Helen Tien is the marketing director for Play Without Boundaries, a startup based on the notion of rethinking communications.
The graduate from University of Texas at Dallas business and global marketing student has a strong interest in strengthening long-distance relationships between family and friends through the meshing of live video and online play. She travels the nation, sharing her thoughts on the future of communications, which she calls Kinskii.
We ran into her at one of her speaking sessions at BarCamp Dallas, and given how interesting her thoughts were, we just had to share.
PA.O: Hello Helen, thanks for your time this morning. What started your interest in Kinskii?
Helen Tien: I know the founder, Jim Welsh, personally. We thought of this idea while I was studying abroad in Costa Rica. He has a young son, and when I was trying to keep in touch with him it was really difficult. He attended the Microsoft LAUNCH Hackathon, where you build a game around Microsoft Connect, which has a camera and motion-sensing technology. He wanted to create a game that made distance less of burden. Welsh created Kinskii based on that.
PA.O: How long ago did Kinskii start?
Helen Tien: The idea hatched in July 2014. Around September we received our seed funding. Technically, the idea is still growing. We’re launching a Kickstarter that will be ready around Feb. 7.
PA.O: So, what do you do on a daily basis?
Helen Tien: We are really trying to create a huge community in Dallas and the world at large to get our concept out there. The “video chat side” of the world is really developed. We have video and we have gaming, but we don’t have these two together for children aged 2 to 7. I guess my job is on a daily level. I do a lot of Kickstarter work, as in trying to get our product out there to people and groups who might need it, like military families, parents and mommy bloggers.
PA.O: How do you feel digital and programmatic marketing are changing the marketing ecosystem?
Helen Tien: From a startup point of view, my experience with programmatic advertising has been on a fundamental level in using social media ads to not only target our age range, but interests. That’s been super helpful for advertising. Programmatic advertising is not just about things you would want to see, but things you don’t want to see. We’re wasting people’s time when we show them things they aren’t interested in.
PA.O: What exactly do you envision to be the future of communications?
Helen Tien: I think we’re focusing on such a sterile direction in communication right now with Skype and other big name telecommunications services. It’s just about how fast and clear the picture is – minimizing the visual lag. We’re not thinking about why we are communicating, or the depth or humanity of our actual interaction.
Why are we talking? We’re talking to connect. Connection is crucial for all.
PA.O: Have there been any ad campaigns that have really stood out to you?
Helen Tien: The Ban the Box campaign by Business In The Community shows a really great example of using video to form a connection and engage with people on a truly human level. It’s a campaign that a lot of European countries are using to give people with a criminal record a chance to work and to not have their past held against them. I really love their advertising campaign.
It starts out like a YouTube video. This guy talks to you like he is in a job interview. You know how in YouTube there is a little “skip ad” button on the bottom? Well, when you click it in this case, the video just starts over again and the person starts trying to plead with you to listen to them. You’re put in the place of the interviewer, “checking the box” and dismissing them without even giving them a chance.
“I’m sorry you didn’t want to listen. I hope you can find time in the future to give an ex-offender like me a second chance …”
PA.O: Wow, that’s really moving. What would you tell advertisers and marketers they need to pay attention to in order to really make their video advertising more meaningful, from a Kinskii perspective?
Helen Tien: Marketers these days, especially those dealing in digital analytics, are too focused on making definitive statements, like X-types of people like these types of things, not those and that’s it. End of story. People between X-age and Y-age only want to do etcetera. That’s just like saying something like women aged 25 to 30 are focused on having children.
There are a vast amount of different types of activities and interests each person has that makes them unique. Putting people in boxes is a problem. I feel that this happens a lot on Facebook. I’m a certain age and advertisers limit themselves based on that. I think it’s going to be a huge issue in the future if we continue to see ads that make us say, “Hey, wait a minute … This isn’t me!” This box that you put me in doesn’t describe me at all. It’s about me as an actual person, not just the statistical demographic you use to define me with.
Thinking about people from the perspective of who they are, from a creative perspective, is really important for the future of advertising.