28 August, 2009

How to be a Social Media Jerkhole: Talk about yourself all the time.

Click to feel the bigness. (from xkcd.com)

This is the inaugural post in a series that will probably be abandoned when the next big project at the agency comes down the pike and buries me (in a good way, of course). But for now, let's talk about social media. I mean, really talk about it.

More specifically, let's talk about brands. Brands aren't that much different than people.

People are inherently narcissistic. We love to talk about ourselves. So do brands. And with the proliferation of digital channels, there are more ways to do it then ever.

I've got a problem with that. Because, unless you're a good friend or you're saying something really interesting or you're paying me to listen to you, I don't care how awesome you think you are. I'm pretty sure most people would back me up on this one.

So here's my first tip for brands looking to break off a little social sumpin'-sumpin':

Stop talking about yourself all the time.

Don't think I haven't noticed. We've all noticed. The spammy self-promotional tweets. The over-amped, unsolicited press releases to bloggers.

You may own that media buy. That 1/4 page ad. That :30 broadcast spot. But you don't - and can't - own a conversation that happens off the reservation. It belongs to the people, comrade.

I'm always reminded of the not-so-old adage from Hugh McCleod:

Brands shouldn't be afraid to go off script. In fact, I encourage it to clients. It breaks the barrage of sanctioned messages consumers are used to seeing. It makes a brand seem more human.
Some ideas:
  • Retweet a dumb video of puppies.
  • Share photos of the marketing director whiffing at the company softball game.
  • Write a company blog about something you're passionate about- and are not paid to do at work (P.S. I strongly recommend that you avoid religion and politics. The discussions they rile up rarely end well.)
  • Promote someone else's blog post that you like - maybe even a competitor (If you're confident in your service and dedicated to giving your customers content of interest, what have you got to worry about?)

Just like in real-life interactions, no one wants to talk business all the time. Every now and then undo that top button. Loosen your tie. Lighten up a little. And take the emphasis off your business. You'll find it'll make folks more willing to listen to that promotional bit your brand throws out into the social ether next time.

So, when you're not talking about your business, what are you talking about?

How to be a Social Media Jerkhole: Talk about yourself all the time.SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

24 August, 2009

Intern Sweatshop: Sex sells in Thailand. Kinda.

We just can't seem to say goodbye to interns. Even when they leave us to travel half-way around the world, they're never far away thanks to the interwebs. Former intern Erica Campbell files this salacious dispatch from the sex tourism capital of the world:

When I came to Thailand three months ago, I didn’t think much about the sex industry or the prevalence of farangs (white people) as sex tourists. Walking around Patpong – an area with bars named “Star of Love” and “Super [Kitty]” – I realized I should have braced myself.

I hadn’t realized a 95% Buddhist country that frowns upon women in tank tops would accept prostitution so openly, let alone advertise it in neon with promoters hawking “Ping pong!” Or that the massive “massage” parlors, marked by few windows and billboard-size photos of the “masseurs,” would change the meaning of Thai massage for me. While struggling with my feelings about it, I wondered – how does this blatant display of sex-for-profit translate to advertising?
According to a study published in Investigating the Use of Sex in Media Promotion and Advertising, it translates consistently.

Female nudity was measured on a scale: 0 = fully clothed; 4 = nudity/bare bodies. Thailand and the U.S. showed the most female nudity in their advertising, especially compared to countries like China, South Korea and Brazil. Thai TV and magazine ads had the highest degrees of female nudity, challenging the assumption that Eastern values heavily influence advertising censorship.

But my own observations contradict this study’s findings.

During a half-hour talk show featuring a modeling reality show winner, commercials for brands like Dove, Sunsilk, Downy, Herbal Essences, B-ing (a diet drink), Nokia and Coca-Cola, didn’t show female nudity. The women were at 1 – covered shoulders, knee-length dresses or skirts, no cleavage. The billboards around Thailand are similarly scored. Magazine ads were around 2 or 3, which was proven in the study, but by no means equivalent to what’s seen in the U.K. or U.S.

My theory on this discrepancy is this: when you’re selling sex on the streets and in establishments dotted around the country (one can expect a “Happy? Happy?” even at the most respected massage parlors), sex doesn’t pack a punch in advertising. It’s for sale everywhere with many farangs visiting Thailand solely for this purpose. Sexuality in Thai ads isn’t used to sell products in the same way as other countries, perhaps because sex as a selling point is overdone outside advertising. I offer these commercials as evidence:

30-second spot for Low-fat Sealect Tuna

The woman is in the 2 - 3 range on the female nudity scale, but her sexuality is mocked by the end. It’s an illusion, something to be laughed about. The following ad is a similar example:

The apparent attractiveness of the slim woman is countered with the fat girl jiggling around – it makes a parody of the initial sexuality portrayed in the commercial, especially because the fat girl is more desired in the end (albeit for the wrong reasons).

And this last one features a katoi (ladyboy), so I feel obliged to include it:

First of all, prior to the katoi, is this commercial even sexy? The women’s shirts aren’t overwhelmingly revealing, but it seems a genuine attempt at sexiness. Secondly, the fact that the last person, whose shirt is actually revealing, is a katoi proves my point. The commercial goes from boobs, boobs, boobs, to SURPRISE! Fake man boobs! Gross! (Depending on your preference.)

