What's IN and what's OUT in the Interactive Age

"I now command all of you to ignore me henceforth. See what I did there?"

The 20th century was the Golden Age of managed messaging. Media moguls, corporate executives, and elected officials controlled and monopolized virtually every aspect of mass communication. But the Internet flipped that model on its head, and now we—the former “target demographic” of the Information Age—are calling the shots.

The transition from the Information Age to the Interactive Age has been so swift and so decisive that you can almost hear cigars exploding in board rooms around the globe as the former Masters of the Universe frantically apply 20th century solutions to 21st century challenges.

To help you avoid their fate, we’ve gathered a handy list of what’s IN and what’s OUT in the Interactive Age.


The Big Three TV Networks

Zero-sum game

Mass marketing

Watching your favorite show

Press event


Paid advertising

Stuffing envelopes with newsletters


Corporate sponsors

Press releases

Public relations


Outbound marketing

Self-centered extroverts


“It’s about me.”

Target market


Commercial breaks

Powerful CEO



Limitless free online networks

Givers Gain

Mass Relevance

Producing your favorite show

Event marketing


Free advice

Pushing the envelope with content




Personal relationships


Inbound marketing

Empathetic introverts


“It’s about them.”


Collective intelligence


Power of SEO















Lessons from Zombie Boy: Heart-tugging campaigns--like beauty--are often only skin deep.

"Baby Jesus, please make Zombie Boy pretty like the rest of us so we can accept him as he should be, no matter what it does to his acting career."  After every outdoor recess my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Yaroschuk, would make us boys wash our hands in the boys’ room and then march single-file past her desk to show her that we got the job done right.

I, unfortunately, had inherited a mild skin condition that would flare up at the most inopportune times—like just before opening day of the 1969 Outdoor Recess Season.

This condition manifested itself as a crescent of very dry skin that ran from the base of my index fingers to the first knuckle of my thumbs. When that skin got dirty—which was always since it was attached to the hands of a nine-year-old boy—it stayed dirty. I couldn’t wash it away no matter how hard I scrubbed.

Mrs. Yaroschuk, even more unfortunately, did not know about this condition and demanded to know why I refused to wash my hands. When I tried to explain sotto voce—since, at this point, we had captured the collective attention of the entire class—she declared to the class that I was lying.

Then, in the middle of hand-inspection time, she grabbed my arm and dragged me into the boys’ room so she could “get that dirt off your hands myself, believe you me!”

She did try, I’ll give her that. But after about two or three minutes of rubbing my hands under hot tap water with coarse brown paper towels slathered in industrial-strength liquid soap, it dawned on her that I was telling the truth.

Today there are a number of products on the market that would prevent such humiliations (mine and Mrs. Yaroschuk’s). And one of those products—Dermablend—is currently taking its turn as an Internet darling with a contrived video campaign called “The Camo Confession,” created by Agence Tuxedo, an ad agency in Montreal.

The premise is clever: A beautiful person sits before a camera, tells you something wonderful about herself, and then makes her “confession” by wiping the Dermablend foundation from her face and revealing a striking skin condition. It’s fascinating, really, when you see that these “normal” people are actually suffering from rather extreme skin conditions caused by things like lupus, severe acne, and vitiligo, a skin disorder that causes the loss of skin color in patches.

The reveal, and each person’s story, makes a powerful case for why some people feel strongly that they need to use Dermablend when they’re out in public, and why—were it not for our reactions—they really wouldn’t have to.

Real feel-good stuff … until you meet Rico. Rico, you see, suffers from … well, let’s let him tell his story.

“Many people would say that I’m different just because of my skin, but I don’t feel that way. In many ways, I’m just the same as anyone else. I am accepted by a lot of people who are … who are different, and in the same position as I am.

“No matter what you’re faced with in life, always feel proud of who you are, for what you are and not to let others’ judgments get in your way. Today, I feel proud. I did what I had to do. And look at me now.”

Yes, Rico is suffering from … tattoos. Hideous, debilitating tattoos that he presumably paid people to etch over his entire body. But did he let that self-inflicted affliction slow him down? Quite the contrary! Rick “Rico” Genest, aka Zombie Boy, is a DJ, an actor, and a model … not in spite of his skin condition, but because of it.

God bless him.

