Over the weekend, Michael Phelps raced a great white shark. Technically. Digitally. Sort of.
When I first heard about it, I misheard that he was raising a shark. The images I was conjuring in my mind were much more adorable.
As a digital media company, of course we have to make a comment about Discovery’s digital shark, but first, some background.
Phelps, given a monofin (which makes one a mermaid or merman) and specialized training, lost to a shark that was (to the best that I can tell) modeled after an actual shark in the same conditions and area chasing down it’s lunch, but then added into the video of Phelps swimming. The reason? They didn’t want to risk his life.
I think we can all understand this, but I don’t know why they didn’t just get a 100 meter long shark cage. That would have been awesome.
The statistic that Phelp’s best speed is between 5-6 mph and a great white shark’s is around 25-30 mph had many people questioning how it could be viewed as an even fight, even if he was a temporary merman. Phelps swam the course in 38.1 seconds to the shark’s 36.1. He only lost by 2 seconds, which is fairly insignificant when talking about a human competing against a shark. However, 2 extra seconds of load time can be enough to bounce the majority of your traffic. Websites that take over three seconds to load experience this, so the difference between a page that loads in 2 seconds and one that loads in 4 seconds is a significant difference in the world of SEO.
Many people felt so betrayed by the lack of an actual shark that they stopped caring about the clear competitive edge that a shark has soon enough, though. The experts claimed that sharks lack the necessary stamina to make it the 100 meters (yes, the speed is in miles and the distance is in metres. You can calculate the differences yourself.) without slowing. Whether or not this technically evens the playing field is questionable, but that was never the point in the first place. The point is that you heard about it.
Yes, it was super gimmicky, but it did get a lot of attention for Shark Week. In my day, Shark Week just needed to be Shark Week to get attention for Shark Week, but you know how kids are these days. They just don’t understand sharks like they used to- pure, awesome, and not sharing B-movie titles with a natural disaster.
Source: Sharknado No.
Marketers need to understand that people want novelty more than ever, which is why redundant displays are less effective than they used to be. A good paid media specialist understands this and makes sure that ads aren’t overshown to the point of fatigue.
Finally, Shark Week is an informational treasure trove of facts about the ocean and Selachimorpha. It may use gimmicks and the fact that there are sharks to get people to watch, but it does provide value to the viewers in more than just an informational way. That was one of the main reasons Phelps even got involved- to learn more and help raise interest.
Good content mirrors this ideal. Your blog shouldn’t be an accumulation of articles that overuse keywords in an attempt to signal to the universe the purpose of the website. Good content will provide value, which will really amplify those signals. Search engines are getting ‘smarter’ everyday, so content that serves no purpose beyond having a rough semblance of SEO value just won’t cut it anymore.
— Shark Week (@SharkWeek) July 24, 2017
Marketing these day needs to take a page from Shark Week’s playbook. From being aware of Facebook ad frequency to optimizing site speed to making sure your design is as wicked and stand out as that shark was crossing the finish line. If the massive, speedy kings of the ocean aren’t enough to ensure that there will be viewers, we have to make our moves smarter than ever. Sometimes that means going with the flow and following trends and sometimes that will mean swimming against the tide and creating your own path, but if you’re brave enough to swim with the sharks and live to tell the tale about it, you must be doing something right.