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The influence of Camera Phones on Advertising


Most smart phones are equipped with a camera and the number of smart phones in the world is expected to exceed the number of human beings by the end of the year.  This means there are a lot of people with constant access to a camera and the internet in the same device. As technology has improved, the popularity of these devices has increased to the point where it has taken the place of point and shoot camera’s for many users, particularly those that take photos mainly for the purpose of sharing with friends online.

The camera phone phenomenon has been viewed from a number of angles such as privacy issues and its use in art [1]. However, rarely has it been explored form an advertiser’s perspective. Camera phone technology is a powerful tool for advertising. There are two ways advertisers often utilise the popularity of camera phones. The first is through encouraging sharing. The second is by making use cell phone camera technology for other applications.

Encouraging Sharing


While Flickr has traditionaly been used by professional photographers, the rise of the camera phone and the portability of mobile devices means that ordinary people are photos are taking photos of everday situations and sharing them instantly with freinds. Social networks such as Facebook and Instagram reflect this practice. Facebook is the largest photosharing site on the planet. Users upload over 350 million photos a day on Facebook  and photos make up 93% of the most engaging posts on Facebook in terms of likes and shares. Instagram – a network built around photosharing – is the fastest growing social network in the world (and is now owned by Facebook, as depicted above). 


Paid photo ads

Advertisers can make use of these photosharing mediums in two ways. The first is through paid advertising. Both Facebook and now Instagram allow advertisers to buy sponsored posts which are highly targeted and appear in a user’s newsfeed looking almost identitical to user-generated posts. While they have only recently been intoruduced they have proven affective on Facebook . One company that employed this strategy to great affect is Luxury Link – an online travel agent. Luxury Link took advantage of user’s photo sharing habits by posting beautiful professional photos of holiday destinations it offered. They also ran a photo contest, where the company posted photos of destinations and users were encouraged to guess the locations in order to win weekly prizes These photos received a high level of likes, comments and share, which ultimately led to increased sales.

Photosharing in promotions

Another way advertisers can take advantage of social networkers is by taping into users love of photosharing by incoroporating it into their promotions. A great example of this technique is Tourism Australia’s ‘there’s no place like Australia’ campaign, which required users to share their favourite holiday photos of Australia on the campaign website. Other potential customers could then browse these photos and read other traveller’s recommendations when planning their own holidays. This clever advertising strategy generated a great deal of interest and effectively employed customers as volunteers by providing a vast resource of travel marketing for free.


Mobile Camera Technology

As well as photosharing, the integration of cameras with smart phones has created a vast array of potential opportunities for advertisers. One example of this is augmented reality. Augmented reality in advertising is in its infancy, but has great potential. ABI research predicicts that the market for augmented reality will grow from US$6 million in 2008  US$350 million in 2014.  While there are many terrible attempts at augmented reality advertising, there have also been a number of brilliant campaigns. For instance, Nike created a game using augmented reality to really engage its customers in a fun and engaging way to gain media attention. They hired 50 runners to wear special jackets hooked up to a GPS and run around Vienna for 90 minutes, as they ran game aprticipants tracked them using a mobile ap and tried to take photos of them in order to win a prize.

Another use of camera phones in advertising is QR codes – barcodes that you scan on your phone to take you to a website. QR codes are often ridiculed in advertising circles as being a waste of time. However, they are an effective advertising tool when used properly. For instance, Ebay created a lot of buzz by launching special storefronts in New York City, diplaying some of the items they had for sale. Customers could scan the QR codes next to the products to instantly purchase the items they wanted.

Final word

These four examples illustrate very different uses of camera phone technology to create engaging and effective ads, either through the practice of photosharing or by using the technology for non photographic use, in this case augmented reality.

[1]Palmer, D (2012), ‘iPhone Photography: mediating visions of social spaces’, Hjorth, L, Burgess, J, Richardson, I (eds.), Studying Mobile Media: cultural technologies, mobile communication and the iPhone, Routeledge, New York, pp.85-97.



The web is littered with hugely popular internet memes of varying quality and even more failed attempts. However, most of us would probably have difficulty defining just what an internet meme is. Therefore before discussing their use in advertising, it is worth considering the history of memes (For are more in depth discussion, see Patrick Davison’s ‘The language of internet memes’.[1])

The term meme was first coined by Richard Dawkins, who saw it as a key factor in how society evolves. For Dawkins, memes are to culture what genes are to genetics.