According to Agence Tuxedo, “Above all, you wear a Tuxedo to make an impression.” Well, guys, the impression I hget from that video is Rico in a tuxedo T-shirt, because it says, “I want to be pitiable, but I’m here to party.”


New Era vs Old Errors -- What corporate titans can learn from "those dang activists"

"Seriously. Do NOT make me get off this bike." If David keeps toppling Goliath—which seems inevitable these days—we’re going to have to retire the idiom.

The latest giant-slaying is going on right now between the New Era Colorado Foundation (David) and Old Errors Xcel Energy Corporation (the soon-to-be vanquished Goliath).

New Era wants Boulder to wrest control of the power grid from Xcel because they believe that the city can provide cleaner energy for less money. As you can imagine, Xcel—which stands to lose $35 million in profit that the good folks in Boulder shell out annually—disagrees.

In a fascinating video clip that rivals Kony 2012 in its rousing help-us-save-the-planet climax and (some might argue) creative presentation of the facts, New Era boasts:

“Back in 2011, our community did something no other community had ever done before: we voted to explore taking control of our power supply for the sole purpose of lowering our impact on the planet. … If we win, we trigger a national model that can be replicated across the country.”

Upworthy posted the video last week and urged people to share it. Huff Post picked up the story and—to no one’s surprise—the video went viral. Big time. (You can track the real-time financial score board here.)

It’s not shocking that a bunch of energetic kids with honorable intentions and decent video production skills could end up in the eye of a media storm, especially with the help of Upworthy, which is considered the Punkin Chunkin catapult of viral-video launches.

But it is nothing short of genius that they were able to get such a response through creative positioning.

Consider the claim, “Back in 2011, our community did something no other community had ever done before: we voted to explore taking control of our power supply for the sole purpose of lowering our impact on the planet.”

Taken at their word, you might think that Boulder is on the verge of becoming the first municipality ever to commandeer the power grid from an evil for-profit corporation. But they’d actually be the 18th city in the last decade to do this.

However, they would be the first to do so “for the sole purpose of lowering our impact on the planet,” a caveat which—and this is pure gold, Jerry—enhances their case rather than diminish it, as caveats usually do.

You might even believe, as the video states:

“Boulder is on the verge of setting an important precedent that has national significance and could threaten not just Xcel Energy but the very core of the business model—and the billions of dollars in profit that come with it—of the dirty coal energy industry.”

Well, not really. There are dozens of cities considering making the break, including Minneapolis, the city that Xcel is based in.

But the most brilliant bit of magic is found in the pitch at the end of the clip.

“The only way David beats Goliath this time is with your help. Because the only way to counter money is with PEOPLE. … They might have the war chest, but we have the ARMY. And we are here to recruit YOU. Right now, more than ever, we need YOU. Your financial support will help restore our community’s voice this election.”

Yes, we need YOU … to give us YOUR money.

Normally, I’d advise against stretching the facts to make them fit your fattened claims. But this was done so creatively and has been so successful that, as the Anchorman once said, “I’m not even mad. That’s amazing.”

Tomorrow: Xcel’s Spreadsheet of Screw-ups





The Taste of Kent

"Move along, folks. No one can see here." Item: The former police officer who pepper-sprayed students during an Occupy protest at the University of California, Davis is appealing for worker's compensation, claiming he suffered psychiatric injury from the 2011 confrontation. …

Online videos of [Officer John Pike] and another officer casually dousing demonstrators with pepper spray went viral, sparking outrage at UC Davis leaders. The images became a rallying symbol for the Occupy Wall Street movement.

--  Huffington Post, July 26, 2013

Nothing helps a story more than an iconic visual—that photo or video clip that distills your complex narrative into one inspiring, defining visual.

  • The lone man who stopped a column of Chinese tanks armed with nothing more than two shopping bags symbolized the courage of the Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989.
  • "Native American" Iron Eyes Cody (played by Italian American actor Expera Oscar de Corti) launched the environmental movement of the early 1970's with a single tear.
  • More realistically, the anguish of the 1960's anti-war movement was captured by the Pulitzer-winning photo of the Kent State student who had just been gunned down by a National Guardsman.

Last year, the Occupy Wall Street movement was having a heck of a time capturing its multifaceted temper tantrum in a single complaint, let alone an iconic image--until fate stepped in  to lend a hand.

