I had a really interesting time on the panel for a PRiNZ Event last night. We were discussing the challenges and opportunities in social media for marketing and PR, and what PR professionals can do to participate. One could easily just laugh off the efforts of corporates and PR professionals trying to monetize social media. I’m a lot more sanguine. Like it or not, wherever people are talking about brands online, PR will be in there seeking to control the message.
Tim Nichols from 2Degrees talked about their strategy, commenting on the fact that they are rooted in social media, living and dying by the sword. One comment resonated with me: he said that they have “set up camp” on Twitter and Facebook. Marketers see social media as alien and perhaps even hostile, so setting up camp is a nice metaphor. They’re in there early and often, learning the language and meeting the locals. They still risk a backlash and eviction, but the chances are hugely reduced by their authentic and thorough participation.
On the other hand, you have your streakers. Marketing and PR experts preparing their strategy outside the territory, making a master plan like mini-generals. Then they drop their trousers and go charging right through the middle of the game.
Sure, at best you’re going to get some attention. People will point and laugh (some might appreciate your assets). At worst you’re going to raise the ire of a crowd of angry natives, seeking to skin you alive.
I wish I could have explained this better last night, but here’s what I’m saying to PR and marketing types seeking to understand social media: don’t be a streaker. Instead, sit with the crowd for a bit. Listen, cheer, chat about that great defence by McCaw, or wicked googly by Warney.
Then maybe you can tell the guys sitting nearby about your great brand experience, and watch the message propagate like a Mexican wave.
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.
You won’t like me when I’m angry.