Introducing VineViewer

VineViewer is a fun utility developed (rapidly) by SS+K and Firefall Pro designed to allow people to search the growing library of vines based on their tags. We were really excited by the launch of Vine. Like everyone else in our business, we immediately began thinking of different ways we might bring vines in on our client work. In doing so, we lamented that there was no simple way to search for vines of a specific topic, like love for Valentine’s Day. Now you can.

VineViewer has been featured in Fast CompanyCreativity Magazine and on AgencySpyBusiness Insider and in Creativity’s AdCritic Top 20.


The Social Generation: The Youth Vote and the Future of Progressivism

This article was originally published on the Huffington Post.

As the inauguration approaches and Washington gears up for battle, Americans tired of seeing our government held hostage by rigid ideologues, take heart. Help could be on the way in the form of young voters who flexed their political muscle in November.


Remember the predictions that young voters had had their fill of Barack Obama and wouldn’t show up in the voting booth? Whoops. One point twenty five million more of them voted for the president in 2012 than in 2008. If Progressives build on what drove them back to the polls, then they have a chance to secure an enduring majority.

That, of course, is a big “if.” The challenge is remaining faithful to the surprising complexities of young Americans’ views.

Our research shows that young people have a complex but coherent set of values that sets them apart from previous generations. They value open-mindedness and inclusivity, and abhor injustice. They embrace different races, sexual orientations and views. They are individualists who want to put their own innovative mark on the world. However, their individualism is wrapped in the collective. They collaborate in their personal lives and support it in politics. The Progressive bedrock value of communitarianism is in their DNA — to them, we are better and stronger together.

Yet, they are not wooly-headed dreamers, but pragmatic idealists. They came of age during the 2000s — the decade of 9/11, two wars and the Great Recession. They are ready to work hard, applying their mastery of technology and belief in education to get ahead. They believe in themselves and think their generation is uniquely capable of solving big problems. They admire Mark Zuckerberg and suspect that they, too, could be successful entrepreneurs. They are optimistic, but know their American Dream will be different than their parents’. And that’s OK by them; they think the Boomer generation was blinded by the materialism that caused our economic troubles.

The hard part for Washington to admit is that young Americans think politics and politicians aren’t worthy of their time. Typical politics, and political speech, alienates them. Yet, for them, President Obama is different. They feel he “gets” them and the way their modern world works. His life speaks to them: his international, mixed-race roots; the fact that he and his wife finished paying off their student loans only a few years before entering the White House; his comfortable use of technologies like Reddit, Twitter and YouTube.

Beyond his personal attributes, the president’s priorities proved his values were theirs: making college and healthcare more affordable; ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; maintaining a women’s right to choose; calling for a fair tax code; investing in clean energy; reforming Wall St.; and perhaps most notably, supporting gay marriage.

These policies reflect young people’s idealism but also their practicality. They reason it is downright stupid, especially during a challenging economy, to discard children of illegal immigrants, gay Americans, young women dependent on Planned Parenthood for everyday healthcare, or people with preexisting medical conditions. Yes, it’s morally wrong, but it’s also bad economics. Because who knows where the next Zuckerberg will come from?

The really bad news for most Republicans is that young people don’t think they get any of this. How could they, if they oppose gay marriage, abortion rights, or enlightened approaches on immigration, education, foreign policy or the environment? Most young Americans see the Right as too narrow, focused only on big business and an outdated way of life that’s not coming back.

But what rankles them most is the Right’s perceived intolerance. How dare they impose their values on us? Who are they to keep any American from living happy, hectic, productive, confusing, meaningful, boring lives — just like the rest of us?

Perhaps nothing in the presidential campaign better captured how far removed the Republican establishment is from young Americans than its reaction to the TV ad our firm created in which the actress Lena Dunham endorses President Obama. Viewed over 2.5 million times on YouTube, Ms. Dunham advised young people why their “first time” was so important. Young people got the joke, but Fox, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the Right erupted. Erick Erickson, editor of, said the video was “further proof we live in a fallen world destined for hell fire.” Could there have been any better evidence that the Right doesn’t get it?

Young Americans’ pragmatic idealism gives Progressives, and the president, a built-in advantage in current debates. Young Americans believe it’s no longer possible to defend the indefensible: you can’t argue against more gun control in light of Newtown; against a more fair tax system in light of our country’s income inequality; against immigration reform in light of our historic embrace of immigrants; against climate change in light of extreme weather like Sandy; and against gay marriage in light of the obvious inequities.

To young Americans, these Progressive ideas are good for both the soul and a secure economic future. It’s not about politics, but their unique value system molded in the blast furnace of our changing world. It’s shrewd and inspiring, and for them, a blueprint for life.



