Archive for March, 2011

One is reminded of the Derek and Clive “This Bloke Came Up To Me” sketch, which we join half way through.

Clive : I was watching a game against Arsenal, and this bloke came up to me and said “Hello”.

Derek : Oh no…

Clive : And I thought, “Christ!”

Derek : Yeah.

Clive : You know, this bloke comes up to me, says, “Hello”.

Derek : Provocative fucker.

Clive : Fucking provocative.

Derek : Mmmm.

Clive : I said what do you mean, “Hello”?

There is much we can learn from this sketch.

Firstly that swearing IS big, funny and clever.

Secondly that it IS possible for other people to find you funny when you’re plastered and they’re stone cold sober.

But most importantly that people get wound up by the tiniest things.

Tiny things like the suggestion that social media aren’t necessarily the answer to life, the universe and everything.

In a there’s-a-clue-in-the-name kinda way The Ad Contrarian sets his stall out to be a provocative fucker.

The alleged massive failure in question was the Pepsi Refresh project.

This was the much vaunted (in social media circles) move by Pepsi to shift their entire Superbowl ad spend ($20 million) into a charitable social initiative.

A move which apparently “hasn’t worked.”

Talk about red rag to a bull.

I suspect that Ad Contrarian was quietly hoping that the social set would get its knickers in a twist when he wrote the Social Media’s Massive Failure post.

And the social set duly obliged.

Social media evangelist 1 : This blogger comes up to me, says, “social media’s massive failure”.

Social media evangelist 2 : Provocative fucker.

Social media evangelist 1 : Fucking provocative.

69 comments and counting at the time of writing.

Ad Contrarian is clearly a fucking effective provocative fire starter. Yeah.

And he carries a jerry can full of petrol with him just in case.

And petrol was duly poured several times in the immediate aftermath of his initial, firestarting post.

Finally, The True Value Of A Facebook Fan

The Pepsi Follies

Social Media Hysterics (ouch)

Anyway, somewhat belatedly, here’s my tuppence-worth on what has turned into an unhelpful, black and white, Social Media versus Advertising slanging match.

Firstly, not all ads, not all social media initiatives, not all advertising people, not all social media evangelists are created equal. As with just about every field of human endeavour a normal distribution of quality/ability applies.

The point being that a sample of one social media campaign is not proof of anything. What if Pepsi Refresh is a below average quality idea? What if it was below average in terms of how well it was executed? (And there seems to be some evidence to suggest that the execution was lacking in some respects.) What conclusions can we reasonably draw about social media as a whole from a single, possibly (probably?) non-exemplar campaign?

I have no idea how “good”, whatever “good” means, the Pepsi Refresh campaign is. It doesn’t matter. You can’t draw sweeping general conclusions from one specific case study.

And Ad Contrarian knows that.

But he hasn’t let that knowledge get in the way of a little fucking provocation and a lot of page views on his blog.

Secondly there’s the whole idea of a social media “campaign”.

The idea of replacing an ad campaign with a social media campaign.

Switching one kind of campaign for another.

Campaign is a useful concept for advertising. Advertising is an event based approach to communicating.

But I believe campaign to be a dangerous concept for all things social. Done properly social is a continuous approach to communicating.

A campaign (advertising) mentality begs the question “How can we use social media?”

A continuous mentality begs the better question “How can we best be social?”

Planning social campaigns as such feels like a very advertising thing to do. And, if Pepsi Refresh is a failure, I suspect that the underlying, campaign-for-campaign attitude is as much at fault as anything else.

There are plenty of brands that are doing very well by taking a long term approach to being social, rather than a campaign approach to using social media. Again the Pepsi Refresh example is no guide to future success or failure in this respect.

Finally the whole advertising versus social (either/or) debate is clearly nonsense. To the point of not being worth dignifying with further comment. Provocative, fucking provocative even, but not useful.

As another provocative fucker recently said…


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Before The Creatives See It is a Facebook page that exposes and “outs” the magpie instincts of advertising creatives by sharing the original content that it predicts will be appropriated into advertising in the near future.

A creative director that I used to work with was refreshingly candid about this magpie approach to “originality” and said that the most important thing was to “conceal your sources”.

Before The Creatives See It sets its stall out to make it harder to achieve this concealment.

But whilst it apparently taketh away with one hand, it giveth with another by providing the creativity community with a well curated source of shiny idea fodder from which to magpie.

In fact if I think about this for too long my head might explode.

No names no pack drill, but a cursory glance at the page’s likers (formerly known as fans) tells me that a significant proportion are advertising creatives.

I wonder how many of the page’s likers are advertising clients.

And I wonder whether any of the creatives will be brazen enough to magpie content shared on this page and turn it into an “original” advertising idea.

The page might make it harder to conceal their source from other creatives, but that’s ok as long as the client hasn’t seen it.

But what if the client has seen it?

But the account team hasn’t?

I wouldn’t want to be the hapless account man (Before The Suits See It) that presents the idea to the client that saw the source at the same time that the creative team did.

