• On Veronica Mars, Patton Oswalt and Fandom


    Let me make one thing clear before I get started: I am a fan.

    I like things, a lot. These things may be mainstream (baseball), obscure (“Mystery Science Theatre 3000”), or hyper specific (craft beer made in my hometown of Kansas City, MO). But no matter how large or small the point of focus, I’m a passionate, involved person when it comes to appreciating something. Fandom has its perks (enjoying stuff is lots of fun), but it hasn’t always been easy. It’s not easy because, as a fan, many times you end up feeling sullen and downtrodden. Why? Because, as fans, we have no say in the future of the things we love. We have always been emotionally invested in things, but now we’re starting to invest in a more direct way.

    In the past month, the Internet sat up and took notice when Rob Thomas – creator of the cult TV show “Veronica Mars” – launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of funding a feature film based on the show. Thomas’s fundraising goal was $2 million. Fans contributed that much on the campaign’s first day. When it was all said and done, he’d raised more than $5.7 million, breaking a number of Kickstarter records along the way.1 As some noted, the campaign was not entirely independent. After all, the rights to a “Veronica Mars” movie still belong to Warner Brothers. But to me, as a fan, ownership isn’t the most important thing. The thing to remember is this: there was no chance that this film would be made any other way. Warner Brothers did not perceive it to be commercially viable. But when given the chance to put their money where their (collective) mouths were, “Veronica Mars” fans responded and exceeded expectations. All it took was the opportunity.


    Now, consider comedian Patton Oswalt.

    To be honest, as a fan of his comedy, I wish people would consider Mr. Oswalt more often.2  But his keynote at last year’s Just for Laughs Festival isn’t just funny. It’s also a meditation on the changing face of communication and how creators (such as comedians, musicians, and filmmakers) no longer need the green light from movie studios and television networks to build a fan base, make money, and forge a successful career. He was “lucky” to be “given” opportunities, he said, in a time when those two concepts were the only things that made (or broke) careers. But the tides are turning. Careers are being made on Twitter and YouTube and in the podcasting space… places completely void of the gatekeepers that currently dominate the Hollywood system. It is now possible for an artist to speak to his/her audience directly, circumventing middlemen entirely. And it’s not just simple conversations people are aiming for. It’s now possible to create polished content and share it in an unencumbered way. Holding his iPhone aloft near the end of his remarks, Oswalt noted:

    “In my hand right now, I’m holding more filmmaking technology than Orson Welles had when he made ‘Citizen Kane.’ I’m holding almost the same amount of cinematography, post editing, sound editing, and broadcast capabilities as you have at your TV network or studio. And in a couple of years, it’s just going to be [expletive] equal.”


    Whether or not his last hypothesis proves true – and I believe it will – doesn’t matter here. What matters is that people who create things and people who love those things are now closer together. They exist more symbiotically than ever before. Does this mean that studios and TV networks will disappear? Of course not. But it does mean that these entities must embrace that change of dynamic. Fan voices have always been loud, but maybe now they’re more likely to be heard.

    1 Fastest project to reach $1 million; fastest project to reach $2 million; all-time highest-funded project in FILM category; third highest-funded project in Kickstarter history; most project backers of any project in Kickstarter history.

    2 He won the Internet twice in the past week, first by posting this response to the explosions that occurred at the Boston Marathon and more recently with this improvised “Star Wars” filibuster filmed for NBC’s “Parks and Rec.”

  • NCTA.com Redesign


    NCTA is the trade association that represents the U.S. cable and telecommunications industry. While they support the industry that connects more than 90% of American households, their site did not reflect the innovation of their members and the entertainment they provide. Pappas Group was tasked with developing a content and platform strategy to reposition NCTA.com as the go-to resource for cable, broadband and the technology and entertainment it provides.


    In order to shift perceptions of the cable industry, we had to evolve the way that NCTA communicates with a variety of constituents: legislators, consumers, public interest groups and the media. Content on the site needed to be informative, relatable and easy-to-digest. Design needed to incorporate the latest in digital trends. Put simply, rather than build a “traditional” association website we had to create an engaging platform for NCTA to proactively address the issues affecting their industry.


    We began with an overhaul of their existing content. Dense, reactive issue statements were boiled down to coherent, forward-looking position pieces. An interactive gallery of industry data was created to be an easy-to-use resource for The Hill and media alike. Lastly, the design of the site was updated to reflect a fresh visual identity representative of the industry.


    To be more proactive when it comes to telling their story both on the site and in the media, we also created a series of three infographics that highlight key content: Cable’s Ongoing Evolution, Cable vs. À La Carte and Lowering the Cost of Quality Time.


