It’s Spooky Season

Autumn is easily my favorite time of the year, with the darker evenings, the crisp weather and cosy knitwear it’s the ideal environment for my introverted self to thrive.  But for me, the best part of it all is that ‘Spooky Season’ officially begins.

If you are unfamiliar with the term ‘spooky season’ a quick search on urban dictionary describes it as the fall time of year when everyone gets ‘spooky vibes’. Ground-breaking. This may be meaningless and mundane to most, but not for me.  As a fan of horror and all things twisted, I completely take advantage of the festivities that indulge my fascination of the darker things in life. I know I’m not alone in this, and after making a trip to the cinema to see Joaquinn Phoenix’s performance as ‘Joker’ it got me into the Halloween spirit, with it’s jump scare tactics and graphic scenes.

I think it can be agreed that every day experiences in real life can be grim enough without voluntarily sitting through hours’ worth of uncomfortable and intense remakes, whether it be a horror movie or a true crime show, yet there are many likeminded individuals who love to do it.

So in order to kick off the spooky season and celebrate the festivities, I have contrived a list of my favorite spooks for those cosy Halloween nights in; to spare you the hours of painful Netflix scrolling. Whether it be a gory slasher film or a psychological thriller,  these are some of my top picks:

 Psychological Thrillers

  1.           Get out / A quiet place

Both movies are directed by Jordan Peele, both movies equally as entertaining and clever in their own rights. Not the typical horror with demons and ghosts, but with the twisted warp on reality it makes for uncomfortable viewing. (I mean this in the best way).

  • Midsommar

Described as a ‘folk horror film’, this movie is not for the squeamish. The movie focuses on a young couple who travel to their friend’s hometown in Sweden; which just so happens to be celebrating their mid-summer festival during the time of their visit. At first the stay seems like a tranquil retreat but progresses into a series of disturbing events at the hands of a cult. A seriously bizarre watch, and some things I just won’t un-see. (I actually want to apologise to whoever watches this in advance.)

TV Series

  • The Haunting of Hill House

If you like a truly good ghost story this is the show for you. A gripping story line follows the adult lives of the Crain siblings, who are trying to deal with the ghosts from their past from their paranormal experiences in their childhood home. An ideal watch for the month of October to ease you into the Spooky Season.

  • Hannibal

Although it was cancelled after 3 seasons, it is still one of the best watches. Perfect for a rainy afternoon as it’s not overly intense but still fascinating and eery. 10/10 would recommend to a friend.

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Slasher Movies

Slasher movies may not be my go-to, but I think it is only appropriate to include these two titles. Ideal movies to watch with a group of pals, I don’t know anyone who enjoys watching slashers on their own? And if you do you shouldn’t admit to it.  Maybe throw in a bottle of Pinot and some pizza, an ideal setup to help with the scares.

  • Scream250px-Ghostface

This movie is a classic for Halloween time, it’s entertaining and witty but still will have you guessing ‘who did it’ and wincing at the blood and violence. However it can make for a frustrating viewing; apparently common sense completely goes out the window when being chased by a masked serial killer.

  • Halloween

The ‘Halloween’ film series with the infamous crazed killer Michael Myers is full of suspense, the newest addition to the franchise is my favorite so far. Halloween 2018, the ultimate showdown between Mike and Laurie Strode, a survivor of the crazed killer.       A satisfying watch.halloween-david-gordon-green

True Crime

  • Abducted in Plain Sight

Last but not least, ‘Abducted in Plain Sight’. This is a crime documentary on Netflix, probably one of the most bizarre true crime shows I’ve watched, its hard to believe that it is completely factual when watching some of the events unfold. You genuinely have to see it to believe it.

 

Bronagh Carey is a final year student  Bsc in Communication Management and Public Relations  at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram bronaghcarey_ and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bronagh-carey-702626173/

How PR is Changing In Today’s Society

The big world of marketing is ever changing and for me it is changing in one-way… everything is digital.

When we would traditionally look at marketing we would think naturally of newspapers, radio, TV ads, posters around the town. However that just simply is no more, everything is digital, on your phone instant, right away. This is partly because with the advancement of technology and internet we have also adapted and changed to the point that we also want everything instant, such as SKY where we don’t even have to watch the ads now, Netflix where we can watch a whole TV show in one sitting instead of waiting weekly.

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Yes, we have watched a 13 episode series, 45 minute long episodes in one night; it happens the best of us. However this goes deeper than just wanting to watch Netflix all night and watch your favourite TV show, its more than that, its Instagram and the perfect life we al want, with our favourite TV stars advertising these products that will make us look like them and the outfits that they are wearing, its all a made up persona filtered through a filtered app which filters reality into something that it isn’t. But regardless of that fact that is the way that marketing is changing.