(Magpie related anecdote).

My brother in law was once grounded for a week for telling my mother in law that a magpie had stolen from his hand the change from the money she had given him for a shopping errand.

Lying was the worst thing her kids could do.

Some time later she was stopped in the street by a neighbour who said “Wasn’t it amazing how that magpie stole the money from your son’s hand? I could barley believe my eyes.”

Magpies really are that brazen.

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Seven words that make your heart sink.

The seven words that made Patricia McDonald‘s heart sink in the February post of the month (Planning for participation) were…

Then people can upload their own versions.

I completely second that emotion.

But I’d also add the seven words that make every digital agency wince. The seven words usually spoken by the ad agency in an all-agency, all-discipline meeting with a client.

And we’ve written a few viral scripts.

No you haven’t.

You’ve typed onto your agency’s script template and changed the word at the top from “television” to “viral”.

In other words you’ve written up a few film content ideas.

None of which have a cat in hell’s chance of actually going viral.

People who write TV scripts for a living – i.e. content that is created to work, and which does work, with an above the line media spend behind it – need to understand that the same kind of content without a media spend behind it can’t just be re-badged as a “viral” with any realistic expectation of success.

“Wanting it to be so”, in other words abandoning hope in favour of blind faith and expectation, just doesn’t cut it when it comes to creating content with viral intent.

Especially when that viral intent is a means to an overt and obviously commercial end. Very few people are going to collaborate with you if what you’re effectively asking and expecting them to do is to distribute for free something that looks, feels and behaves like a piece of advertising,

Smartwater wants it to be so.

Their agency has written a “viral” script on a television template.

In classic agency fashion they’ve “magpied” various memetastic ingredients and bunged them all together in the hope of achieving sufficient viral load for this thing to take off.

It is dreadful.

The only award this is going to win is “worst use of a celebrity”; namely the hapless and more than slightly bemused Jennifer Aniston.

(I think the bemused demeanour is genuine rather than acted).

See for yourself.

The fact that she’s in it, the fact that they’re calling it a “sex tape” and that the fact that it’s getting hundreds of embeds on dismayed blogs like this one have propelled it to just over 800,000 views at the time of writing.

Maybe the brand is happy with that.

But it pales into insignificance against the 26,000,000 views enjoyed so far by the Double Rainbow clip that is referenced in the ad-not-viral.

Truly, spectacularly viral is something that happens once in a blue moon to genuinely original content.

And half the time – Double Rainbow being a case in point – it’s impossible to post-rationalise and bottle up why it happened.

I keep hoping that the quest for viral will usher in a brave new world of experimental, 100% original agency-generated content (AGC).

But I’m still not sure that trad agency cultures, trad agency working practices, lots of trad agency creatives, or trad agency/client relationships are set up to deliver genuine originality.

This Smart Water film is no exception to that rule.

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There’s a fine line between healthy cynicism and bonfire pissing.

And it’s a fine line that the experienced creative industry practitioner has to tread carefully. Especially when she or he is dealing with the fresh-faced envangelism of a young, thrusting brand manager.

Marketing can be a ridiculously up itself business sometimes. And a sense of perspective born of experience is usually a good thing.

But one man’s sense of perspective is another man’s pissed-on bonfire.

Young, thrusting brand managers don’t do healthy cynicism.

By and large young, thrusting brand managers are not rewarded for health cynicism.

Quite the opposite in fact.

The young, thrusting brand manager’s brand IS the best thing since sliced bread.

(It fucking well is, ok?)


Your average young, thrusting brand manager is incredibly sensitive to the tiniest slight, real or imagined, on their brand.

In the eyes of a young, thrusting brand manager, if you’re not 100% with the brand you’re 100% against the brand.

The world of the young, thrusting brand manager is one of extreme black and white contrast.

They don’t do grey areas.

Which could be tiresome before the world went social.

(Tiresome to the extent that you’d occasionally have to play some silly bugger political games to ensure that a sense of perspective informed strategy and execution through the back door even if the brand manager were blocking the front.)

But now it’s a pretty big problem.

Put another way, if brands talk about themselves in social spaces in the way that brand managers talk about them there will be lots of Facebook-induced corporate nose bleeds.

All the things that are counter-intuitive to the young, thrusting brand manager are exactly all the things that make brands more human in social spaces.

  • Humility.
  • A sense of perspective.
  • Self-awareness.
  • The ability to say sorry.
  • (And mean it.)
  • Preparedness to accept that the competition can occasionally do something right.
  • Self-deprecation.

There needs to be a radical mutation of the brand management genetic code in order for the profession to evolve quickly enough to deal with the demands of social spaces.

Of course, and in the interests of perspective and healthy cyncism, I’m not saying that agencies are immune to the young, thrusting, anti-social mentality.

There are plenty of people in our world who have had the full frontal healthy cynicism lobotomy.

It’s no wonder that, as we’ve seen recently, agencies are just as prone to howling social media faux pas as our client-side counterparts…

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