    The result is a unique interactive experience that more accurately portrays the vision of NCTA members and differentiates the association within a sea of competing issues and legislation.

  • ad:tech San Fran



    Next month, Pappas Group Strategy Director Jeremy Gilman will be speaking on a panel at ad:tech San Francisco titled “Beyond Google Glass: Where Is the Future of Mobile?” The session will focus on the following theme:

    With the advance of new technologies such as augmented reality-enabled wearable devices, voice and fingerprint scanning, gesture-based UIs, facial recognition, flexible displays and more, what will tomorrow’s mobile devices look like? Will consumers move from smart phones to smart watches or glasses? In what new ways will these devices communicate with the house, the car, the office? Will inference computing step in to predict what you’re looking for, and will voice response replace the touch interface, much like touch screens are replacing the keyboard? With fitness bands and bits, luggage locators, and cloud-based data repositories all tied to your mobile, the world is moving to a smarter, more connected place. Join us as we separate science from fiction and explore what’s on the horizon.

    Friends of Pappas that are interested in attending the conference can use the code SF13SPEAKXX to receive a 25% discount off an All-Access Pass. Hope to see you there!

  • 2013 DC Addy Awards


    Last night we we’re honored to receive two Gold and one Silver ADDY® Awards for our work on Syfy, dotCO and Clyde’s Restaurant Group! We’re so proud of our team for all of their hard work and dedication to delivering BIG. Check out the award-winning entries below.

    Syfy Imagine Greater Microsite (Gold ADDY®)


    .CO SXSW Event Slideshow (Gold ADDY®)


    Clyde’s Monthly Specials Print Ad (Silver ADDY®)


  • XO iWAN Product Launch


    XO Communications, a growing telecommunications company serving small-to-mid-size businesses, was fighting to establish its brand within a category dominated by the likes of Verizon and AT&T. In a market where brands are saying pretty much the same thing, Pappas has been working to reposition the XO brand and help it carve out a unique space within its category. The evolution began last spring with a comprehensive rebrand. Last week, Pappas helped XO launch their latest product, an integrated solution called Intelligent WAN (iWAN).


    iWAN bundles network, performance and security services into a single solution—a welcome development for overburdened IT managers used to managing numerous vendors across multiple platforms. While a handful of other competitors were already in the market with similar offerings, all were taking an exceedingly technical, product-centric approach when selling them. We helped XO take a step back and meet the target audience where they were emotionally.

    IT decision makers lead an all-pressure, no glory, head-on-a-plate-when-there’s-a-problem life. They are constantly putting out fires. They’d LOVE to forward-plan if they ever had the time. And that’s the promise of iWAN: a unified solution that allows IT folks to get ahead of concerns before they happen.


    Pappas created a campaign that demonstrates how IT decision makers can “put worried in the past.” When potential clients come to the new iWAN site, they’re greeted by a selection of portraits that personify the worries they’re used to dealing with within their organization. Each ‘worrier’ is then paired with the accompanying iWAN solution that makes them obsolete.

    Check out the site and campaign video below and make sure to stay tuned for the launch of a new XO brand campaign this spring.

  • #smwHospitality


    It’s often said that your most important customers are the ones you already have. So how can brands retain and reward loyal fans online? Utilize brand ambassadors to help spread their message? Turn negative reviews into proactive opportunities to improve their business? In honor of Social Media Week, Pappas Group (with help from the always entertaining and insightful Shashi Bellamkonda) gathered a rockstar group of experts to share their approach to building a positive hospitality brand online.

    The event, held at The Hamilton’s Live venue, attracted more than 100 of the area’s top social influencers and sparked a lively conversation online (see what others had to say). If you weren’t able to join us, we’re sorry we missed you, but we’ve put together key takeaways, a video and photos from the event. So enjoy and hopefully we’ll catch you at the next one!

    1. Negative reviews can be proactive opportunities to improve your business.

    It’s easy to get discouraged when you receive a negative review online, but reviews are actually a great way to keep a pulse on the conversation about your brand and identify areas within your business that may need correcting. It’s important to consider the context of the review and understand the root of the dissatisfaction rather than react to the tone. The best advice is to treat negative reviews online as you would if they were in-person at one of your establishments: address it appropriately and take steps to correct the situation moving forward.

    - Tara Lewis (Regional Director of Marketing, Yelp) and Chef Luigi Diotaiuti (Chef/Owner, Al Tiramisu)

    2. Contests and giveaways are not the silver bullet.

    A lot of people enter into contests or giveaways without a clear purpose. First and foremost, what is your objective? Are you trying to engage existing customers, generate new leads, etc.? Identifying your target audience and the most effective channels to reach them are critical components of your strategy. But don’t just assume if you build it they will come. A successful contest or giveaway requires three key components: a paid media plan to generate awareness, engaging content to drive participation and a strategy to authentically encourage sharing.

