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Global Advisory Board Spotlight on Sarah Wood of Unruly Media


Well, she knows a thing or two about viral videos. And from those that surfaced in 2011, The Lonely Island’s Jack Sparrow featuring Michael Bolton made her laugh; Steve Job’s Stanford address made her cry; and Nissan’s Ponies left her scratching her head and asking WHY?

But when she’s not heading up an Masters of Philosphy course in Online Video Culture at the University of Cambridge, spearheading the operations over at Unruly Media, or being the UK’s Female Entrepreneur of 2011, she’s helping us behind the scenes shape the global conference and create innovative approaches as our newest Global Advisory Board member. Here’s a little bit more you should know about Sarah Wood.


1. Can you tell us a little bit about how and why did you decide to get involved with Social Media Week?
Last year’s Social Media Week in London had the most incredible vibe- it was accessible, eclectic, stimulating and at times genuinely surprising. As part of SMW, Unruly hosted a breakfast screening of branded content from around the globe, followed by a lively discussion about the marked cultural differences in online video consumption and sharing. The event brought together practitioners from the ad industry, leading social media academics and digital natives from the top 5 video-watching nations. It was enlightening and immensely enjoyable and I was keen to get more involved. What I like about Social Media Week is that it feels like a movement with a mission- and one with incredible momentum.


2. Unruly Media has done some creative campaigns around the use of video in marketing. What interesting trends have you seen in this space and where do you see it going in the next few years?
The underlying trend over the last 6 years has been the explosion in video consumption and video sharing online. Data from ViralVideoChart.com actually shows a 20-fold increase in the sharing of branded content since Dove Evolution was the most-shared video ad of 2006. The Viral Spiral we released this month visualises the indisputable fact that social media has revolutionised what, why and how brands communicate with their audience and what, why and how a rising generation of digital natives are building and maintaining relationships with their peers. As brands behave increasingly like our friends- sharing their news on Twitter, seeking our opinions via Facebook, creating content that get us talking – consumers are increasingly open to watching and sharing branded video content.

At Unruly, we’ve seen a shift away from brands seeking a one-off YouTube hit and a move towards longer-term video campaigns, as brands have started to develop strategies for building long-term digital relationships with consumers. With 48 hours of video content being uploaded to YouTube every minute, brands need to work harder than ever before to win attention from their audience. Campaigns that combined online video with IRL (In Real Life) experiences proved especially successful in 2011, such as T-Mobile’s Angry Birds Live and the Carlsberg Bikers Stunt.

Brands have also become more agile: with video consumption patterns changing rapidly and social traction being so unpredictable, agility is a key component to brands succeeding on the social web. Social video is such a powerful medium for starting conversation and brands that want to extend the social spike and prolong the social sharing of their content need to know where their content is being positively received and shared so they can shift their media spend accordingly.

In 2012, we expect to see the US Election and the Olympics spawning memorable memes and ad campaigns. Social gaming platforms will become still more popular and we anticipate a threefold increase in ad spend across hand-held devices as convergence comes within touching distance and brands gear up for the challenge of building more deeply-embedded and sophisticated relationships with consumer.


3. What has been your favorite campaign to work on and why?
T-Mobile’s Wedding Dance: it was a classic example of the power of social video and has been widely recognised as the most successful UK ad of 2011. The campaign launch was perfectly timed to coincide with the biggest media event of the year. Saatchi & Saatchi’s video content appealed to the digerati with its royal version of “The Wedding Dance” meme, and the distribution strategy focused on social hubs and meme-hunters, the people most likely to kick-start conversation and amplify the brand.


4. How do you personally use social and digital media and has your work influenced that?
I use Posterous to blog about East End Street Art, Twitter for breaking industry news, LinkedIn for discussing issues and managing events with my favourite groups (Intelligent Gamification + London Tech COOs) and Facebook to wish my cousins happy birthday. It goes without saying that I use Unruly’s Viral Video Chart to share trending ads and daft videos of ponies.


5. This year’s theme for Social Media Week is Empowering Change Through Collaboration. How are you seeing this played out locally and globally?
I think that the scope and the seriousness of this year’s theme is commensurate with the seismic socio-political events and sweeping social changes that we saw in 2011, which were largely made possible by advances in social media technology and the new ways that people harnessed the technology to facilitate instantaneous collaboration and bring about direct action – be that riots on the streets of London or revolution in the Squares of Cairo.


Sarah is one to follow for the latest in video trends and just an overall creative approach to marketing. We asked her to leave us with one thought on the motto that she lives by and hopes her children pick up, and they’re pretty wise words:

“Things I tell my kids: Believe that you can do anything you set your mind to do but beware of setting your heart upon too much. If you can appreciate the fact that your glass is half-full you’re on the road to a happy life. You know I’m making this stuff up as I go along, right?”

Check out all the members of our board, and stay tuned for more from them as we approach #SMW12.

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