Dangers of Drone Filming
23/03/17 Sparkcell

Dangers of Drone Filming

Video footage via drones is growing in popularity. Shots that would otherwise be impossible can now easily and affordably can be captured. Drones therefore are a great resource for marketers and videographers to add to their took toolbox. 

But filming with drones does not come without risks. I’ll share a recent experience that highlights some of the potential dangers. We had a client who needed some drone footage for an upcoming event. Due to timing there was only a one day window available for filming. The morning of the shoot the crew awoke and winds were blowing mildly with some larger gusts. Because there was no time available to postpone the flight we decided to take the crew to the site to see if flying was possible. Again, winds were light but gusty so we decided to do an initial test flight. . . and that’s when things got crazy!

We were filming near many power lines which produced strong EMF interference. This interference impacted both the controllers connection to the drone and the GPS signal. Normally if a connection is lost, GPS will enable the drone to hover until a connection is reestablished. In this situation, the GPS was also being interfered with and just as the connection was being reestablished gusts of wind would flare up and push the drone causing loss of contact again. And to make matters worse, very close to our flight areas was highly sensitive, critical infrastructure that could be damaged if the drone impacted it. The good news is that we got the drone down safely. And to be extra safe we aborted the shoot for that day.

The key takeaway from this experience is that while drones can produce great footage, a number of things need to be considered when planning a drone shoot:

  1. Hire a certified drone pilot: There are a number of different certifications from the FAA that a drone pilot must have depending on the situation and the environment you’ll be filming in. Make sure you are aware of the requirements and hire an experienced pilot with the right certifications.
  2. File a flight plan with the FAA if needed: To fly in certain areas (such as near airports) or other sensitive areas you’ll need to file a flight plan and get approval in order to fly. If you fail to take this step you’ll likely get shut down and the entire crew will have to go home. 
  3. Not all drones are made the same: As you know there are many types, models and manufacturers of drones. Some may think that all drones are alike. The fact is that higher end drones have stronger receivers and more advanced safety features. This is particularly important when flying in difficult conditions, when interference may exist, weather conditions aren’t perfect and when crowds are present.
  4. Safety first: we often have time constraints and we always have pressure to “get the shot” but it’s always best to follow the old adage of “safety first”. If conditions are bad, if your drone pilot didn’t bring the right equipment or if you’re uncomfortable in any way, it’s always best to cancel the shoot and film another day. 

Again, drones can capture incredible footage and can add that extra special factor to your videos, but when planning any drone shoot the above pointers will help you get going in the right direction.

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4 Signs Your Agency Relationship has Stagnated
16/06/16 Sparkcell

4 Signs Your Agency Relationship has Stagnated

Agencies are best when they’re eager to impress. When agencies get comfortable, when they feel they no longer have to prove themselves, mediocrity sinks in and the work suffers.

I’ve seen too many organizations stay with agencies that can’t keep up with them. Why do they stay? Because the relationship with the agency is okay. It’s comfortable. And that’s bad for business—the agency’s and the client’s.

Here are four giveaways that it’s time shake up the stagnant relationship.


  1. You see the same ideas recycled.

Fresh ideas show an agency has drive, that they’re hungry to impress you.

The key giveaway that the agency has gone dry is recycled ideas. You’ve probably seen it. You attend a meeting and the agency shows up with the same ideas, concepts, and strategies—even if they didn’t work the last time.

Maybe the agency is burned out, or maybe they don’t care anymore about your product. Or, just as likely, they’ve maxed out their creativity. Either way, recycled ideas speak volumes about the poor state of your relationship with your agency.


  1. Things get a little…slow.

Agencies want to win. That’s the weird thing about us. We want to win the pitch, and then win customers for our clients.

Winners move fast in the marketing world. If you’re slow you’re dead.

Companies should be concerned when their agency takes too long to reply to emails, misses deadlines, or asks for extensions. It’s a sign something’s not right. Did the agency lose interest in the business? Did the agency shift talent, and key people, off the portfolio? Did the agency deprioritize existing business to chase new business, and is that shift hurting you?


  1. They nickel and dime.

We all understand that labor costs money, and that good agency work demands good pay.

