All posts by Ian Schafer

Ian Schafer, CEO and Founder of Deep Focus (a part of Engine USA), is one of advertising’s most influential voices in interactive marketing and social media. Prior to founding Deep Focus in 2002, Ian was Vice President of the New Media division of Miramax Films. Deep Focus is an award-winning integrated digital agency, powered by social media boasting a client roster that includes brands such as Pepsi, Microsoft, Capital One, WellPoint, NestlePurina, and The National Association of Realtors. Under Ian’s guidance, Deep Focus has been lauded for its expertise and excellence at using digital media, technology, creative, and communications strategies to create engaging, value-driven experiences that get people talking. The Emmy® Award-winning firm has been responsible for many memorable, award-winning efforts over the years including 2009’s, and has been the recipient of numerous distinctions, including several IAB & Webby Awards and a Cannes Gold Lion. Named a ‘Media Maven’ by Advertising Age and one of Adweek’s “Young Ones”, Ian has been featured in Wired, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Adweek, Advertising Age, USA Today, New York Magazine, Variety, CNN, Fortune and The Hollywood Reporter. Ian also sits on the executive board of the Social Media Advertising Consortium, and the Global Advisory Board of Global Social Media Week.

Blurred Lines: The Slippery Slope of Reviews-As-Ads.

Lately, I’ve been reading numerous articles about brands paying to raise the profile of positive press and reviews.

Digiday writes about paying to distribute positive press via contextual links:

In February, McDonald’s got a media mention that it found flattering — someone wrote a Huffington Post article that called its new line of Fish McBites “delightful.” So naturally the fast food chain wanted as many people as possible to see it. The solution: McDonald’s bought ads from content syndication platform Outbrain to drive traffic to it.

Digiday also writes about CNET selling ads that promote their positive reviews of products.

This past April, CNET senior editor Jessica Dolcourt reviewed the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone. Under the headline “The everything phone for (almost) everyone,” the CNET veteran journalist gave the device 4.5/5 stars in a detailed, mostly positive review. She did have reservations about the Galaxy S4’s dim screen and “cheaper look” compared to rivals like the iPhone.

Fast forward eight months: Dolcourt’s review is now part of a new advertising product CNET sold to Samsung, which purchased the right to promote the editorial review through “CNET Replay.” Visitors to CNET yesterday saw a paid promotion of the review on the homepage, in the midst of the site’s “river” of editorial pieces, called out in a shaded box with a “CNET Replay” label on the thumbnail photo. Clicking on the advertising link takes users to the original review.”


I’ve seen this before. When you take reviews or press and start turning them into advertising it doesn’t end well. In my time in the movie business I’ve seen countless movies feature reviews that were written solely for the favorable quotes, solely to give it a chance to make it to the movie’s poster or DVD packaging, solely because the studio wanted it. Ever read “Wireless Magazine”? Of course not. It barely exists. But ‘critics’ like Earl Dittman (it’s owner and resident film critic) have been providing quotes for years, presumably in exchange for being entertained at film junkets or other quid-pro-quos.

But this practice really reached its low point in 2000 when Sony Pictures just cut to the chase and produced a fake film critic, David Manning, to attribute reviews to.

I’m not saying the ad & publishing industries are there right now. But as we’ve seen in the past, anything is possible when you blur the lines between advertisers and editorial — or when those lines are completely erased.

Tread lightly.

A Google+ Hangout: Social Media’s Impact on Storytelling.

Today I was part of a roundtable discussion about social media’s impact on storytelling with brilliant social media strategist Rohit Bargava, the amazingly talented musician Daria Musk, founder of Future of StoryTelling Charles Melcher, and storytelling expert (she wrote the book) Annette Simmons. Watch above and be sure to attend the Future of StoryTelling event in NY on October 3, 2013.


How To Search For Twitter Usernames Directly From Chrome.

It’s been bugging me for months. I wanted a better, easier way to search for people’s Twitter usernames directly from the Chrome omnibox, without using a Google search.

Welp, I finally figured it out.

Step 1: Right-click on the Chrome omnibox and select “and select “Edit Search Engines…” (or go to Preferences > Manage Search Engines).

Step 2: In the “Other Search Engines” section fill in “Twitter User” in the “Add a new search engine” field, “@” in the “Keyword” field, and “” in the “URL with %s” in place” field. Click “Done”.


Step 3: Start searching. Simply type “@” with a space after it, and your omnibox will turn into a Twitter User search box.

Step 4: Profit.