy are exactly the kind of ideas that might work.
Meme strategies speak to the consumers, while ads speak at them and trigger their firewalls. One day, even memes will be obsolete and we’ll need to find another way to get the message across. That’s why we have to stay open to new possibilities, instead of clinging to what we are familiar with - peppering our work up with some hints of relevancy that only make it seem more pretentious and out-of-touch.
Ever had to sign a hideously long contract that was summed up to you in one sentence by someone eager for you to sign it? Ever wondered why it says so much more than just that one sentence?
I had to work with a client who always insisted to rewrite every piece of copy I presented to him to eliminate any chance of confusion or what he believed to be ‘mistakes’. He begged the agency to fire its entire copy team on multiple occasions claiming that the copywriters weren’t as smart as him. That very same client bought banner ads on msn.com because it’s his boss’s favourite site. To avoid being sued for libel, I will be referring to him as Max Stresselton.
No matter how hard the entire team worked on a piece of content, Max was sure to find a reason to hate it. This dude had a problem for every solution and would even micro-manage how I write his feedback in my notebook telling me to draw a square around a note I made, assuming it’s my system to put emphasis on it. I actually draw squares around notes when I think they could make a funny Facebook post, but…whatever helps him sleep at night, I guess. He didn’t know that I was laughing my ass off deep down, imagining him to be the red evil queen from Alice in Wonderland.
Max Stresselton had a knack for assuming what could go wrong and planning around it. Every comma in the copy had to be carefully examined to ensure nobody has anything to criticise about it. What he subjectively perceived as mistakes, he changed to what he considers to be correct. Needless to say, nobody cared to read his legal statements disguised as ad copy with the help of flowery adjectives and some desperate sounding fluff.
Every time he had to present something to his boss, he looked like he was getting ready to slay the Jabberwocky. He went out to smoke a cigarette in a 50°C temperature and then came back still looking flushed. During the actual presentation, he’d be sweating like a hooker in church and afterwards he’d look like he’s getting ready to run a marathon. It should come as no surprise to you that he had no life outside his office. Just sadness and stress. That’s when I actually felt bad for him, for a nanosecond, till he opened his mouth again and said something obnoxious. That’s when I’d drift off to the safe space in my imagination where I have the ability to turn him into a frog.
The thing is, Max was never asked by his boss to undergo so much pressure. His boss would’ve been happy with version 2 or 3 of the deck, yet Max made the agency endlessly amend the deck going from v2 to v56 and beyond. It had nothing to do with the work not being ‘world-class’ as he liked to call it...whatever that means, he just wanted to look busy while giving himself enough time to think about the deck and make sure he had every angle covered. After the presentation, he always came back with a laundry list of amendments along a feeling of guilt we were responsible for, apparently. Guilt we had to pay back with our personal time and mental health.
Max tried to influence me to write and think like him. He thought he was an example to be followed to ensure ‘world-cl-ASS’ work is being brought-forward. I’m happy to say that I never followed his direction. In fact, I delete anything that sounds like some boring jargon Max would’ve said. I edit my copy to make it funnier and I usually go with my gut feeling. After all, I’m not saving lives with my copy…definitely not with my blog anyway.
There is a huge difference between copywriting and legal writing. Had those contracts been written by copywriters, they probably would’ve been one short, light-hearted paragraph summing up all that’s important. Heck, a copywriter would’ve summed it all up in one word if s/he could. You might’ve even trusted the person asking you to sign them a bit more. But they weren’t written for you to read them. They were written by people like Max Stresselton to assure them that they covered all the angles...so far ;)
Twee jaar geleden ben ik onder levensbedreigende omstandigheden naar Nederland verhuisd. Sindsdien is mijn leven een achtbaan, maar ik ben trots op de vooruitgang die ik tot nu toe heb gemaakt en ik ben benieuwd wat ik nog meer zal bereiken in de wereldhoofdstad der fietsen.
Ik geloof dat het belangrijk is om de taal van het land waarin je woont te leren, vooral als je er zo dol op bent. Daarom heb ik een schakeljaar gevolgd bij de Hogeschool van Amsterdam (HvA) om de Nederlandse taal en cultuur zo snel mogelijk te leren. Het is een intensieve cursus van 7-maanden die bedoeld is om buitenlandse studenten voor te bereiden op een Nederlandstalige HBO/WO-opleiding.