Rates will rise, no doubt. And yes, overages cost. But the giveaway that the agency may not be hungry for business—and may not care for the relationship—is when they nickel and dime clients, and every small request results in a new statement of work. That’s how a lawyer behaves, not an agency.

Beware of agencies that hike rates without warning and seem more concerned about statements of work than putting out the best work possible.


  1. Talent leaves.

An agency is as good as its people. It’s a truism because it’s true.

There’s lots of movement in the industry, so we can’t judge an agency just because people come and go. But if an agency can’t keep talent, there’s a problem.

What’s worse is when an agency shifts talent off your projects. When they do that, you know you’ve been downgraded.

If key personnel leave the company, be sure to ask who will replace them. Try to find out why they left, and if you like them enough, where they’re going.


The Solution

Reaching out to another agency, particularly a smaller one, can be just what’s needed to re-energize your marketing organization.

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To Build a Community or Not to Build? That is the Question!
09/05/16 Sparkcell

To Build a Community or Not to Build? That is the Question!


With Facebook limiting the organic reach of the content that brands post (a post may reach as little as 2-3% of your community without paid support), CEO’s and CMO’s often ask us, “is it worth investing time, effort and money to build a Facebook community that you have to pay to reach anyway?” Our answer. Facebook community building is still very much worthwhile.

Below are a just few of the reasons why Facebook community building is still very valuable to brands.


There’s Comfort in Numbers

How comfortable do you feel eating at a restaurant that has 1 review? Most of us think the restaurant is either brand new or that it isn’t very good. Similarly, consumers often view the size of a brand’s community as an indication of their reputation, quality and legitimacy. Psychologically, there is comfort in numbers. So, if for no other reason than to validate the interest of potential customers, it’s worthwhile to cultivate a Facebook community.


Customer Insights

Many brands, especially startups, lack the time and money to do deep customer research. They may know how to describe their customers in general terms but they have to guess when it comes to specific demographic, economic and behavioral information.

Having a community on Facebook allows you to use the Audience Insights tool to generate detailed information about who your customers are. For example, you can see demographic information such as age, gender, lifestyle, location, education, job role, and household information. You can also get insights into purchase behavior such as historical purchase behavior and purchase methods. For marketers, these insights are invaluable when it comes to making smart marketing choices.


Segmentation and Persona Development

Once a brand has a community that is large enough, it can move from looking at its audience in aggregate to using Facebook’s Audience Insights tool to segment its customers. For example, you can see insights for only the female portion of your audience and analyze how different they are from your male audience. You can do the same thing by age breakdown, location and a number of other segmentation criteria.

Taking segmentation information one step further, these insights can be used to create detailed personas for your main customer segments. And while hiring a ethnographic research firm can cost $80k or more, building personas with the Audience Insight tool is free.


Cost Effectiveness

Another reason to build a Facebook community is that it can make paid advertising more cost effective for a brand. As mentioned earlier, Facebook limits organic reach of brand content, forcing brands to use paid advertising to reach their customers. If a brand has a community, it can target only its customers who are part of its community (those most likely to purchase or take the intended action). Without a community, brands must cast a much wider net to reach customers and are often paying to reach people who don’t care at all about the brand.


Regular Dialogue with Customers

Last but certainly not least, having a Facebook community allows you to have an ongoing dialogue with your customers. This is incredibly valuable. Change is constant and all around us. Customers change, products change, brands change and competitors are always popping up. Having a strong Facebook community enables a brand to know the pulse of its customers. . . and in real time. For example, if a brand announces a new product, they don’t have to wait for sales data to trickle through months later to find out what customers are thinking. With a Facebook community, the feedback is instant. This enables a brand to make quicker and smarter business decisions, that it otherwise may be guessing at.


These are just a few of the reason why Facebook community building is still very valuable. Why do you value your Facebook community? Let us know?

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Your Brand Voice: How to get it right
28/04/16 Sparkcell # , ,

Your Brand Voice: How to get it right

“It’s great, but that’s not our voice.”

How often have you heard this phrase after you’ve presented a piece of content? Everything from social media editorial calendars to ad creative to videos can receive this feedback.

It’s enough to make you bang your head against the nearest wall. And it can get worse. Often you receive the same, vague feedback revision after revision until, after countless agency hours burned and several drinks later, you happen to land on the “right” voice.