In modern culture the term meme is usually used to refer to an internet meme, which can be defined as ‘a piece of culture, usually a joke, which gains influence through online transmissions’[2]. Compared to their offline counterparts, internet memes spread more quickly and take a more permanent, easily replicable form. This is because internet technology enables memes to be shared and viewed instantly by an almost limitless number of people as many times as they want. This makes them ideal for viral advertising.



Memes can be mutated

A meme can be broken down into 3 components – the ideal, the manifestation and the behaviour. The ideal refers to the message it conveys. The manifestation is the observable form it takes. And the behaviour is the action taken by individuals to service a meme such as the manipulation of a particular photograph[3]. Memes are commonly manipulated in this way. Take this meme based off the character Fry from the television show Futurama. The manifestation of this meme is taken form the following clip:

Its first use was in a new manifestation of a different meme – “I see what you did there”.


From there, this image was taken and manipulated into a new manefistation. The behaviour of internet users, therefore led to the develop of the image into its own meme by proliferating the following manifestation to express various ideals:

3cnz 3000

Memes and Advertising


Coming back to how memes can be used by advertisers, there are two main ways advertisers can harness the power of memes: By creating their own memes, or by hijacking currently popular memes to sell their product.

There are a few companies that have managed to create their own memes due to highly successful ads. Here are a couple of examples:

Old Spice

Old Spice reinvented itself with this commercial, which went viral and spawned a bunch of related memes. It’s success was due to its over the top humour, memorable lines and the ease with which it could be parodied.

sccscs cdcd cssc sccs jn

Rhonda and Ketut


Also gaining notoriety for its humour and mockability online was AAMI’s ‘better drivers deserve to be rewarded’ campaign featuring Rhonda and Ketut.

r1 r2 r3

While its debatable wether or not the memification of these ads was deliberate, the fact is they gained enormous reach at minimal cost due to the viral spread of their ads online in various manifestations for various ideals. It is possible for advertisers to facilitate the spread of their content via memes by remembering a few principals: the image must be witty, instantly recognisable and appealing to the right audience.


jbnjnMemes can also be hijacked to use in ads. This is the more common use of memes in advertising and while it can be seen as a cop out because it is a lazy way of creating an ad cheaply, it can also be very effective. Here are just a couple examples of popular memes used in ads. For more examples, click on this link:

‘Y U NO’ Meme

This meme is commonly used to express frustration. Here it is in some of its various incarnations:

YU1 YU2 YU3Hipchat, a startup webchat application, hijacked this meme for its billboard ads. Its users tripled as a result:


‘Grumpy Cat’ Meme

Grumpy cat is one of the most popular internet memes ever. It has appeared in art projects, on t-shirts and even a line of coffee products called ‘grumpachino’. Initially the memes involved making fun of the cat’s less than pleased appearance, but later the image was shared by users as a way of expressing their displeasure at various situations or simply as an ironic joke. Here are some examples:

grumpy1 grumpy2 grumpy3 grumpy4

This meme was hijacked for an anti-underage drinking campaign, which was designed by the students themselves:


When hijacking memes in ads, it is important advertisers adhere to the following rules for the campaign to be successful. For more further explanation of these rules see here and here:

1. The meme must be appropriate for the target audience (otherwise the people who share your ad wont care about your product).

2. The meme you create/hijack must be funny (otherwise no one will care).

3. The meme must be brand appropriate (otherwise it wont actually sell the product).

4. The meme must be current (otherwise your company will seem out of touch).

5. There must be an effective distribution plan if your meme is to go viral (otherwise it wont be a meme, but a bad ad).

Advantages of Memvertising

To sum up her are some of the reasons why memes can be an effective advertising tool:

  • They are instantly familiar to the target audience
  • They can be sourced cheaply
  • The graphic is already done
  • People love to share memes with their friends, which increases the ads chance of going viral.

So there you have it.  That is why you should use memes in advertising. Still not clear on what a meme is? Perhaps this will clear it up for you.

Then again. Perhaps not.

final meme

[1] Davidson, P (2012), ‘The language of internet memes’, Mandiberg, M (ed.), The Social Media Reader, New York University Press, New York, pp.120-134.

[2] Ibid.

[3] ibid.

Mobile Advertising

Importance of mobile


People are increasingly spending time on mobile devices. The number of people who access the internet primarily from their smartphone is becoming quite significant.

