//A Houseparty everyone is invited to

Social distancing and quarantine are our current reality. People are working from home and meetings have been moved online. In our social life, virtual happy hours have basically replaced all other forms of social interactions and the platform options are plenty – from FaceTime and WhatsApp video calling to Zoom and Teams.

The current talk of town, however, is Houseparty. An app that has seen a surge in downloads from 130,000 a week in late February to over two million a week in late March, right after social distancing and shelter in place orders have been issued around the world.

Houseparty has been around since late 2016 and back then, Forbes has hailed it as the latest teen hangout rivaling Snapchat by offering “spontaneous togetherness.” However, the app remained mostly in the realms of Gen Z. Four years later, Houseparty is now getting attention from all sorts of demographics given the newly gained free time and also the need for an engaging way to digitally connect amidst the Covid 19 pandemic.

Be prepared for people to pop onto your screen

One of Houseparty’s features that sets it apart from other video chat apps: Games

The concept is simple: Houseparty is a video chat app for friends. But how does it differ from other video chats? The idea is that when you are “online” (= you’re actively using the app), your friends can automatically join you. Meaning, they will pop right onto your screen without you having to accept the call. You should therefore be prepared whenever you open the app, because at any time a friend could appear on your screen and your camera would automatically turn on.

Your friends will be notified that you just “entered the house” when you log in. The app allows you to turn off those notifications or alternatively, “lock your room” which then requires you to invite someone for a conversation. That would, however, neutralize Houseparty’s unique proposition of spontaneous connections. The idea is that being notified of a friend entering the house will prompt an unplanned conversation, therefore leading to increased interactions.

Up to eight people can join one party which allows you to meet friends of friends by spontaneously joining their ongoing conversations as long as they didn’t lock the room. Houseparty also offers a gaming feature that clearly sets it apart from the competition. Currently, you can choose between Pictionary, trivia quizzes, a game called ‘Chips and Guac’ that resembles a simplified version of Cards Against Humanity, and Heads Up.

An ad-free oasis or the next marketing channel?

Given its surge in users, the question right now is how much longer Houseparty will remain an oasis for private conversations between friends before it turns into another marketing channel. Co-founder and COO Sima Sistani told The Verge that the company “hopes to profit by selling products that enhance the time people spend together in the app” instead of selling ad space. They do that by offering paid-for gaming add-ons such as packs of words for the Heads Up game.

Brands are, however, trying to find ways to join the party. Just this week, Chipotle is running a promotion offering free food for people’s next Houseparty. Even though Chipotle is not using Houseparty for the promotion itself, but Instagram, the fast food chain is aiming to exploit the current popularity of Houseparty.

Marketing website ‘The Drum’ predicts that traditional ads won’t work for the app but formats need to be bespoke. Suggestions include brand-sponsored games or influencer campaigns that offer exclusive video chats with brand ambassadors.

Will it outlive the virus?

The app offers a fun way to spontaneously connect with friends and will probably initiate more face-to-face interactions, which is important and helpful in our current situation where social distancing is key. It will be interesting to see, though, if people will keep bouncing between houseparties once we are all out and about again in real life with less time and most likely with texting returning as the main form of digital communications.

//Livestreaming 4.0: Why video alone is not enough

multiple screens

The cancellation of major trade shows, conventions and events has prompted companies and brands to switch to a digital presentation of their newest products. Many of those brands have turned to live streaming in order to deliver the “live experience” to their audience’s homes or to editorial offices. However, an online press conference or web-based product launch should offer more than just a simple broadcast of moving images. This is particularly true for special and demanding target groups such as media, investors and also generally for B2B communications. 

The cancellation happened at very short notice. Only two days before the first press day, the organizers of the Geneva International Motor Show announced that one of the most important trade shows of the industry would not take place. As a result, many car manufacturers moved their product presentations and world premieres online. They presented their latest models via livestream.

In general, livestream formats are a good way of providing media and other stakeholders with content and information they cannot obtain in person. However, demands of modern digital PR and communications won’t be satisfied by simply showing videos and presentation slides. The quality of information, the experience of that content, and the framework for its presentation have to perfectly fit together – just like at a physical event.

Rule of thumb: A digital premiere does not necessarily have to be expensive. However, it can only be effective if you give it as much attention to detail as you do with a conventional product launch. This applies to the preparation, the content, the protagonists and the “information logistics”. Only a true multi-faceted digital experience can come close to an in-person experience – a plain broadcast of images will certainly not.