 

Brands are now looking at influencers instead of posters and flyers which can be backed up by this graph below that shows that there is a massive increase every year from 2015 and this is because of the way that the market is going, with TV shows such as Love Island becoming ever popular, brands are aware that this is the way to market their products.

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In the last twelve months there has been a 325% increase in searches for Influencer Marketing searches on Google, this statistic has came from the InfluencerMarketingHub.

 

Again this shows that no one really is watching TV or posters, as there is a profound increase in digital marketing. This also applies to Facebook and targeted ads as they are also leading the way in that brands are targeting people in order to get them interested in their products. This will in the future result in their being no such thing as big TV ads and newspaper ads as people wont be watching them and this is a change that I feel is definitely coming and I don’t think that there is anything that will prevent this from happening.

Personally I feel that this is a far more engaging form of advertising and a far more customer orientated experience as the business is able to build a personal relationship with the brand and therefore this increases customer’s loyalty, as customers love the idea of having that personal touch with a brand.

 

The massive release of the internet and how its changed has affected everything we used to be so familiar with when it comes to the way that companies advertise and to the way that we as people communicate and there are good and bad effects of this change. There still will always be a place in some parts of society where your local grandma will read the paper and get her local news but I feel that in years to come that will be a nostalgic practice rather than how that person generally gets their news. This shift has made a lot of people and job roles borderline useless however if news agencies and brands adapt to the new times there are massive gains to be made, however if they are trailing their feet they will no doubt go out of business and that is just the harsh reality.

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Personally at the end of the day I feel that this is only a plus the change that the Internet and social media have made in PR today, it makes us more connected and more up to date with the world, but like with anything there is a cost and that cost may be that all of your personal information may not be locked up really secure so that no one can know your DOB, but I feel that you will either accept the changes that is occurring in the world, learn to accept it and grow with society or you will be left behind.

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Netflix: Binge Responsibly

Netflix: Binge Responsibly

We have all done it. Sat down on the sofa with some crisps or a cup of tea and pressed play with the intention of watching an episode of a new series your friend recommended on Netflix. Next thing you know, it is 5am and almost an entire season later. Do you have any regrets? Absolutely not. There is something very satisfying about being able to continue watching and not having to wait until next week to see what happens. In October 2017, Netflix recorded 109.25 million subscribers, which is no doubt growing.

In theory, if you have the time (or are willing to give up a night’s sleep), there is nothing actually wrong with enjoying a Netflix binge is there? I mean, it’s fun, convenient and even legal, so why not? I think if you keep on reading you will hopefully see some of the downsides of Netflix binging…

It is highly addictive. That may sound strange as Netflix is not often associated with addiction.

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In 2013, Netflix hired the anthropologist Grant McCracken to research how people watch TV, given the rise of on-demand streaming services. McCracken found that 61% of people who stream regularly said they binge-watch. A new study from the University of Toledo calls binge-watching “a growing public health concern”. Of 408 people surveyed, 77% watched two or more hours of TV a day. Researchers also found that binge-watching had a positive correlation with poor mental and physical wellbeing.

You may think there is nothing wrong with an episode or three a night of ‘Stranger Things’, but only the most disciplined can switch off when Netflix’s auto play promises the next episode in 13 seconds.CS16

Like any addiction, the harm ultimately lies in what it’s taking you away from. A lot of these shows stop you living in the moment.

Some Netflix shows are so short, it’s easy to convince yourself that just one more episode won’t hurt. With other shows, it is the plot that tests your strength to step away. I can vividly remember the moment I finished all 6 seasons of Gossip Girl. I felt like I didn’t know what to do with myself now that my relationships with Blair and Serena were officially over. No I am not a crazy person with no life…I know for a fact that there are SO many girls out there who felt the same way!

The video streaming giant Netflix even recognised these dangers and jumped on the ‘bingeing’ bandwagon by introducing a light-hearted PR campaign for April Fool’s in 2013 with the message of, ‘Binge Responsibly’. If you watched more than 2 episodes consecutively, a video suddenly appeared, and an actress or actor from one of the company’s original shows warned the watcher against the perils of binge-watching.

 

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Like many people, I can struggle to sleep at night. This can often be the reason why I sign into Netflix at 2am, with the hope that it will help me nod off. Of course, this is never really the case. Well my friends, let me introduce you to Napflix – the Netflix for people who need to sleep, and it is a genius PR strategy! Napflix is a Spanish video platform which helps people get to sleep whilst also satisfying our Netflix habits. The platform finds you ‘the most silent and sleepy content selection to relax your brain and easily fall asleep’. There’s a menu that offers you videos about anything from religion to sports to music and is believed to help you into a deep slumber.