However, despite the potential for mobile advertising  it is still in its infancy. The amount of advertising spent on mobile advertising remains quite low, which is just a fraction of total advertising expenditure. Many companies are still struggling with mobile advertising, including some of the mobile’s most prominent brands such as Facebook. However, there are a number that are coming up with creative and effective ways of advertising their products online. Search and display make up majority of mobile ad expenditure.


Reaching emerging markets – As only 25 percent of mobile users in emerging markets have internet access at home, mobile advertising is also the best way to reach this market.

Better value – Additionally mobile ad spaces are currently cheaper and have a much higher click through rate.

Reduction in Time/ boundaries – Unlike television, radio or print ads, consumers can be reached anywhere at anytime using mobile advertising. People always have their phones on them.


Mobile is Unique

While the basic principals of advertising remain the same, mobile advertising is its own genre and has its own features, advantages, limitations. It requires a specific literacy, with many mobile specific advertising agencies appearing recently. Below are some of the unique attributes of online advertising, coupled with examples of some advertising campaigns that employed each feature effectively.

Screen size – Display ads need to be reworked to fit a smaller screen size or one with different dimentions due to the variety of mobile devices available such as laptops, iphone, etc. The different layouts required for different devices presents a challenge. Example: We don’t have a specific example for this, but essential anything that looks made to fit the screen of the device the user is using – no banner ads, no small type, no scrolling both across and down just to see the ad. It should look something like this:



Geo-location – With mobiles, advertisers have ability to target ads to a consumer’s specific location. For instance a local fish and chip store can send ads directly to someone who is within a 10km range. Location ads have higher click through rates and are particularly effective for the restaurant industry. For instance, Burger King issued vouchers online, which when downloaded would remind the customer to use their voucher when they when a Burger King store was nearby.


QR codes – These codes appear on real-world advertisements and can be scanned to quickly gain more information about a product online. There are countless examples of bad uses of QR codes in advertising such as this one:


No consumer is going to use a QR code just for the sake of it. There should be a compelling call to action for the consumer and this coke ad provides none. It’s just a waste of advertising dollars on an ad with no message. However, above all it is most important to simply put some thought into why you are using the QR code and not just using one for the sake of it (such as in the coke ad above). Victoria’s Secret’s QR based advertising campaign was effective without a call to action campaign because the QR code became a part of the ads central proposition – that its product is sexier than. The point of the ad is clear and it doesn’t really matter wether or not customers scan the code:


Augmented reality – mobiles can be used to overlay images over the physical environment, creating a unique experience for the consumer and an innovative ad. Online clothing store Net-A-Porter used this technique effectively by creating interactive storefronts, which allowed customers to view videos of the item on the catwalk, product information, 360 degree product models, pricing, as well as purchase the products.

Related articles

Creative Commons in Advertising

For those of you without the time or patience to watch the above video, creative commons licensing is a new form of copyright, founded by Lawrence Lessig, James Boyle and Hal Abelson. Their reason for developing creative commons licensing is that traditional copyright laws are too restrictive and lead to a restriction of creativity.  Creative commons licensing is flexible and fills the void between all rights reserved and the public domain. A creative commons license is fully customisable, as is this here:


Creative commons licenses allow media producers and consumers to share their work online in a way that is more appropriate for the participatory world of new media. For more information, check out:

Creative commons can be a great tool for online advertising. Below are three examples of how creative commons licensing has been used in advertising, looking at the issue from three different perspectives: creative commons as a resource for advertisers; the ability of creative commons to increase the shareability of the content; and potential to use creative commons licensing to increase consumer engagement with advertisements.

A Resource – Virgin Australia

Intellectual property created with a creative commons license can be a great resource for advertisers. Created under the right rules, creative commons work can be sourced freely, such as photos from Flickr. This provides advertisers with a vast resource of cheap images that can be used in ad design without the need of an artist or photographer. This is particularly useful for smaller businesses that may not be able to afford a large advertising budget and need to produce advertising copy on their own. However, this practice should be undertaken with the greatest of care. In 2007 for instance, Virgin launched a massive campaign using photos sourced through creative commons, only to find the original photographer did not have the permission of the people in the photo to share their image.


Engagement – Nine Inch Nails

In 2012 Nine Inch Nails released their album The Slip under a Creative Commons licence. The album was distributed as a free download on the band’s website with the message – ‘we encourage you to remix it, share it with your friends, post it on your blog, play it on your podcast, give it to strangers, etc.’ Remixing was further encouraged by allowing fans to download master tracks from the bands website and holding a user-generated film festival on YouTube. This campaign was a success, gaining significant media coverage, increased concert ticket sales, increased brand loyalty and actually selling 2, 500 of its $300 deluxe edition of the album.

