Sanitarium Responds re Weet-Bix Powerplays

powerplayinitialization_thumb[1] I’ve just had an enlightening discussion with Tanne Andrews, Brand Manager at Sanitarium. I called him to ask if he had anything to say about my dissection of the appalling PowerPlays website and the subsequent response on Twitter.

My opinion on the website itself is clear and unchanged: it’s a shockingly poor implementation that appears to have never been tested. But, for balance, I’ll summarise the facts from the point of view of Sanitarium. My comments in italics.

  • The entire campaign, including card design and printing was $1.3m. The website cost “a fraction of this”. Mr Andrews mentioned $20k. [NBR never said $1.3m was the cost of the website. I apologise if myself and others have quoted this the wrong way. Personally I find it hard to believe they could have licensed the plugin and developed the site and 3D content for $20k, but if so, that goes some way to explaining how bad it is].
  • The target market is 10 year olds through to late teens. Mr Andrews says both the website and the playing card game were tested on the target market.
  • By the end of today, the requirement to register for the website and supply demographic information will be removed. [Yay! It appears to have been removed at the time of writing].
  • Sanitarium is in discussion with the site developers on how to improve the overall experience. Mr Andrews did not comment on whether that would include using Flash instead of an additional plugin. [The D’Fusion plugin install experience is a large part of my problem with the site. I think they desperately need to fix it].
  • Mr Andrews says he “was misquoted”. He said that he never planned on using a viral campaign, and has no experience of such campaigns. He said he did discuss social networking sites in the context that “kids are on social networks, telling each other what’s cool. … Kids can communicate about this sort of thing much faster than traditional marketing”.
  • Sanitarium are planning TVCs for broadcast on kids TV. [I didn’t ask if this was part of the original $1.3m spend, or additional].
  • Sanitarium’s NZ agency, Ogilvy, had nothing to do with the website.
    In general, I was pleasantly surprised by the response. I was expecting to be fobbed off in a traditional PR manner, but Tanne Andrews thanked me for the wake-up call, and has taken on board the criticism.
    Like I said in the comments on my previous post: If my rant stops one crappy website from going out the door unfinished and unusable, then my job is done.
    Please don’t get me wrong: web crossover campaigns, decent viral marketing (not astroturfed), and augmented reality are brilliant and really can be more effective than traditional media. The problem comes when the web is treated like a 3rd-class option and tacked onto the end of a traditional campaign like a piece of loo paper sticking out of your pants. As a developer, I know how much better it can be done, and I become extremely frustrated at the casual attitude represented by these half-assed attempts.
    It makes me angry.
    You won’t like me when I’m angry.


  1. I like the line “kids are on social networks, telling each other what’s cool. … Kids can communicate about this sort of thing much faster than traditional marketing”. It shows what traditional marketing fails to understand about social networks – this kind of communication will happen whether they try to make it do so or not. The problem comes when they try to force it with astroturfing and the whole thing explodes in their faces.

  2. One campaigned I’ve been really impressed with is the current one from They are giving away a lot of tshirts, and you get more entries if you post twitters about them, join their facebook group, email your friends etc. It appears to be a very well run and successful campaign – but I guess only they would be able to comment on that.

  3. I wonder what Mr Andrew means by “tested”.

    I get the feeling that he is probably talking about focus group “what-do-you-think-of-this-idea” testing, not usability “lets-see-you-play-this-game” testing.

  4. “One campaigned I’ve been really impressed with is the current one from”

    Ben, did you know there are WP plugins to stop comment spam?

  5. @davesparks
    I checked that comment, but it’s either very good astroturfing, or a genuine positive comment. Mr Vintage does seem to have done a tidy little campaign, but it is pretty spammy on Twitter.

  6. @davesparks
    My comment was genuine – I have nothing to do with mr vintage – I’ve just never seen a new zealand online viral marketing campaign that impressed me so much. Maybe these things are common these days, I’m not too sure, but for me personally I find it interesting how far these things are coming. I did consider my post would be considered spam, but hoped you would see through that and take an interest in the socio-technical aspect of it.

  7. @Ben
    Cool. I was being a bit quick and huffy. Those retweet campaigns bug me and there’s been a few lately locally. A bit cheap and cynical, it wouldn’t take much to put a twist on them and make it fun, imho. For the record I read that and thought paid placement immediately. And that putting it here was an opportunistic piggy back on your weetbix story blowing up. But maybe I’m connecting too many dots and need to ease up on the coffee. : ) Back in my box.

  8. So which agency is responsible for this I wonder? They seem to be hiding out of sight, allowing the Sanitarium client to take the public roasting.

  9. @will
    Will, I don’t think any agency was involved in the website. Ogilvy have explicitly stated they had nothing to do with it.

  10. Great post and follow-up, pity a few extra $$ were not spent on user research, a few walk throughs of the design empathizing from the kids perspective and validating with them could have saved them from this user experience back fire.

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