    - Laura Wilson (Social Media Manager, Hilton Hotels & Resorts)

    3. Consumers demand customer service via social.

    It used to be said that customers would vote with their feet. Repeat bookings and return visits meant hospitality brands were doing a good job. Now with the proliferation of the internet and social media, there are so many opportunities for consumers to let brands know about their experience. Whereas only a few years ago it was seen as a novelty for hospitality brands to respond to customer service inquiries via social, now it’s expected. 1 in 3 people would prefer to get customer service through a social media channel rather than over the phone The reason? Ease and convenience – social media allows for immediate access.

    - Katy Adams (Marketing Manager, Clyde’s Restaurant Group)

    4. Engagement is not a goal.

    Engagement, followers and likes are metrics, not goals. Goals include items like improved search engine rankings, more traffic to your website, a change in sentiment, etc. that ultimately lead to more reservations, bookings and sales. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of your social strategy, it’s important to distinguish between goals and metrics.

    - Lisa Byrne (Social Strategist, Pappas Group)

    5. Consumers buy for emotion.

    It’s important for brands to recognize their unique value proposition and deliver on the experience customers have come to expect from them. For example, Disney sells memories. Nike sells performance. Consumers buy for emotion above everything else – whether it’s saving time, getting better quality, etc. So it’s important to figure out what you’re selling, maintain a consistent brand image and create content accordingly.

    - Monica Bhide (Food, Culture and Lifestyle Writer)

    To see more photos from the event, check out the album on Facebook.


  • New Year’s Resolutions, The Hype Cycle and CES


    I love the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. The excitement of a new year. The renewed promise of a better you. The hope to succeed in a new course of action.

    What I hate about them is the doubt and cynicism that surround resolutions. The “Oh, so you’re giving up” look you get when you finally break down and have a cookie mid-January. Striving to improve shouldn’t be shrouded in imminent failure.

    Resolutions aren’t the only time we see such an upsurge in expectations followed by a humdrum of disappointment. This also happens whenever a new technology is launched. Don’t believe me? Well, believe Gartner, founder of the Hype Cycle model (see below). You may have heard of it, but if not, take a look because it’s a predictable path that most technology launches follow. This may bring to mind the Technology Adoption Lifecycle model, with it’s bell curve of innovators, early adopters and laggards.

    Gartner Hype Cycle

    Just look at those names: the “Peak of Inflated Expectations”? “Trough of Disillusionment”? Having fun yet? Despite it’s pessimism, this model holds true pretty well.

    Rather than look at an incremental launch, like iPhone 5 vs. iPhone 4S, let’s look at Twitter as an example. With no real predecessor, Twitter was disruptive as an early entrant to the emerging social media space already dominated by Facebook. There was excitement, coverage and real promise to change the way we communicate online. But what happened? Not much. For a while. (Insert “Trough of Disillusionment.”)

    And just as we started wondering if Twitter would soon occupy the social media cemetery already housing MySpace, it started to make a comeback. Bolstered by a committed base (insert “Slope of Enlightenment”) that found real value in Twitter, their numbers began to climb. Twitter incorporated new and user-suggested features, like the @, the # and later adding images to tweets. All the while staying true to their 140-character beginning. And we continue to ride Twitter’s “Plateau of Productivity.”

    Few moments are as full of hype as the Consumer Electronics Show that took place just last month. Each year we see amazing things from self-driving cars to paper-thin tablets. But few innovations achieve commercial success, or see even limited adoption.

    So how can brands be better prepared to launch new technologies while avoiding the “Trough” and maybe bringing in a larger “enlightened” few to carry their flag? Here are some thoughts. Read more

  • Social Media Week: Building a Positive Hospitality Brand Online


    Pappas Group Social Media Week Event Invite

    Ninety-two percent of consumers around the world say they trust word-of-mouth above all other forms of advertising. This fact is especially apparent in the hospitality and restaurant industry where sites like Yelp receive 84 million unique visitors per month and reviews are largely written about dining and travel experiences.

    In today’s connected era a bad review posted in an instant has the potential to reach millions. It’s easy for brands to get in a rut where their focus shifts from providing good experiences to combating negative ones. Hospitality brands – from Fortune 500 companies to local, small businesses – are relying on new strategies to enhance their reputation online. They’re utilizing new platforms to reward loyal fans and create engaging content all while maintaining a commitment to customer service.