De HvA-leraren maakten geen grapjes en het schakeljaar bleek echt intensief te zijn, dus heb ik al mijn doorzettingsvermogen gebruikt en heb keihard gestudeerd om zoveel mogelijk te leren. Ik ben trots erop dat ik deze cursus met hoge cijfers heb afgerond en dat ik nu het vertrouwen heb om deze mooie taal te spreken inclusief al zijn grammaticale regels. Ik kon in het begin alleen maar "Hallo, hoe gaat het?" zeggen maar nu is mijn vocabulaire voldoende om te brainstormen, concepten te presenteren en deze blogpost te schrijven in het Nederlands...al na zeven maanden! Het stopt hier natuurlijk niet. Ik blijf me verder verdiepen in de taal om het naar een hoger niveau te tillen, maar ik mag mezelf nu wel een schouderklopje geven, vind ik.
Nederlands leren heeft me tot nu toe veel deuren geopend. Ik gebruik het nu in mijn werk met klanten tijdens briefings, en ook om concepten te presenteren of met anderen te brainstormen. Verder spreek ik het nu ook met mijn vrienden die nu alleen in het Nederlands tegen mij praten, en ik begrijp ze zelfs nadat ze iets te veel hebben gedronken en wanneer ze 90% van de woorden niet meer kunnen uitspreken.
Het leukste is dat ik helemaal geen buitenlands accent heb. Ik klink net als elke andere Frikandel-etende Nederlander. Als je me een Frikandel bij de FEBO ziet eten en met iemand in het Nederlands ziet praten, zou je je niet kunnen voorstellen dat ik pas twee jaar in Nederland woon. Ik heb deze vorderingen aan veel mensen te danken, met name mijn lieve partner en geweldige vrienden, maar ik ben ook dankbaar dat ik de drive heb om dit succes te bereiken. Heb jij in de afgelopen twee jaar iets bereikt waar je trots op bent? Vertel me in de reacties gedeelte hieronder.
He sits on a chair and looks down at all the garbage he has collected. He screams: “I am your king and you’re all beneath me!” Afterwards, he finds himself looking at his reflection in a broken mirror. He sees that same angry, demeaning look on his own face as the one he has got from his boss earlier. He freezes for a few seconds before falling off the chair. Lying on the floor, he bursts into tears and starts apologising to the trash.
It’s been raining the entire month. Eric begins to feel as if the clouds are targeting him personally. He closes his eyes and starts imagining a warmer, drier time until thunder disrupts his fantasy and reminds him that it’s still cold and wet outside. At this point, he’s fed up. He runs outside with a pistol and starts shooting at the clouds, screaming “curse you!” He manages to shoot one cloud and feels a brush of victory. Unfortunately, he has shot a hole in a cloud right above him and the water pours down on him directly like a waterfall. He wakes up and realises that he was only dreaming. “They’re even fucking up my dreams!” he thinks. He pulls out his phone and checks how much money is left in his bank account. “It’s not a lot,” he mutters, but he has enough to get away somewhere warm for a couple of days. He books a beach holiday in the Caribbean for a flight leaving that same evening. He checks the weather forecasts and is reassured that there is no chance of rain during his holiday.
He arrives at his destination, feeling refreshed as he exits the airport and senses the warmth of a dry evening. He stands there with a smile enjoying the moment, feeling proud of himself for taking care of his sanity. “It was worth the money”, he thinks. Five minutes later he feels a drop of water alight upon his bare skin. Horrified, he looks up and sees no clouds. He looks around and sees a kid playing with a water pistol. He laughs and shakes his head, thinking “imagine if it’d rain here right now…what a thought.” He smiles at the kid and then boards a bus destined for his hotel. On route, he turns his seat to look outside. There, his nightmare has become a reality, as a full-blown rain storm starts outside. He checks the weather forecasts again, and it’s now saying that it’s going to rain his entire stay. Back home, however, it will be dry and sunny during that time. He curses his bad luck. He’s now a few hundred dollars poorer and sans raincoat. He tries to make something out of his trip but the wind has filled the sea with jellyfish. He goes on Facebook and starts a hate group against clouds.
They say when it's time for someone to go, they see their life flashing before their eyes like some sort of a movie. I know death is a dark thought to entertain this beginning of a post about living a full life with, but that thought is exactly what inspires me to live a life I'm going to enjoy watching in the end. One with funny, sad, exciting, and proud moments. Since I don't follow a religion, I came up with my own guidelines for living a full life:
Be an embarrassment.
Don't be afraid to embarrass yourself even when you're sober. Not only will your embarrassing moments inflate your laughing stock, but you might actually get something out of them. Somebody tipped me 20 cents during one of my drunk dances at a bar. Another time somebody offered me a job...though it didn't fit into my envisioned career path. You should find a similar habit for yourself as soon as possible.
Don't hold back on looking great.
Get yourself a gym membership, take a shower, and get some nice clothes. I don't want to look at my life flashing before my eyes, thinking about how huge my love handles are. If all things fail, I may even result to borrowing money for a liposuction and working on a corner to pay it back when I look prostitution-worthy. The point is never give up on your looks. Also: never take me as a role model.