7 Discoveries and Observations From the CES 2013 Conference Floor


1. No matter how good you think your TV is now, it can always get better.

This year television manufacturers showed off new Ultra High Def (UHD) televisions that have 4K resolution, or about four times the resolution of today’s high definition screens. These big and beautiful TV’s show virtually no pixelation when displaying UHD content (though upscaling non-UHD content may be less compelling). Also present were new curved televisions that enable viewers to have a more balanced viewing experience (each inch of the screen is equidistant from the viewer), and an impressive dual-view 3D TV by Samsung that enables two people to watch different high definition 3D broadcasts in full screen at the same time from the same television.


2. It’s more fun to use human interfaces and have physical interaction.

While TV’s, phones, computers and cameras steal the headlines at CES, smaller companies tucked away in the corners innovating in ways you can’t imagine are much more fun. And many of these companies are helping us to interact with the world a bit more by building physical interaction into technology. One particular cool gadget is Sphero, a hackable robot ball that you can control via your iPhone, around a physical track. Sphero can also trigger augmented reality experiences, and be used itself to control computer programs through physical manipulation. Also peek at Sifteo cubes, small computer cubes that pass information between each other, enabling all sorts of interactive puzzles and games.

3. Health technology and the quantified self are at a tipping point.

All sorts of companies are making health-tracking devices, from health start-up fitbit, to Nike Fuel to Jawbone Up, that track anything from how many steps we’ve taken to how well we’re sleeping. But wearable bracelets won’t be the only way we measure, share and analyze our health data. Withings has a connected scale that measures your weight, BMI, heart rate and even the air quality around you. As more companies enter the health tracking fray product innovation will collide (Withings has a wearable monitor now, and Fit Bit has a connected scale). The bigger question will be how well these companies can guide our real life health improvements based on all of the data we’re collecting.

4. Every device will be connected soon (so plan for bigger data plans).

Just about everyone seemed to enjoy playing with Samsung’s new Galaxy Camera, an internet connected digital camera with an Android operating system built in. Now you can install your favorite mobile apps like Instagram right to your camera to filter and share photos as soon as you take them. Samsung also showed off a connected refrigerator that includes popular applications like Evernote, so people can collect recipes from anywhere and browse or view them directly on the screen in their kitchen. With the internet of things growing so quickly, ubiquitous connectivity and shared internet plans will need to improve along with it.

5. Kickstarter is one of the most exciting names in consumer technology.

One of the most anticipated announcements at CES was from Pebble, the ambitious smart watch that was funded on Kickstarter. The Pebble raised a record-setting $10 million dollars to build their product back in April, but didn’t announce their shipping date until CES. If Pebble lives up to its promise once in the hands of consumers, the next CES might be much more focused on the independent technology innovators that are arising in part to innovative funding models like Kickstarter, rather than the big behemoth technology companies that lead the market today. In fact, many of those big market leading companies seem to be pulling out of CES all together.

6. The big four internet companies are confusingly second fiddle at CES.

Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook, known as the big four internet companies, have become successful through their merging of content, services and technology in a user-friendly way. Each, to different degrees, are defining what it means to be a connected product today, from user experience to content to ecosystem compatibility. And while CES is full of other companies making devices for those platforms, the names defining the space need to stand up and illustrate their vision for the future. There may have been hundreds of devices from different companies on the CES floor that included Android, but Google needs to lead the discussion of how all these devices will work together with Android at its core.

7. The days of CES as a trade show are over; welcome to consumer marketing central.

The biggest story going into the week was actually how few product announcements would be taking place, with many technologies likes cameras and phones now saving their biggest own popular trade shows later int he year and big names like Microsoft having left altogether. But a reported 150,000 people from every walk of life attended the convention this year, the largest audience in CES history. More significant may have been the tens of thousands of brands, sales and marketing companies who spent the week in Las Vegas talking about the implications of the consumer electronics revolution and its implications on media and marketing, without ever stepping on the conference floor. CES may be changing, but for new reasons its just as interesting and important none-the-less.

This content is cross-posted from Kevin’s personal blog.



Instagram, Let Us Pay

This article was originally published on Digiday.

It’s tempting to say we should have seen this coming, once the ink dried on Facebook’s $1 billion check.

Instagram’s recent terms of service change is straight out of Facebook’s playbook: Push too far on privacy, get slapped back to reality. Lose a little more face and trust from your community but minimal, if any, loss in users. Facebook was never going to sell our photos; that would have been business suicide.

But the writing is on the wall: Every misstep is leading to a larger outcry. We’re witnessing a death by a thousand cuts of the purely free, advertising supported social platform.


Instagram taught us free apps could be magic. With one touch, anyone can be an amazing photographer. A combination of filters, simple sharing and a passionate community helped Instagram skyrocket to Internet fame. The first two benefits are replaceable, as just this week, Flickr and Twitter rolled out copycat products. What’s left is community, and Instagram’s community is what Facebook paid for.

But communities are transient; they can’t be taken for granted.