So how can you avoid this frustration? Start by defining your voice. Here are some tips for how to find your voice.

Verb cloud

Create a word cloud of verbs that “fit” the voice. Verbs are action words, and as much as possible you want to define yourself by what you do. So what do you do? How do you act and what makes you dynamic?

Name your voice

Voice is important because it captures your personality. It’s your style and the fingerprint of your brand identity. When thinking about your voice, ask yourself, “What is the personality of my brand? Who am I, and what am I about?”

Once you have an idea, put a name to it. The name helps people understand the message behind the message. Maybe you’re “high-brow humorous,” or “hip, anti-establishment.”

Define it

Try to define your voice in a short paragraph. Here’s an example of a voice definition we put together:

“Refined Edge”: We’re a brand with a refined edge—we’re street-savvy and edgy, but refined. We smart to the latest trend—hell, we set them—and we can throw down and push boundaries of convention when challenged. We’re cool. We cut our knuckles in the rough part of life, but now we inhabit a sleeker realm. We’re smart, look good in a suit and the boardroom, and we’ve got a rough charm everybody loves.

Find examples

In some ways, voice is intangible, so you probably won’t have exclusive rights to a voice. That’s okay. You will find other brands, from your industry and beyond, using a similar voice as yours.

Take time to research those brands. It will give you ideas for how to bring your own voice to life. Start by capturing content that best demonstrates their voices. Then ask questions: What are their personalities like? In what ways do they sound like you? How will you differentiate your voice?

Create “Do, Don’t” examples

Try this: take a phrase about your business—maybe a tagline—and write it three different ways. The first you will write in your voice. Write the other two off-voice in the extreme. Write a series of these on- and off-voice tag lines. Tangible examples will help you calibrate your voice.

At first, this exercise may feel a little like capturing a steam with a bucket. But it’s worth the effort to avoid endless rounds of edits. When you find yourself receiving this feedback, you can pull out this voice profile and use it as a tool to keep the team on track.

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Sized just right: 5 ways boutique agencies enhance brands
28/04/16 Sparkcell # ,

Sized just right: 5 ways boutique agencies enhance brands

More and more we hear industry buzz about companies moving away from traditional styled agencies in favor of boutique or specialized agencies like SparkCell.

Why all the hype?

There are a ton of reasons boutique agencies make ideal partners. Here is my top 5:

1. They take creative risks

Boutique agencies survive by pushing creative farther. They take the risks that committee-led agencies can’t.

In this world, standing out is becoming increasingly harder to do. Boutique agencies have the personalities that can help a brand create programs remain authentic and heard.

 2. They test new approaches

Testing new approaches is critical to a successful marketing program, but tests (plural, because it often takes several) are hard to justify when they come with a big price tag. That’s where a boutique agency comes in. They’re cost-effective and can move quickly through a series of tests and iterations to develop best practices that make bigger marketing programs more effective.

3. They give every project priority

Boutique agencies have to prove themselves with every project. So they treat small projects as golden opportunities instead of a bother to be handed down to a junior team member.

4. They can spin up, fast

Zero bureaucracy and a willingness to take on projects at a moment’s notice make boutique agencies ideal for fast-moving projects.

5. They show up each day, every day

Agency leaders, regardless of agency size, are usually pretty smart people. But getting time from the CEO of a blue chip agency can be a frustrating—not to mention expensive—experience. The senior leaders of boutique agencies keep their hands on every project. It’s this leadership that delivers the precision, speed and priority that brands need in a fast-paced market.

Plus, boutique agencies are more fun. Anything to add?

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How Golf Can Improve the Conversion Rate of Your Ads
11/04/16 Sparkcell

How Golf Can Improve the Conversion Rate of Your Ads

The other day I had one of my worst rounds of golf ever. But as bad as it was, the day provided a good lesson on why so many ad programs struggle to hit their conversion goals.


Off the first tee box I hooked the ball out of bounds and scored an 8 on the hole. The frustration of hitting a bad drive was in my head, so I spent the whole game trying to hit my driver straight.

My drives did get a bit better but to my surprise, I still ended up with a horrible overall score. Upon reflection, I realized that the biggest reason for my bad score was that I was focused on only one aspect of my game (my drives), and I didn’t pay attention to my iron shots, chipping or putting.