Keep your friends closer and closer.
Your friends are your chosen family. They inspire you to make all types of decisions from pole dancing at a bar (for no pay) to going after your dream job. Trust the ones who stop you from going to bed with a goblin you met at a bar and always make time to see what crazy journeys they can take you on.
Have some marvellous sex.
Don't leave sex scenes with genuine orgasms out of your movie. Instead of shivering in a cold bed alone, find someone who can make your toes shiver. Give someone an orgasm you'd want to watch them have again, and fill your secret drawer with toys that'd make Christian Grey blush. Make your sex life a movie worth watching on its own.
Love starts with yours truly.
You shouldn't hang all your hopes on being happy only when you find love. Start by finding inner love for yourself. Care for yourself the way you imagine someone caring for you and do the things you want to do. Love will follow eventually...it did for me ;)
Whether it's silly YouTube videos or your own imagination, there's always something for you to laugh at...even your misery if you turn it on its head. Whenever my client meetings turn into fifty shades of 'cray-cray' I remind myself of funny moments like the time when I danced to 'What a feeling' by Irene Cara at Dubai's airport with my shoes off. If you ever come across such a video online, please send me the link. Oh and you cannot unread that last part.
Challenge the known.
Don’t take anything for granted. Ask why's and why not's to see if something really makes sense. Do some research and find out more about what you thought you already knew or debate with people you disagree with. You might end up going to bed with one of them and regretting it the next morning, but on the plus side, you didn't spend the night watching Netflix while stuffing your face with junk food. You actually burned calories.
I know helping someone may sound expensive, but it really doesn't have to be. Sometimes a smile is enough to save someone's life. You’ll feel better about yourself after helping others and in case sex out of wedlock turns out to be a bad thing, good deeds can count in your favour.
Build your career.
You should find out what you're good at and put it to good use. Everybody has something that helps them succeed. Some people have the looks for modelling, others like me have the looks for a career as a cynical writer who sits in a dark office behind a screen all day. Figure out what job your appearance is suitable for.
These are a few of many guidelines I have for my life to make sure it'll be one heck of a movie one day, given that I can't write a script for it. I hope you found this post useful for your own life or at least got a good laugh out of it. If not, I have this joke for you:
"Two peanuts were walking down the road and one was a salted"
If you didn't get that joke, I hope you can still appreciate how committed I am to making you laugh. I'm done, I swear.
You definitely came across this question when someone was trying to determine whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist. You’ve learned that to make a good impression, you should say that it’s half full, when in fact the glass is simply just as half full as it is half empty.
In my work line, I’m not allowed to give a boring answer such as “it’s half full” with a giant smile on my face trying to convince the person I’m answering that I’m a happy-go-lucky optimist.
I’m a copywriter. I get briefed by a client who knows his/her glass is half empty, to find a way to convince the consumer that it’s actually completely full. The consumer and I both know that my client has no intention of completely filling this half-empty glass. S/he is only interested in the consumer thinking that it’s full.
After butting heads with the client, accounts, and planning for a period of time, I decide that I have no excuse but to think of some ideas. I read the brief, I pick up the glass to look at it from all different angles, I put my feet up on a desk to start thinking, and I drift away wondering what the height of the Eiffel tower might actually be.
The day before the presentation I realise I’m about to embarrass myself having prepared nothing. Yet after days of googling random facts about the Eiffel tower, my knowledge of it has become quite impressive. “Why couldn’t this have been my assignment?” I begin to wonder.
I grab my pen and place it on my notebook swearing not to lift it up till I have something written down. I stare at the glass and pray for an idea as I battle to stay focussed. The struggle has never been more real, but I refuse to give up. Seen that I’ve done it before, I know that I can do it again.
Suddenly, I feel the hairs on my arms raising. As I get goosebumps all over my body, I feel a little tingling in my brain. The idea has finally hit me. It’s in my brain and it’s ringing like an old telephone that is receiving an urgent call. “Why is a light bulb the symbol for an idea?” I start to wonder again. “Focus, Fadi! Focus!” I scream to myself. I start to put the idea in words. That’s when it begins to grow and become realised into a full journey.
At this point, I’m reminded why I love this job. It’s that moment of inner-stardom that erases everything else I’ve been through. All the abuse I’ve endured during my childhood and teen years doesn’t seem to matter now. I couldn’t care less that my chronic illness won’t let me live as long as most people do, because most people don’t get to experience the high I’m experiencing at this glorious moment. More than ever, I’m alive.
Why does everyone expect only one of two answers? Better yet, why expect an answer at all? Maybe it’s better to tell a story or create one around the glass that makes it so much more than a glass of water. Half or full, what matters is the story it tells you.