And people are reconsidering whether this model is worth the disappointment and haphazard respect for their privacy, for an unpredictable product.

More and more, people are asking to pay to access and consume on their own terms of service, instead of “We gave you this for free, you are the product, deal with it.”

Dalton Caldwell’s ambitious could be just the beginning. Even Flickr is starting to look pretty attractive again with a shiny new iPhone app and paid plan that ensures rights for users, not advertisers.

This was a seminal year for Instagram, from its billion dollar sale to Facebook to the first-ever Presidential re-election advertising campaign to run on the platform, #ForAll. But yesterday, the platform’s community of 100 million shouted a harbinger of things to come: What the community giveth, it can taketh away.

Social communities have power, they can effect change, and if they can help elect a president, they can certainly crumble irresponsible social networks and an abusive ad-supported model.



Happy Holidays From SS+K


Obama/Biden 2012

We pride ourselves on producing campaigns that get people talking, thinking, acting. And the Obama/Biden 2012 presidential campaign got people talking, thinking, and acting like no other effort in modern American politics. Thousands of campaign staff, hundreds of organizations, and many other agencies worked on advertising and media. We’re incredibly proud to be counted as a small part of the team.

As the campaign’s youth agency, we developed two campaigns to reach young Americans.


The first campaign – “First Time” – aimed to convince college students their first time voting was an important, life-changing decision. Moreover, we emphasized their ‘first time’ should be in support of the President.

We even got Lena Dunham in on the action. Through a video that’s been viewed more than 2.5 million times, Lena sparked a national conversation about the issues that matter most to young people.

The second campaign – “For All” – used the Pledge of Allegiance as its foundation. The campaign underscored both the president’s vision that we’re greater together and the values that connect young people to him. It provided young Americans the opportunity to share their own visions for the future. The idea was simple: write an issue on your hand, take a photo, post it on Instagram and spread the word. You might recognize some of people in the shots below. We think it was the first Instagram-based political advertising campaign and it reached deep into our target. More than 76,000 Twitter users tweeted with the #ForAll hashtag, potentially reaching more than 150 million people between September and election day.

The result? The numbers tell the story. 18% of young Americans turned out in 2008, with 66% voting in support of the President. This time around – even amid concerns about the economy and disenchantment with the political process – they turned out again and in record numbers. Young people made up 19% of the electorate in 2012, an all-time high, and 60% of them voted for President Obama. Analysts have said the youth vote made the difference in VA, OH, FL and PA, key battleground states that put the President over the top. Moreover, the ad was named Time’s #3 ad of the year.



NYC Taps Twitter to Power Through Sandy’s Aftermath

In the wake of the craziness that was Hurricane Sandy, I’m really impressed with how Mayor Bloomberg has used Twitter to keep New Yorkers as up to date as possible on what’s going with the city.

I’ve been following real-time updates all week via @NYCMayorsOffice, @MikeBloomberg, @MTAInsider and @NYCGov accounts.

Then this morning I noticed promoted tweets (which Twitter is providing for free to emergency services accounts) appearing in my Twitter stream highlighting the most recent city update tweets from the @NYCMayorsOffice.

And just now we were all invited to watch a live stream of Mayor Bloomberg’s upcoming press conference via an embedded inline YouTube feed (see the screenshot above or the embedded tweet below).

Thanks Mayor Bloomberg, and your whole staff, for doing what you can to keep us informed!

This content is cross-posted from Kevin’s personal blog.


On the Convergence of Politics and Advertising

SS+K founder Lenny Stern shares insights on politics, creativity + saving the world in Adweek’s Big Players, Big Ideas interview series.


Why is everyone at SS+K smiling?

Kids back in school?
Hedged against the euro?
Clint Eastwood called?
Bobby Hershfield?

Correct answer:
Bobby, our new partner/chief creative officer.

Bobby just joined SS+K last month and yet he’s had an immediate, energizing effect on us and our work.

See Bobby’s profile

He came from Mother (don’t we all?) and other great agencies, notably Wieden + Kennedy, where he went from being a good account guy to being a great creative guy. Thank you, Dan Wieden.

You can see a bit of Bobby’s work here and the announcement here – or, better yet, come by 88 Pine & see a bit of Bobby. You’ll smile, too.


Summer School

While most people spent the summer thinking about anything but school, we thought about it a lot. Great new clients Kaplan and American Student Assistance kept us in academic gear. And, in June, we launched the College Board’s Don’t Forget Ed campaign to keep education from being forgotten during the election cycle.


We put 857 empty desks underneath the Washington Monument to symbolize how many high school students drop out every hour of every school day.

The installation rocked, and made its way to the front section of the New York Times.

Next, we piled $1.5B in hundred dollar bills on Wall Street across from the New York Stock Exchange to represent what we gain by reducing the high school dropout rate by just one percent:


And it ain’t over yet. Hint: watch the debates