Diversity is king

A modern and powerful tool for live PR offers professional users additional and in-depth information in a wide variety of formats. And it presents this information in context, on a proprietary platform with a proprietary setup, in a multimedia manner and in top quality. In addition, there should be download and magazine areas, high-quality photos of protagonists and products, video clips, prepared quotes (or even entire transcripts) as well as detailed fact sheets. 

The diversity of the content not only provides a wide and ideal working basis, but also takes into account the native integration of the content on the stakeholders’ individual communication channels.

UX is queen

Apart from the content aspect, modern PR platforms convince by providing an intuitive and compelling user interface. The decisive factor here is a visceral experience – regardless of whether users access the platform on a desktop or with their phone or tablet.

Interactive elements are equally important. Is it possible to show individual subtitles in the livestream? Is there an additional level of information that allows users to learn more about the product and the formation process?

Further usability criteria are multiple viewing angles in the livestream, search and filter options as well as the possibility to share content to other platforms by simply clicking a button.

Best practice: Mercedes me media

A modern PR tool for live communications can be compared to a digital content hub. While visitors at a classic trade show have to take notes and photos themselves and look and ask for additional information, the content hub is a place where all these assets are provided as a package.

A prime example is “Mercedes me media” – the digital media platform that has been developed by Mercedes-Benz in close collaboration with OSK. It is currently the most powerful tool for live PR and it offers journalists and other users a comprehensive service package, from speech transcripts to a snapshot function for generating high-res images. The application includes the audience authentically into the digital live event despite spatial separation. While some manufacturers simply posted pre-produced videos online after the Geneva Motor Show was cancelled, Mercedes-Benz used the “Mercedes me media” platform to vitalize a digital live press conference with appealing video sequences, engaging interviews and, last but not least, a real product presentation.

Mercedes-Benz is using the technological possibilities of this innovative communications platform even beyond Coronavirus-impacted situations. Early December 2019, the brand presented their latest compact car model, the new GLA, in a purely digital world premiere for the first time ever. The audience watched the product launch with augmented reality, had the possibility to switch between different camera angles, take snapshots of the livestream and turn on the speech transcript. 

This first digital world premiere of the Mercedes-Benz GLA on “Mercedes me media” accurately underlines the digital transformation the brand is undergoing. It moreover showcases the vast possibilities the platform offers for modern digital PR.

//Wine, perfume, and a good time – our first Creative Talk

On December 4th, 2019, we hosted the first event of our new event series Creative Talks which deep-dives into one topic pertaining to one of our key expertise areas: Design, Communications and Events.

Our inaugural Creative Talk revolved about the transformation of retail spaces from point of sales to storytelling platforms. We invited industry leaders and opinion makers to participate and share their insights and perspectives on the topic of the day.

Our guest speakers were Nick Arauz, CEO of Caswell-Massey – the oldest personal care product brand in America that more or less used George Washington for its first “influencer” campaign – and Tyler Balliet, CEO and Founder of Rosé Mansion – one of New York’s most popular pop-up experiences that combines wine tasting with relevant stories and instagrammable moments.

Check out the highlights here:

//Taking a detour: Reaching your audience away from the jammed content highways

By guest author Benjamin Brueckner.

While marketing focuses on reaching the end consumer, PR is mainly communicating with media representatives. Naturally, there are overlaps between these two communications disciplines. But one challenge, in particular, is uniting the two departments:

The classic communications channels are as packed as JFK is on Wednesday before Thanksgiving. However, the difference is that the content traffic jam is not only happening around holidays, but has become a permanent condition. One has to ask the question: How can companies reach their audiences in spite of these communications traffic jams? Which detours are available?

The direct way is not always the shortest

Mathematically speaking, the shortest way between two points is a straight. But client acquisition or media relations is not following those rules. Marketing and PR professionals do not operate in a vacuum but often find themselves stuck in overwhelming waves of content rushing towards the audience. Press releases, pop ups, and all other content formats – the predicted information overload caused by too much content is real, not only for consumers on the receiving end but also for communications professionals who are sending the messages.

The consequence is that people start to automatically filter their media consumption, which makes it harder for companies to reach clients and journalists. Nevertheless, it’s not impossible.