This highly innovative use of the creative commons framework allowed Nine Inch Nails to enable their fans to become active participants in the creation of the bands music, even allowing them to share their remixes online. (For your enjoyment, one of the many wonderful examples of fan remixed music has been included below.) Simply through strategic licensing, advertisers can use creative commons as a highly effective tool in increasing customer engagement with the brand, which is one of the most difficult things for an advertiser to achieve.

Shareability – Wired

A final advantage of using a creative commons license is sharability. Creative commons can allow brands to allow other parties to use their content in any way, provided they link back to the original source. In advertising this can be used to allow customers to repurpose ads. While companies may want to control their advertisements, ultimately the more users see their ads the better. One company that used this principal to great effect is Wired, which in 2011, decided to make all of its library of photos free for anyone to use.

Here is why it was such a genius move: The majority of users who had a need for Wired’s images were news outlets and bloggers. These outlets were required to link the images they used back to Wired’s website, driving traffic from their sites to wired. The total number of links to Wired’s page increased exponentially. And incoming links is one of the key determining factors of Google’s page ranking, meaning that Wired would appear higher on search rankings. All of this meant a lot more readers for Wired.

However, like most things on the internet, copyright (any copyright, not just creative commons) can be difficult to enforce. In fact, BoingBoing – one of the first sites to report on Wired’s new licensing – included a picture from Wired without linking back to the source. This probably would have made Wired’s marketing gurus feel something like this:


Don’t tell wired, but we stole this image from their archive…. Shh!

Similarities between the transitions of news and advertising in a digital world

In his article, ‘playing for news’, Meikle outlines three key features of online news – automation, personalisation and participation[1]. He also outlines the proliferation of mobile news and online indymedia. But are these features unique to online news or are they just features of Internet culture generally. The question I pose here is this: can these features apply to the world of online advertising, and if so, how?


Automation is a key feature of internet culture and can be seen in the way people collect news such as RSS feeds and alerts. The proliferation of automation has only increased with the uptake in mobile phones; specifically smart phones with numerous updates constantly alerting us to new content. Advertising is no exception to the spread of automation in the online space. One way automation is used by advertisers is email advertising. When customers buy products online they are asked to opt in or out of automated advertising. Another example of automation in advertising is in targeted advertising. When users browse the internet, companies collect data on their browsing habits in order to target their ads directly at the individual consumer. For instance, Google ads will often display ads related to the last website you have visited. Done properly, it can be an effective advertising tool.  On Facebook, for instance people often engage with and share content that is placed on their newsfeed based on their previous likes. However, in some cases it can also be annoying and even a little creepy – its sort of the equivalent to a store assistant following you around to see which products you look at and then offering you similar products based on what you’ve looked at.



Another key feature of internet culture is personalisation. This is particularly the case for social networking, where users design their own personalised pages and build groups of contacts, effectively creating an abstract representation of their lives through media.  It is also true in the way users consume media, picking and choosing the content that is useful, interesting or entertaining to them as they surf the web. This makes effective advertising even more important. Consumers wont tolerate boring ads in the online environment, however they will watch ads they find relevant or entertaining. Many of these ads are shared online with friends and become viral, reaching many more consumers than companies could reach via traditional media. Targeted advertising is another form of personalisation online. While advertisers have long customised ads to their target audience and have tried to place them in spaces their consumers will see them, the digital world enables advertisers to target advertising directly to the individual like never before. Some online retailers such as, even personalise their whole website based around your previous purchase and search history. But once again, if the advertising is too obvious it wont work. This cannot be stressed enough – no one wants to live in a world like this:


Participation is vital to internet culture, whether it be through blogs, social media, sharing sites, or comments on websites. Internet culture has led to the rise of the prosumer – audiences who simultaneously consume and produce media. The ability to participate is increasingly becoming the default expectation of modern audiences. This is also true of online advertising. When advertisers create content that goes viral, they are using audience participation to sell their product for them. Consumers are also regularly invited to participate in competitions online, provide feedback and sometimes even assist in brand and product development. These days, everyone is a producer of content.