Meet Lt. John Pike, a.k.a. Sgt. Pepper. Little did Pike know when he was lacing up his boots that morning that by day's end he was going to be the star of the meme heard 'round the world.

Apparently, when the protesters refused to "respect his authoritah," Pike's pique got the better of him, and he began pepper-spraying them like weeds.

The video and photo spread across the globe in seconds. Minutes later, memes of the photo were popping up all over the Internet. There were even memes of memes. (You have to check this out.) In a mere 24 hours, the National TV had warmed up and the Red and Blue Networks were spinning the story ... out of control, in some cases.

FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly described pepper spray to "a food product, essentially," inspiring her own meme-thology. Meanwhile, closeted one-percenter Michael Moore, on MSNBC, compared the pepper spray incident to the defiant act of the tank man in Tiananmen Square.

Whether you believe the students were inconvenienced by a condiment or assaulted by an AK-Jalapeno, Moore was right about one thing: this was "an iconic moment in this Occupy Wall Street movement."

The lesson: Iconic images aren't just for protests anymore. The competition for the nation's limited mental bandwidth is fierce. If you want to reach their hearts and minds, you've gotta catch their eyes.

Dove Bomb

"I sure hope people don't think I'm gilding the lily." We asked a cynical old bastard to describe the viral video Real Dove Beauty Sketches to our forensic artist.

"What can you tell me about the video, sir?”

“This video was the biggest crock of sh— the biggest load of malarkey I’ve seen since Kony 2012.”

“How’s that?”

“People think they’re watching a video that celebrates a woman’s inner beauty. But the real message of the video is ‘you’re not as physically unattractive as you think you are, so just go on out there and keep being as physically beautiful as you can be.’”

“I’m going to need some more details.”

“Cool, I took notes. Take this one gal. When she’s looking at the two portraits of herself, she says ‘Chloe’s perception was so, so clearly different. Her picture looked like somebody I thought I would want to talk to and be friends with … like a happy, light, much younger, much brighter person.’

“So if I follow her logic, she is more inclined to ‘talk to’ and ‘be friends with’ someone who appears ‘much younger, much brighter.’ Wow. She’s not just judging the book by its cover. She’s taking age into account, too.

“Now, I’m the first to admit that it’s possible that I twisted the meaning of her words in my typically cynical way. So I watched the video again and took more notes. The blond in the turtle neck says, and I quote: ‘I should be more grateful of my natural beauty. It impacts the choices and the friends that we make, the jobs we apply for, how we treat our children. It impacts everything. It couldn’t be more critical to your happiness.’

“Your ‘natural beauty’ affects ‘how we treat our children’? Paging Steve Buscemi, Child Protective Services on line one.

“Look, this thing was a setup from the start. All of the women in it were physically attractive. The artist was in on the joke, and the piece was produced and edited explicitly to tweak our tear glands. What amazes me is that millions of people fell for it.”

“So what lessons can we learn from this experience?”

“Good question. First, gimmicks sell. As manipulative as it was, the premise of the ‘unbiased’ forensic artist was brilliant. Second, amateur-looking video is hot—even slick, expensive ‘amateur’ videos like this one. It makes the viewer feel closer to the action. And third … perception is reality.”


Gillibrand's Ire: How passion and conviction can turn your video story into art

branded3 YouTube is the Lee Strasberg of social media platforms. It will force you to become a more convincing, more passionate storyteller, or it will wash you out of the game. Because when it comes to video, passionate conviction gets shared; dispassionate convention gets shelved.

Take the infectiously viral video of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) upbraiding, down dressing, and generally sidelining the judge advocate general of the Air Force, Lt. Gen. Richard Harding, for refusing to answer her question about whether “justice was done” when one Air Force jet-fighter officer unilaterally overturned the rape conviction of another Air Force jet-fighter officer.

After being convicted of aggravated sexual assault, Lt. Colonel James Wilkerson was sentenced to a year in the brig. But rather than go to jail, he went back to work when his boss, Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, declared the conviction null and void. Sen. Gillibrand, as you can imagine, was less than amused.

But you will be amused by her grilling of Harding on this issue. And, once again, you will learn another important lesson in captivating storytelling at someone else' expense: To tell a remarkable story in the YouTube age, it pays to be passionate.