On Stock Footage

Quick Read: The ubiquitous stock footage that we see in most visual media around us can prove to be more influential than we can imagine.  

It all started with this video.

Tickets for the Fyre Festival were sold for up to $12,000 with promises of VIP chartered flights, luxury eco-friendly villas and gourmet food. The reality as it turned out over the last few days was very very different. And the Internet has been going crazy over this. (read here, here for more on this)

For me it’s the (above) video that fascinates the most. Composed of what looks like glamorous stock footage and some fancy copy (like, “..on the boundaries of the impossible..”) and made to look more like a video for a bikini fest than that for a music fest, it had all the clippings (pun intended) of an inflated bubble of pseudo reality.

Speaking of stock footage you should read this short poem by Kendra Eash called ..

This is a generic brand video. 

It begins with these lines..

We think first
Of vague words that are synonyms for progress
And pair them with footage of a high-speed train.

And goes on to poke fun at the stock language and footage that is often used by brands in their advertising campaigns.

The interesting thing is what Dissolve did with this poem.

With a stroke of marketing genius, Dissolve – a stock footage company went ahead and made a video of this poem using (surprise, surprise) its own stock footage and turned it into an ad for itself!

The result – work that is in equal parts parody and ad that went on to win the 2015 Shorty Award for Best in B2B. See the video here.

Extending this thought over the years, Dissolve brilliantly leveraged the US Presidential elections campaign and made This Is a Generic Presidential Campaign Ad on very similar lines. This again won them a Shorty Award for 2017.

Now with the ‘Fyre Festival Fiasco’ I really hope they go ahead and make a ‘This Is a Generic Music Festival Video Ad’.

Can stock footage say anything about us as a society? 

Image_Hack, (Pic Source)

A lot, it turns out.

Mindshare in Denmark tapped into an insight around how the advertising industry has been perpetuating stereotypes around beauty over the years (knowingly or otherwise).

So they turned to one of the largest stock footage sites – Shutterstock and devised what they call as Image_Hack as an initiative for the Dove Real Beauty campaign.

Check out this video for more detail.

Though it arguably feels a bit ‘case study-isque’ (you know what I mean) it is definitely an insightful, novel and a refreshing approach to give more wings to the conversation around “Real Beauty”.

One stock photo at a time.

(Bonus Link: Speaking of stock footage, check out this new music video from Cassius, featuring Pharrell Williams and Cat Power. The amount of stock footage the director Alexandre Courtes went through to find all these corresponding split screen images must have been staggering!)

(Featured Image Source: Image_Hack, Photograher: Magnus Ekstrøm) 

Toothbrush, Vitamins And Pain Killers

Starting from 2001, Google has made 127 mergers and acquisitions till date.

Which makes it nearly 6 acquisitions for every 7 months over the last 12.5 years. It is expected now that this M&A rate is further going to accelerate with Google – for the first time –  considering forging alliances with private-equity firms to help it structure deals.

During the recent Bloomberg Next Big Thing Summit, speaking about how Google evaluates a potential M&A target, Don Harrison –  Google’s mergers and acquisitions chief said

“We apply something called the toothbrush test, which is we ask ourselves, ‘Is this something people use once or twice a day and does it solve a problem?’”

Thanks to its immensely sticky nature (and aided by the current  rock star status of Google), this toothbrush analogy has seemed to have gained an instant global popularity and is shooting to newer heights in terms of recorded “interest over time” as we speak. I did a quick sense check myself  by entering  “the toothbrush test”  as the search term and this is what I see on Google Trends:

ToothBrush Test

(Click to see larger image)

While this sounded to me like a fascinating analogy that brings a powerful idea to life, the concept of The Toothbrush Test somehow didn’t quite fit in within the schema of what I had in my mind regarding so many things that Google does today.  For e.g., I began to wonder –  Is Google+ a ‘toothbrush’? i.e., does it solve a problem and is it something that people use once of twice a day? Or is Sparrow (acquired by Google in July ’12) a ‘toothbrush’?

May be it  is. Or  may be it isn’t. But probably for me there’s a missing piece to the jigsaw here.

That’s when I hit upon this very useful question that VCs are known to ask entrepreneurs. (source)

Is your product like candy, vitamins, or pain-killers for your market?


(Image Source)

To elaborate:

  • Candy = a product that is a nice-to-have, that people enjoy and can be wildly successful if it becomes a fad (like Beanie Babies)
  • Vitamins = a product that is a nice-to-have and serves an emotional need, used to augment and improve things but sometimes harder to quantify and has an unknown market
  • Pain Killers = a product that is a need-to-have and serves an obvious need, or solves critical problems that need to be alleviated and has a quantifiable market and thereby immediately monetizable

While it might probably take a ‘marketing master stroke on steroids’ to sustain a successful company based on ‘candies’ alone, many product ideas can probably be placed in the continuum between ‘vitamins’ and ‘pain killers’.

Vitamin Painkiller

(Image Source)

In this context, as someone who blogs at the intersection of  psychology, technology, and business –  Nir Eyal at the Stanford Graduate School of Business posits that successful companies are known to be so good at embedding/implementing hooks in their products that they travel along the above continuum from being vitamins for ‘pleasure seeking’ consumers to becoming pain killers for their pain alleviation as they cement enduring habits in them.

In other words, a ‘cleverly designed vitamin product experience’ hooks the consumers and becomes so important in their lives that – because it becomes a habit, it becomes a pain relieving product.  Flip through the following presentation by Nir to get a more comprehensive view on his theory of  Hooked – The Psychology Of How Products Engage Us.

That’s when the insight stuck me:
For any well designed product/ experience the question is not IF it passes The Toothbrush Test.
The question is WHEN.
Don’t believe me? Ask the largest cigarette makers in the world who are currently making a gold rush to acquire/ develop e-cigarettes and they will tell you.