Simplifilm and Book Marketing Innovations

There’s a company called Simplifilm that makes really cool videos for businesses.

A lot of what they do is make videos for authors that are trying to sell their books. Ryan Holiday, Robert Greene, Seth Godin, and James Altucher are all authors that have used the service very effectively.

I like this ad for Seth Godin’s Icarus Deception:

I’m a big fan of Seth Godin’s, and I have been long before I saw this video. That’s why I find this ad interesting.

I’ve read a few of his books, and I’ve read his blog for a long time, but I’ve never seen a visual interpretation of his work. Simplifilm articulates very well what is in the book, while at the same time leaving a compelling enough mystery to purchase the book. They do this very well with both businesses and authors. In fact, I’d give them credit for my initial interest decision in purchasing Ryan Holiday’s book, which in turn became one of my favorite and most influential books.

One doesn’t usually encounter video advertisements for books. Logically, it doesn’t make sense right away. Books are textual mediums, meaning they should be publicized with book reviews and recommendations (usually exemplified by the New York Times book review). That’s why I think this is so creative, though. There are a million niche audiences that buy books. I think I’m actually one of them. I don’t read the New York Times book review, and if I did, I would never make a purchasing decision based on it. A review may perhaps put the book on my radar, but that’s about all I’d give it credit for.

A video gives a sneak peak at the book in a visually appealing way from the author’s point of view. The next steps are easier, too. You’re already online; All you need to do it follow the link at the end of the video to check out more information on the book. This is incredibly innovative, and the videos are actually fun to watch.


The Genius of George Carlin

Most of those who inspire me have nothing to do with marketing. I never wanted to be a communicator because David Ogilvy kicked my ass into gear. No executive at Edelman has ever compelled me to write a press release.

That being said, I owe a lot to those who do inspire me. It’s a long list. For all different sorts of reasons, these are the people that inspire me as a communicator: Tucker Max, Tom Delonge, Ryan Holiday, Ernest Hemingway, Bob Lefsetz, Matt Stone & Trey Parker, my Uncle Danny, Tupac Shakur, Quentin Tarintino, Brad Pitt, Chuck Palahniuk, John F. Kennedy, and of course, the great George Carlin.

If I had to claim one figure as the one that inspired me to go into strategic communications, it would be George Carlin.

Of course, this is ironic. Carlin hated marketing and consumerism and spoke out often on these themes:

George Carlin was a cynical bastard. He perfected black humor and satire. But, most importantly, he was honest. His communication was authentic, and everybody felt it. In his own words: “If honesty were suddenly introduced into American life, the whole system would collapse.”

Carlin also taught me about words. His endless rants on euphemisms taught me more about writing and the English language than any class I will ever take.

I think the greatest lesson George Carlin’s comedy taught me was something Robert Greene professes: to Enter Action With Boldness.

This is the guy that literally defined which words weren’t allowed on television by listing them on television preceding the court case. Constantly pushing the envelope led to Carlin’s best material, and it is the reason that virtually every popular comedian today will list him as an inspiration. One my favorite bits of all time features Carlin railing against American’s incessant fears:

In his own words: “Comedy is filled with surprise, so when I cross a line, I like to find out where the line might be and then cross it deliberately, and then make the audience happy about crossing the line with me.”

The Benefits of a Low-Information Diet (or What’s Wrong With The News)

I read the news. Most of the time, I get it from aggregates like Google News or Reddit. But I remain very skeptical, and I question everything I read. I have two main qualms about the news, one public and one personal.

First, the public case:

In 1919, Upton Sinclair published a scathing expose of American journalism titled The Brass Check. In 2012, Ryan Holiday published one called Trust Me, I’m Lying. There are some striking similarities between the two and some very good reasons to be skeptical of the news.

First, Holiday compares the iterative style of today’s blogs to that of yellow journalism of the past. Since both thrive on one time readers (each time you click on a blog post, the site’s advertising worth goes up), both of them relied on sensationalist headlines. Furthermore, blogs today are easy to manipulate by PR specialists because of their almost desperate need for content (some requiring writers to post up to 7 times a day). Marketers are easily able to pitch their story to a smaller blog with less of a following and less journalistic standards (but a larger hunger for content). Once their story is posted on a smaller outlet, they trade up the chain using anonymous tips or even official pitches and press releases to garner media attention in bigger blogs. It doesn’t matter if the story is false, because the blog can simply link to the smaller story and quote them on it, effectively hijacking page views from the “work” the smaller blog did, but without the responsibility of the first-hand reporter.

As Holiday says in the book, “The medium believes it is giving the people what they want when it simplifies, sensationalizes, and panders.  This creates countless opportunities for manipulation and influence.  I know what the cumulative effect of this manipulation is: Its effect is unreality.  Surrounded by illusions, we lash out at our fellow man for his very humanness, congratulate ourselves as a cover for apathy, and confuse advertising with art.  Reality.  Our lives.  Knowing what is important.  Information.  These have been the casualties.”

All of this information is available in Ryan Holiday’s book Trust Me I’m Lying.

On another note, I believe that today’s journalism favors sensationalism because of the virality potential of social media. Holiday explains “high-valence emotions,” emotions that are strong enough to urge people to share the story with their friends. He says, “anger, fear, excitement, or laughter–these drive us to spread.” Therefore, nothing is sacred, and stories are deliberately delivered to stir up debate, controversy, surprise, and anger. Sean Parker experienced this first hand a few months ago when he was the victim of a deluge of internet hate caused by inaccurate journalism. After getting details on his wedding wrong, thus ensuing and onslaught of hate, he wrote this piece as his response. About the incident, he said, “never mind that none of the accusations were actually true. Truth has a funny way of getting in the way of a great story.”

And of course, I have my personal reasons for abstaining from a-high information diet:

Most of it is simply irrelevant.

Like I said previously, I keep up with the news via aggregates and Reddit. This means that, while ignoring the vast amount of crap produces by CNN, Gawker, or Business Insider, I still know what is going on in the world.

But I get to ignore Miley Cyrus. Because keeping tabs on her life will not do anything to my life except steal my most valuable resource: my time.

Tim Ferriss details a section in his book about the benefits of a low-information diet on one’s life. His quote: “Information is useless if it is not applied to something important or if you will forget it before you have a chance to apply it.” He also has 39 posts with the tag “low-information diet” on his blog.

Ryan Holiday’s wise words once again apply here: “When intelligent people read, they ask themselves a simple question: What do I plan to do with this information? Most readers have abandoned even pretending to consider this.”

HuffingtonPost’s most popular headlines today (9/9/2013)? “Kellie Pickler WOWS In Teeny Bikini”, “Miley Cyrus Gets Naked And Breaks Down Crying,” and “This Incredible Obituary May Be The Best Thing You Read All Week,” among others.

My point? Not all news is unimportant news. A lot of it is very pertinent. But most readers today cannot distinguish the different. Disregarding the sensationalist and false headlines above, for personal reasons, I’d rather read a book or go hiking than read things that have no bearing on my life and that I will forget about by the weekend.