    Join our panel of experts for a lively conversation on Tuesday, February 19 from 6-8 pm as part of Social Media Week.

    Lisa Byrne, Pappas Group Social Strategist, Founder of DCeventjunkie & DC Wine Week
    Tara Lewis, Regional Director of Marketing for Yelp
    Laura Wilson, Social Media Manager for Hilton Hotels & Resorts
    Katy Adams, Marketing Manager for Clyde’s Restaurant Group
    Monica Bhide, Food, Culture and Lifestyle Writer
    Luigi Diotaiuti, Chef/Owner of Al Tiramisu

    The Hamilton
    600 14th Street N.W.
    Washington, DC 20005

    Follow the conversation online at #smwHospitality. Hors d’oeuvres and your first drink compliments of Pappas Group!

    For more info and to RSVP visit our Social Media Week Event Page.

  • The New Model of Celebrity Partnerships


    Last month, The New York Times reported that PepsiCo has embarked on a multiyear campaign with Beyonce estimated at $50 million. The campaign will utilize traditional advertising tactics like commercials (no surprise there), but what’s interesting is the emphasis placed on creative collaboration – Pepsi has put a multi-million dollar fund towards supporting the singer’s chosen projects.

    The campaign is not an isolated case but rather part of a growing trend. I recently spoke with Bloomberg TV about a shift in the way brands approach partnerships – rather than using celebrities to simply endorse their products, brands are bringing celebrities into the fold by allowing them to participate in the creative process. Whether it’s assisting in product innovation, producing branded content, etc.

    There are a couple of different market factors driving this new model of celebrity partnerships. Studies show that consumer trust in traditional advertising is at an all-time low, so authenticity is no longer an aspiration, but a mandate for marketers. We also live in an increasingly connected era and just as consumers expect interaction with brands, they expect celebrities to be equally as involved. Lastly, there are a growing number of celebrity entrepreneurs whose personal brands are now built around being smart business people. Examples include 50 Cent (Vitamin Water) and Ashton Kutcher (A-Grade Investments). Therefore, many celebrities have a desire to be involved behind the scenes and help shape business and brand strategy rather than just being the face of the campaign.

    Generally speaking, celebrity partnerships help drive brand awareness and elevate brand perception by tapping into new markets, promoting specific brand attributes and challenging preconceived notions about the brand.

    The new model of celebrity partnerships, can accomplish all of those things and more:

    - Create content that is more engaging and sharable
    - Foster deeper, more meaningful brand narratives
    - Improve a brand’s authenticity
    - Differentiate a brand from its competitors
    - Impact the business model of the partnership
    - Innovate the product/service offering

    When high-profile celebrities are seen using a product, it can help reassure consumers about the true quality of a product. We see this a lot with athletes, in particular. For example, LeBron James created a line of sneakers with Nike, which he wears when he plays. By extension, when the Miami Heat won the NBA Finals last year and LeBron was named MVP it in turn improved Nike’s reputation as a quality brand and gained additional exposure for the shoe. In fact, Nike’s stock increased by 2-3% the following day.

    But it’s not only in the best interest of the brand to form more collaborative relationships – celebrities can benefit as well. Working with a brand in this way means that celebrities don’t have to comprise their credibility. The additional exposure helps them raise their personal brand equity, as well as additional resources, which they can allocate to support outside ventures.

  • Pappas Pulse: Wearable Tech and Agnosticism


    Wearable technology isn’t exactly a new concept. Anyone who listens to music with headphones gets the general idea. Creating products and experiences that interact with our bodies in a natural, convenient way is often regarded as an upcoming shift that will prove to be as big as smartphones were just a few years ago. 2012 was a year that saw a lot of innovations and promises of things to come in the space.

    The Nike+ FuelBand lifted activity tracking out of the weight-loss pedometer doldrums to reach a more mainstream audience. Pebble, a proposed smartwatch that syncs with a user’s phone, became Kickstarter’s most successful project to date. Google officially announced Project Glass, which puts all the capabilities of a smartphone into a pair of glasses. (Read more about smartwatches and the Nike+ FuelBand below). But when we really boil it down, will all this wearable technology truly make our lives easier? Or is it more of a hassle than it’s worth?

    The positive potential of all these devices is fairly evident in theory. They strive for user experiences and interfaces that feel so natural that the line between user, device and environment begins to blur. A slight hand gesture can call your mother. Dilating your pupils can close your browser window.

    But here’s the downside to all that: a slight hand gesture can call your mother. Dilating your pupils can close your browser window. Every little thing you do starts to means something. Read more

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