Similarly, when marketers get a bad score on their ad programs (their conversion rate is poor) they generally blame it on the ad itself. So they focus on tweaking the creative, copy, targeting, bid strategy, etc. These tweaks are important, but to perform well you cannot forget the other elements that affect conversion.

What are some of those other elements?

Landing Page Experience

You’re going to lose conversions if your landing page doesn’t align to your ad. So make sure everything aligns, including the creative, copy and messaging of the landing page. Also, make sure you’ve provided enough content to be informative, but not so much that you distract customers from the main call to action. Speaking of which, make sure your call to action is clear and prominent and aligns with the call to action of the ad that drove them to the landing page.

Signup or Purchase Experience

This is a critical element. Often an ad campaign drives customers to a site but fails when the signup or purchase experience is too long or confusing. If you want to score well on your campaign, optimize the signup or purchase experience. For example, limit the number clicks to conversion and integrate the signup form into the landing page.


Many customers will engage with your ads while at work, on a trip or when they’re out and about. They may be interested in your offer, but they don’t have enough time on their first visit to engage deeply enough to convert.  So make sure retargeting is a central element in your conversion campaign. Here’s a suggestion: begin by allocating 10-15% of your budget to retargeting and modify the retargeting budget based on results.


Similar to retargeting, email can improve the conversion rate of your campaigns. Depending on your product or service, customers may provide an email address for one reason or another, but they don’t actually become a “customer”. If this is the case, targeted emails are an effective way to bring customers back to your site and convert them into paying customers.

What other clubs do you have in your bag for improving conversion? Let us know.

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Techniques for a Successful Music Blogger Program
05/04/16 Sparkcell # , , ,

Techniques for a Successful Music Blogger Program

Music blogs like Consequence of Sound, Brooklyn Vegan, Gorilla vs. Bear and others have become highly influential among young audiences and music fans of all ages. As a result, they have become attractive channels for many brands.

But getting these blogs to cover a brand can be notoriously difficult because they rarely cover products that aren’t bands or music platforms.

The good news: there are several meaningful ways to insert your brand or product into these sites. You’ll need to pay, but it’s affordable. And done properly, these investments can boost site traffic and improve conversion.

Sponsor a Content Series

Sponsor a popular reoccurring blog series, like “New Artists of the Week,” or create a new series that reflects your core product messaging. Include product call outs, brand messaging and links throughout the series.

Pro Tip: Provide product giveaways or other incentives bloggers can use to promote the series.

Test Email Blasts

Some of these outlets have email lists north of six million readers. For a very reasonable fee, they will work with brands to create custom blasts.

Pro Tip: For maximum impact, work with the blogger to customize the content in these email blasts. They know their audience best, so get their help. Your standard marketing collateral will probably flop.

Cherry Pick High Traffic Pages

Pages dedicated to festivals and festival guides see disproportionately high traffic. Explore creative ways to integrate your product into these pages.

Pro Tip: Ask about partnership opportunities at these events. Sponsoring showcases (small music shows) hosted by blogs can be an affordable back door to participation at some festivals.

Support with Display Advertising

On its own, display advertising isn’t super effective on these pages because music blog audiences don’t often click them. Instead of purchasing stand-alone display programs, use display ads to augment your sponsored content or pages.

Pro Tip: Most of these sites won’t have robust reporting or tracking. Use UTM links, or similar techniques, to track clicks, conversions and other actions.

Brief the editorial team

At the outset of your partnership, ask to brief some of the editors on your product. Don’t expect coverage out of the gate: it likely won’t happen. But it opens the door to editorial opportunities by educating those editors on a product they wouldn’t otherwise have top of mind.

Pro Tip: Send the editorial team cool stuff, whether it’s product swag, tickets to a show or event you’re attending, or product. Again, no strings attached, but those things can go a long way to building a positive relationship with the editorial team and keeping your brand and products top of mind.

Once you’ve tested some of these tactics and refined your approach, try combining them into an integrated campaign for maximum impact. At this point, I’d suggest throwing your marketing collateral out the door completely and partnering with the blogger to create marketing content that resonates with readers.

Anything to add?

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