Here is a rather alarming statement; I calculated the approximate hours I have spent watching Netflix series, (excluding movies which I couldn’t even begin to go through), since September. The combination of watching Stranger Things, Beyond Stranger Things, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Riverdale and Gossip Girl (2 seasons) has totalled to 76.8 hours. For the entire year, I have calculated that approximately 335.15 hours of my 2017 has been spent watching a series on Netflix. That equates to nearly 14 days. Keeping in mind, this excludes movies and series not on Netflix such as Game of Thrones. If that isn’t a wake-up call I don’t know what is. It’s so easily done, and I would not have said that I had that much spare time on my hands this year (especially with the amount of complaining I did about how busy I was).

The worst of it is, I don’t even watch that much compared to a lot of people I know. When I do watch it, it is often on in the background whilst I go about my day. However, it will still slow me down as I progressively get engrossed in an episode and its characters. If you are also an avid Netflix watcher, I recommend you sit down and use ‘Binge Clock’ to do the same, I guarantee you will be surprised at the figure and will make you view your use of time with a whole new perspective!

Wait…you mean to say… no Netflix binge? What on earth would one do with their spare time? Here are a few crazy, out-of-the-box ideas;

  • Read a book about a subject you have always been interested in, but ‘never had the time’ to start – you never know what you’ll learn.
  • Spend more time with family.
  • Get ahead on university work which will lessen the future dissertation stress.
  • Go to the gym or for a walk, you will feel better after!
  • For those midnight Netflix burners, have some will power and try not to watch the next episode. Believe it or not – sleep is important.

As 2018 dawned, my New Year’s resolution was to Netflix binge responsibly, I can definitely think of ways I can put the potential extra fortnight saved to good use in final year of university…and so can you!

Chloe Stewart is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can follow her on Twitter @ChloeStewart8 or reach out on LinkedIn at  https://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-stewart-007150a4/

Big Brother is watching you…

Towards the end of 2016 Spotify put its abundance of listener data and insights to playful use in a new Out-Of-Home ad campaign, placing billboards globally after an initial release in the UK, US, France and Germany.

The adverts were created by the company’s in-house marketing team and revealed some of the weird and wonderful habits of its users, using accumulated and even some personal data, Spotify generated headlines such as;

“Dear person who played ‘Sorry’ 42 times on Valentine’s Day, what did you do?”

“Dear person in the Theater District who listened to the Hamilton Soundtrack 5,376 times this year, can you get us tickets?”

Spotify then ended many of the billboards with the tagline “Thanks 2016. It’s been weird.” In ways a celebration of both a great year for music and also the continued support and listenership of its users.

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The ad campaign by Spotify was clever and engaging and was received extremely positively by consumers for the most part.  What they managed to do in a way was to humanise the technology – this worked particularly well based on the personal and emotional connection that people have to it.

 

A not so successful story for Netflix…

On December 11th 2017, Netflix tried to apply a similar approach to Spotify in customer data and insight sharing, only this time using their Twitter account as the medium.

Netflix revealed that 53 people had watched its latest Christmas movie ‘A Christmas Prince’ everyday for the past 18 days, adding to the end of the tweet – “Who hurt you?”  The tweet has gained more than 100,000 retweets and 400,000 favourites at the time of writing.

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The tweet was intended to be light-hearted and humorous, but has faced a massive backlash from consumers, with many users describing it as being “creepy”.  The tweet has also managed to kick off a debate around how closely the company is watching its customers, and raises the questions, what exactly can it do with the data generated by the viewing habits of its users, and more alarming, how many people in the company have access to the data.

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Netflix were quick to defend the tweet and certainly didn’t feel that they had anything to apologise for.  They did however, reassure their users that their privacy was not totally being invaded with an official statement saying; “The privacy of our members’ viewing is important to us.”

But the question is – how did Netflix fail at something that Spotify managed to do so well?

The Spotify campaign had an underlying positive tone to it, celebrating the weird and wonderful habits of its users.  One the other hand, Netflix took a slightly harsher tone in their tweet.  ‘A Christmas Prince’ is a movie that they produced and marketed and it follows a format not unlike the ever-popular Hallmark Christmas movies.  The tweet comes across as a little judgemental, shaming those for falling in love/becoming maybe a little obsessed with their movie.

It could also be perhaps that people hold different emotional connections to music and TV or Movies.  Therefore, to be potentially confronted by your TV viewing habits would feel a lot more intrusive than for someone to know what music you’re in to.

Up until now we thought that the scariest feature about Netflix was the ‘Are you STILL watching’ screen that may pop up while you’ve been watching the latest addictive series for 4…5…10 hours straight (no judgement here!).  Now we know they’re documenting everything we watch.

Is this a PR disaster?  Maybe, a little.  Will it have lasting impact on the company?  Probably not – people will still continue to ‘Netflix and chill’ and binge watch their favourite TV series.  Perhaps next time though…Netflix should think of all the implications before trying to be funny on Twitter.