Mobile use has increased exponentially, with more and more people using smart phones to browse the internet. While people used to consume media only in the home, or in the car via radio, they now consume media everywhere – stations, buses, parks, even while walking down the street. This is a good thing for advertising. Because consumers are spending more and more time using media, this dramatically increases the amount of opportunity to reach consumers. But it also demands specialised content, which is still in its infancy. One way advertisers are currently using mobile technology is through QR codes. QR codes are barcodes that appear on products or advertisements, users can scan to be directed to online content where they can find out more information. While some advertisers are using QR codes effectively, many are yet to grasp the technique.


A final aspect of internet culture is inymedia. Indymedia is niche content run by individuals or small groups, many of which could not publish this content without the use of the internet. This is also true of advertising, as it allows start up companies and small businesses the power to advertise their brands and products cheaply. Internet advertising is much cheaper than print, radio or TV, particularly when it is used intelligently such as in viral content and through social media, which is virtually free.

[1] Meikle, G (2009), ‘News 2.0?’, Interpreting News, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp.170-195.

Advertising and Online Culture

In marketing, it is vital to understand your target audience. So given the growth of Internet use and the increasing importance of online advertising, we need to consider the unique qualities of online communities. The audience we are targeting remains the same – but are their expectations of how we interact with them in an online environment different to a physical environment? While viral and targeted advertising through online and particularly social media already form a large part of today’s marketing strategies, a more thorough understanding of the unique qualities of online culture will make our advertising more effective.

So is there a unique online culture? According to Deuze in his article, ‘Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering Principal Components of a Digital Culture’, there is[1]. Here are his three 3 key characteristics of online culture:

Participation – Dueze argues that in the online community people want to have control over their media. This can be seen in the way people consume media online. For instance, on YouTube the user has constant control over what video they watch and when. Dueze also argues that consumers want to be active participants in the production of the media they consume. This is exemplified by the spread of fan fiction online and the rise of user created modifications, or mods, in online games. The rise of social networking has also facilitated this cultural shift toward participation online, as it not only transforms user into prosumer, but also places them at the centre of their own online experience.

As advertisers, we need to use this culture of participation to encourage our target audience to become involved with our products. This could be through competitions, soliciting comments and suggestions to improve services or to suggest new products, or by allowing consumers to add their own story to the brand. For instance, in the hotel industry many companies are now encouraging feedback online as a way of promoting continued improvement and encouraging users to share their experiences with others via social media. Many are also offering prizes for the best travel stories. Above all, it is important to include a call to action, something that will implore the audience member to act – whether it’s a competition, some great photos, or an entertaining video. If you have the time, this video does a great job of explaining participation from an advertising perspective:

Remediation – According to Deuze, while new media seeks to appose itself to old media as an alternative, the conventions of the new medium are simultaneously incorporated as the basis for its model of operation. For instance, blogging is a unique activity with its own attributes, such as an emphasis on inclusive dialogues with other bloggers through cross-linking and an emphasis on ongoing dialogues with readers through a comments section (a practice traditional media organisations themselves have now incorporated). However, many bloggers still regard journalistic standards such as transparency/objectivity and protection of sources.

Therefore, just because online advertising requires a new approach doesn’t mean that many traditional advertising principals wont apply.  Advertising has always needed to adapt to suit new media technologies – from print to radio to television to internet/multimedia – as this video succinctly illustrates:

Advertising will still be about selecting an appropriate target market and appealing to their needs and desires. However, it may involve a lot more two-way communication about which needs and desires customers want from their favourite brands to fulfil.


Dueze says that bricolage and co-creatiion (bringing together ideas from multiple sources), is considered the normal way of doing things online. This can be seen in the creation of knowledge communities online such as fan forums. It can also be seen in the use of cross-linking between sites, directing users to similar content.

In advertising, it can also be seen in campaigns that bring together multiple mediums such as online, print and TV, as well as diverse platforms such as competitions, commercials, live web-chats and blogs to market their product. Advertisers can also use bricolage to further enhance the consumer participation online by incorporating customer-generated material in their advertising. (For a good example of this, see Daft Punk’s latest album launch).

The Future

Having explored the key aspects of online culture, we can see that many advertisers are already taking advantage using the unique features of new media. However, many still get it wrong and are still reluctant to fully embrace new online advertising models. Advertisers that create successful online advertising campaigns will be those that take advantage of the unique opportunities of online culture to come up with new and creative ways of engaging their audience.

[1] Deuze, M (2006), ‘Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering Principal Components of a Digital Culture’, The information Society, VOl.22, pp.63-75.