Female nudity is parodied in such a way that, although it might be as prevalent as it is in The States, it’s used very differently. It’s not sexy for its own sake; rather, it’s sexuality as: look, it’s here, but it’s not going to sell the product on its own. This is surprising to me, because, on the most basic level, the amount and treatment of sexuality in advertising needs to appeal to the audience. One would assume that Bangkok’s seedy reputation would pervade its media and consumers, but these few examples demonstrate that Thais defy this misconception so that it's a punch line instead of a selling point.

I’m pleasantly surprised, and not in a “she can smoke a cigarette where?” kind of way.

Yet, transliterization is a topic to be broached another time.

I didn’t think Thais had the same fervor for hard drugs as Baltimoreans, but once again, consider me surprised.

Erica Campbell, Former Creative Intern

Intern Sweatshop: Sex sells in Thailand. Kinda.SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

21 August, 2009

Intern Sweatshop: 3 PR Stunts that worked and 3 that didn't

Today we bid adieu to our summer creative intern. Should we be annihilated by a nuclear blast tomorrow, let his last post serve as proof that sentient beings, at one time, roamed the earth. And that we went gaa-gaa for PR stunts. Happy trails, Brandon. Ye will be missed.

In the PR world, promotional stunts are the backbone to any good marketing campaign. PR execs spend months planning and designing the perfect event that will bring their clients success. More often than not, the event itself happens in a matter of minutes, maybe even seconds, but it forever lives on through the magic of the Internet. Let’s take a look at some memorable promotional stunts, both good and bad.

First, some FAIL:

1. CEO Todd Davis was so sure that his company, LifeLock, would be able to prevent identity theft, he published his social security number in ads all over the country. As was expected, no fewer than 25 attempted thefts on his identity occurred in the weeks that followed. A few of them even worked, and Davis lost money to a thief that was able to successfully secure a loan. Though Davis still swears by the LifeLock’s security, it’s safe to say the company never used the “I Dare You” tactic again.

2. In 2006, McDonald’s in Japan created a promotion where customers were eligible to win their own McDonalds MP3 player. The fast food chain gave away about 10,000 of them before realizing that among the pre-programed songs that came on the MP3 player was a Trojan virus that stole user names and passwords when plugged into a computer. A recall was instituted and the campaign ended, but not before enraging thousands of Japanese.

3. In April of this year, the White House messed up big time when a photo op went horribly bad. In an effort to get a shot of Air Force One buzzing the Statue of Liberty, staff ordered the Boeing 747 (followed by a fighter jet) to fly very low over the New York City Harbor. Somehow, no one in either New York City or New Jersey was notified that a massive aircraft would be flying a few hundred feet above their heads. Naturally, people panicked and assumed that it was another terrorist attack. Only after hundreds of petrified citizens called 911 and thousands evacuated buildings and fled out into the streets did anyone think to let the public know everything was under control. After extreme backlash from everyone - including Mayor Bloomberg - the director of the White House Military Office resigned, leaving behind hundreds of thousands of shaken but unharmed citizens.

On the flip side, there have been plenty of fantastic promotional stunts that become big hits. For the WIN:

1. Take a look at this organized “flashmob” stunt for T-Mobile performed in Liverpool. Created by Saatchi & Saatchi, the elaborate ad was meant to become a viral video to be shared online. I can’t even imagine the number of rehearsals it took for them to finally get it right.

2. In 2007, The Simpsons finally answered fans’ prayers and released a feature film. To promote the TV classic’s first foray onto the big screen, FOX partnered with 7-11 and turned a dozen of its stores into “Kwik-E-Marts,” complete with products from the show, such as “Buzz Cola” and “Krusty-O’s,” and cut-outs of all of the main characters. The results were sensational. 7-11 reported a 30% increase in sales and most of the themed products sold out within days.

3. As everyone knows, Independence Day was one of the biggest summer openers of all time, smashing all sorts of records and, at the time, becoming the number two highest grossing film in history. But one of the keys to the film’s monstrous success was the incredible amount of promotion that went into it beforehand. Besides airing the dramatic trailer for the movie during the SuperBowl, the film was promoted with an event that caused a ton of valuable, pre-release hype. Working with the state of Nevada, the film renamed the stretch of highway that leads to the controversial Area 51. Dubbed “The Extra-Terrestrial Highway,” some of the film’s stars, and even the state governor himself turned up for the rechristening. The governor even unveiled a speed limit sign of “Warp 7.”

In order to make a successful PR stunt, it’s best to go big and do something that’s never been done before, something that everyone will want to tell their friends about. Just make sure it’s not something that makes people call 911.

Brandon Musso, Creative Intern

Intern Sweatshop: 3 PR Stunts that worked and 3 that didn'tSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

07 August, 2009

Gay Realtor Shrugged

I'm not gay. But I'm pretty sure this isn't how you market your realty biz to the demo:

I can just imagine the creative brief:

All messaging must include rainbows, shirtless men (va-va-vavoom!!), and an over-emphasized possessive pronoun to show how plugged in we are to the gay experience. Heeeeeeeey! (Note to legal department: Check availability of licensing photos of Clay Aiken.)

Always bothered when target audiences are pandered to with pop stereotypes. Anyone offended by this? Anyone care anymore?

Speaking of: Knickers in a bunch over Snickers.

(Thanks to The Official Real"ad"tor Awards for the inspiration.)

Gay Realtor ShruggedSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
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