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Cash Gordon and the Tory social media fiasco

March 23, 2010 Leave a comment

In a way social media is a bit like bomb disposal – get it wrong and the whole darn thing blows up in your face.

The latest ‘brand’ to get their fingers burnt (and eyebrows singed) are David ‘Call me Dave’ Cameron’s Conservative Party who launched cash-gordon.com to herald the start of online election battle and show just how on the pulse their finger is.

Set up to highlight Gordon Brown’s close relationship with the unions the site incorporated a Twitter feed showing any tweet containing the hashtag #cashgordon on the homepage. That’s right! Any tweet! And unmoderated!

Pretty soon the homepage was being bombarded by all manner of anti-Tory messages before users discovered that lines of code could also be included too. This allowed hackers to redirect visitors to other (darker) areas of the internet including, the Labour Party website, porn sites and, of course, Rick Astley videos.

Excellent Timeline courtesy of Meg Pickard

Further embarassment came when it was discovered that the $15,000  site developers had already built the template as part of a campaign against Obama’s healthcare reforms and is hosted alongside other sites including one that campaigns against gays in the military and another that aims to derail carbon trading legislation designed to combat climate change.

Compare and Contrast - "Cash Gordon" and "No Energy Tax"

The Tories aren’t the first and won’t be the last to make a pigs ear of a social media campaign and if anything can be salvaged from the debacle it is that they responded quickly and took the site down until the situation could be remedied.

While they are fortunate that the whole exercise won’t have touched the vast majority of voters, when you are trying to convince the masses that you should be running the country it doesn’t look great if you can’t even set up a website.

The Big Chill & The Big Night In

What hath the recession wrought? The worst financial crisis since World War II has struck the UK particularly badly; it was one of the last OECD countries to come out of the recession; it’s downturn was the longest among G7 countries. Last month the economy grew for the first time in a good while, though only by 0.1%. The abundant profligacy that defined the past couple of years has vanished. How do people now reward themselves in this new environment?

The cliché of staying in being the new going out is only a cliché because it is increasingly true. It has been happening gradually over the past several years but has been accelerated by the recession. Part of the reason is due to fearmongering. The Conservatives recently declared Britain a “broken society”; the public for the most part seems to agree, even if this is not actually the case. Hyperbolic newspapers have not helped either. A sense of fear, and of things not being as good as once they were, has influenced people’s desire to interact with society. Instead, we stay at home.

A Euromonitor report states “As in most developed countries, meal structures have broken down in the UK”. Families are increasingly fragmented, people tend to live on their own more and the creation of meals has become a far easier task. While in general consumers are “deferring major purchases”, they are balancing this by rewarding themselves with little treats. Brands who can successfully exploit this trend, such as those in the confectionery trade, will stand to benefit from this. Euromonitor reports that “luxuries like chocolate and ice cream, are remaining somewhat recession-proof… [Mars] claims sharing confectionery in front of the TV is one way in which consumers have been enjoying a night in”. This feeds into a larger trend of frugality; staying at home, known as “uber-cocooning”.

Also keeping consumers in their homes is the increasingly high-tech, increasingly affordable and increasing amount of entertainment products available. Euromonitor reports “The home as an enterainment hub has been facilitated by the arrival of flat-screens with sound systems, downloadable and pay-per-view movies, and an array of video games and consoles. All these sectors are thriving, despite the break on spending.” Moreover, there is increasing convergence of these options onto fewer platforms. You can now link directly to YouTube through your TV, and soon your X-box will stream TV shows and films. For all the presumed obsolescence of regular television for sophisticated, plugged-in and multi-tasking teens, a recent study shows the medium is still very important to such age groups. Networks are becoming increasingly savvy, in one recent case in the US weaving one character into several different shows on the same network for a week. Sky, among others, is introducing 3D television in the coming months, potentially revolutionising the industry (as it is currently in the world of film).

So while a meteorological and financial big chill congregates outside, many companies, including ASDA and Tesco’s and Sky, are currently telling their customers to enjoy a Big Night In. And we all know what to watch when Home Alone…