 

Jonny Allen is a final year Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University.  You can find him on LinkedIn here – https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonny-allen-257237112/

The strange thing about Stranger Things

The strange thing about Stranger Things

Two unheard of writers with no previous television hits, a bunch of dorky Dungeons and Dragons playing kids, and a random girl with a shaved head and some freaky powers. How did all of this turn in to the most watched Netflix series to date?

Note: For those who do not watch Stranger Things, I do apologise for the references in this post that you will not understand.

If you haven’t yet seen Stranger Things, then you must be living under a rock (or in the ‘Upside Down’, but you obviously don’t know what that is). The thrilling Netflix series is set in a small fictional town in Indiana named Hawkins and stars four young monster-obsessed boys.

The sci-fi sensation crept on to our Netflix home pages with an unanticipated effect. Fans of ET and the Goonies would be patiently waiting for the series arrival. But how did the non-monster loving fans get so hooked?

The phenomenon that is Stranger Things took the world by storm, so much so that people are wondering what they ever did without the show.  According to the shows writers, the Duffer brothers, the show was rejected 15 to 20 times by various networks before Netflix took it on (Thank you Netflix).

 So what is the strange thing about Stranger Things?

 Unfamiliarity 

Prior to watching Stranger Things, had you heard of any of the cast before? Probably not.  Most of them have had brief TV appearances before, except of course for Winona Ryder (Will’s mum) who is said to be one of the most iconic actresses of the 1990s.

The unfamiliarity of the cast is immensely successful, despite all odds. It is interesting to watch the characters and develop your own opinion on them, rather than comparing them to a previous show you’ve seen them in. Think about it, do you really see Daniel Radcliffe in any other film and not instantly think of Harry Potter?

Dustin GIF

 The kids

There is typicality about shows on Netflix nowadays with most being drug, prison or White House related. So what made Stranger Things stand out?

It’s simple – the kids! Of course, the story line itself is a very far stretch from drug mules and prison gangs but ultimately it’s the use of unheard of kid actors that make it so original. I think Stranger Things has everything that Netflix was missing – a cute adorable little dork like Dustin.

It’s difficult to grasp the challenge of a series starring teenagers, but not specifically directed towards a teenage audience and the Duffer Brothers did this perfectly! The average age of the Stranger Things fans is 18-29, a social media obsessed audience, which is evident in its media coverage online.

As well as this, there is a relatability about Stranger Things.

Dungeons and Dragons author David Ewalt says,

“You don’t have to have been a nerd in the 1980s to see yourself in one of those kids,” Ewalt continues. “We were all kids and we were all kids who faced our own monsters, whatever they were, and we’re going to relate to these characters who have a mission and troubles they have to face. Even a kid who’s that age today can look at Stranger Things and relate to it.”

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 Nostalgia and the absence of tech

Imagine if Lucas, Will, Dustin and Mike could Snapchat each other instead of using walky-talkies? What if Will could somehow text his mum from the Upside Down instead of talking to her through the light bulbs? Or if Nancy put out a ‘Missing person! Find Barb, please like and share’ on Facebook?

Lightbulb GIF

The absence of modern technology makes it for a much more exciting series. By stripping communication lines back to that day in 1983, it has our adrenaline racing considerably more.

 What is even stranger about Stranger Things?

As I previously said, there was nothing to warn us about the arrival of the demogorgon, the shadow monster or the darkness of the upside down.

So how did this sci-fi thriller turn in to an overnight sensation?

Just plain and simple Word of Mouth marketing

It’s easy, we trust our friends! If your friend tells you with their blood shot eyes that they have shamelessly been living under a duvet and bingeing on Stranger Things for two days, you are going to believe that it really must be something worth watching.

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Sometimes, word of mouth marketing is the only option, and it is a huge risk. The Duffer Brothers had a low budget and therefore had to gamble that people would love the show, and then talk about how much they loved the show – and this is exactly what they did.

Thanks to the success of Season 1, The Duffer Brothers had extra budget to splurge out on the ultimate advertising opportunity for the Season 2 premiere – The Super bowl. It captured the most social media buzz out of the 65 ads that were showcased during the game and generated an undeniable excitement 9 months before the series even returned to Netflix.

Strange Partnerships

What could be better than Topshop AND Stranger Things? The quick-witted Topshop launched an exclusive collection in partnership with Netflix to join in on the Season 2 excitement, and obviously massively increase their sales – clever Topshop! They flaunted Stranger Things retro inspired tshirts, jumpers and bags as well as a massive in-store Hawkins experience at their Oxford Circus store.

There is no doubt about the massive buzz about the new sci-fi Stranger Things, a show you never thought you would be this obsessed with (I know I didn’t). However, if you made it to the end of this blog and still haven’t watched Stranger things…

ST Shocked

…why haven’t you?

Loren Ward is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @lorenward and LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/loren-ward-b93049a8