No cutting through on highly-trafficked communications channels

Resembling a highway in LA, communications channels now often have to deal with miles-long traffic jams. Participants in these traffic jams are numerous publishers that try to get as fast as possible from Point A – their channel – to Point B – their audience, may it be a client or a journalist.

But what happens when communicators don’t follow the mainstream but make a turn to take a detour to get to their destination? With respect to communications, the question is: How can you reach your audience in a different way to avoid the content traffic jam on the major communications highways?

Targeting the personal environment

The importance of the personal environment is often underestimated, even though communications professionals mostly agree that word-of-mouth plays an important role in terms of buying decisions. A study showed that every third personal recommendation has led to a new sale. But not nearly all PR and marketing people make use of this fact to create campaigns that target the social environment of their clients.

When looking at the customer journey, people often focus on online and offline touchpoints with the brand. What is often neglected is the value generated by social interactions: a happy customer telling her friend about the new hair saloon; the employee who tells the CEO about a production company whose website he visited a couple of weeks ago.

Both examples show that the brands did not personally convince the friend or the CEO, but their social contacts did. Such recommendations can happen arbitrarily. Or they can be created.

The same applies for journalists. In this case, companies should focus on their own story and mission statement: An exciting founder’s story on the company website can inspire people to tell their journalist friends about the brand. Or it can inspire the journalists themselves.

Avoiding dead ends

To prevent detours from becoming a dead end, companies need clearly defined secondary target audiences that are in close relation to their customers and have certain level of influence. It is not effective to target a huge corporation’s interns with ads or PR pitches if their opinions are never hear by upper management.

A more goal-oriented approach is to target the levels below top management. There, you are more likely to find employees that can influence decision makers. A senior team member could, for example, convince the marketing director to work with a new innovative company by giving his or her recommendation.

However, with small businesses that have flat organizational structures, even a new and young employee could influence the owners by telling them about his or her recent experience with a new payment method, which can inspire the owners to implement it in the store.

So the question is: How can companies define which secondary target groups are right? The answer is: They have to analyze the social connections of their primary target audiences.

Three steps towards a clever communications detour

Three steps have proven to be working well for B2B as well as for B2C when it comes to defining your communications detour:

1. Define your primary target audience: Each service and product has to focus on a primary target audience. Marketing and PR have to focus their campaigns clearly on these targets, which is the normal practice.

2. Target the social environment of customers and journalists: Many advertising and communications professionals stop strategizing after this first step and move on with implementation. However, it is advisable to plan various side campaigns in support of the main campaign to target the social environment of the primary target audience.

3. Identify further social contact points: If you have done a thorough analysis of your primary target audience, you should know their hobbies: Which sports do they do, which cultural interests do they have? Based on these answers, you can create your supporting side campaigns that target additional potential social contacts.

An example: A granola bar brand sponsors a discount for a local gym membership. Automatically, trainers at the gym who recommend a membership will also promote the granola bar with it. In addition, the gym can also sell the granola bars at its locations.

The granola bar brand thereby achieves multiple communications objectives: Brand awareness, reputation management, customer engagement through secondary audience and increased sales. The gym can increase its membership numbers and new member benefit from a discount – a win-win situation for all participants.

// About the author

Benjamin Brückner is a journalist, blogger and founder of the online platform Freelance Start. After years of working in the editorial teams of radio and television stations, he published two books and is now working as an editor and newsletter director at Zielbar. On his personal blog, he regularly writes reviews, book tips and analysis of social topics. In his private life, he is interested in philosophy, history, sports, digital news and creative writing.

//Welcome to the world of OSK New York!

Hi everyone!

Welcome to the world of OSK New York! You might have seen our website where we showcase our best work and talk about our impressive skill set – but this is not the same thing just in a slightly different format.

Our blog will introduce you to our micro cosmos, the world of OSK New York: NYC agency life meets creative/fun ideas meets relevant topics of local and global scale.

Expect to see impressions from the latest and greatest of our travel and adventures, our thoughts on new trends and cultural issues, topics that are of interest to us due to our work or personal backgrounds, and simply fun stuff. We will touch on anything from experiential pop-up spaces, flying cars, and PR stunts to food halls, the curviest roads to drive on, and the environment.

Our team consists of highly organized and wildly creative individuals who have lived and worked on four continents. With our different backgrounds, we complement each other in the work we do. On a personal level, we have grown into a multicultural family.

We hope you enjoy our stories!