One of the myriad benefits online media platforms provide to brands is that they don’t need to appease the censors that stand between them and a TV audience.
If you want to do something a little risque or simply profane you can upload it, promote it and hope it goes viral.
One example is this video in which Kenny Powers from Eastbound and Down becomes CEO (or rather MFCEO) of K-Swiss. In it the character played by Danny McBride sets about recruiting a number of athletes, including NFL stars Matt Cassel and Patrick Willis, MMA champions Jon “Bones” Jones and Urijah Faber, and super-trainer Jillian Michaels to run various departments within the company and promote the Tubes line of footwear.
Warning! Lots of profanity, probably best listened to on headphones…
“Pretty much every person walking around has a mobile device. It is an accepted medium of communication that consumers are becoming more aware of.” said Bryan Ogle, K-Swiss director of business development, explaining the strategy.
“Mobile is not ancillary but rather complementary to the overall messaging strategies employed during this campaign. Significant visual content was created for this campaign and mobile aids the brand in delivering the content to the consumer.” he added.
Initial reaction to the online content has been positive with the target audience and with more family friendly pieces being filmed for a TV audience the campaign is a great example of a brand maximising the benefits of each media channel rather than simply putting an extended TV ad online.
When some campaigns go awry, it’s often due to external sensitivities that, in the passion of the creative moment, sometimes go unacknowledged. We might question how an agency could have overlooked such a thing, but as we know it is all too easy for groupthink to set in. In October 2009, Zeitgeist wrote about one such gaffe, when DDB made a very hard-hitting and extremely controversial ad for WWF, using 9/11 imagery. It’s important to point out that the real story there was more to do with the painful process of admission that DDB went through rather than the ad itself.
In February, the South African film Night Drive arrived in cinemas. An agency by the name of 1984 was responsible for the advertising in its domestic market. To drum up interest, 1984 decided to take a viral approach and distribute fliers in Johannesburg, offering “the best prices for all your body parts and organs”. Naturally this raised concern, as the fliers themselves looked genuine in an amateur way, with the police treating it as a serious matter. Indeed, earlier that month, elsewhere on the continent in Liberia, The Economist reported on crimes where “body parts such as the heart, blood, tongue, lips, genitals and fingertips, all used in sorcery to bring wealth and power, are removed”. Worse still, members of government were being implicated as they looked for anything to give them an advantage ahead of elections. The agency’s parent company swiftly apologised.
It’s a terribly unfortunate tale that sometimes can happen. Agencies are susceptible to this more often than you might think, and the reasons for this are twofold. Think about what agencies are trying to do in the creation and execution of a campaign. Firstly, they are aiming for verisimilitude, especially if the product being sold (in this case a film), is fictional. Secondly, they are trying to get someone’s attention in a marketplace that is incredibly cluttered; increasingly the message needs to be unique to stand out above the fray, even more so with a stacked, year-round movie calendar.
Indeed, film marketing is therefore one of the places you are more likely to come across viral efforts. Triumphs include The Dark Knight, which won an award at Cannes Lions in 2009, and the campaign for the excellent film Inception, $100m of which was spent on viral efforts. One of the best features of this campaign was the treasure hunt they organised around the UK, releasing clues on Facebook that could lead fans to tickets to the premiere. Zeitgeist covered this in its review of summer film marketing activity last year. By contrast, the viral campaign for this year’s Limitless, however, was not seen as successful. The campaign involved two prongs. Zeitgeist remembers images such as the one above gracing the London Underground trains, with actor Bradley Cooper selling his super-drug, with one side-effect being “death”. It was confusing, but the copy was such that if the reader was paying any attention, they would soon realise it was fake, and that the website was Paramount Studios-affiliated. The film’s other main effort, a video of a man controlling the screens of Times Square with his iPhone, met with initial excitement, then puzzlement when it emerged it was to do with the film in question.
What do we learn then? Well, we learn that there is a very fine line between obscurity and popularity, between prominence and offence. We learn that there is no golden rule, no pieces of a jigsaw to assemble that makes the consumer look up and listen. And always, always read The Economist.
On the way back from Paris two weeks ago, Zeitgeist was treated to a magnificent sunset as the Eurostar sped through the francophone countryside. It occurred to him how much more enjoyable the journey would be if the whole of the shell of the train were transparent, one giant window. Aside from structural engineering issues, this might also pose difficulties with the heat and light from the sun. Nevertheless, those hypotheticals did not give Airbus pause when it announced earlier this week they would be building a transparent plane ready for 2050.
Indeed, Zeitgeist has been thinking a lot about transport recently. In the past several weeks we have written about planes, trains and automobiles. The above spot, via Creative Criminals, for an M-powered BMW is a guilty pleasure, what do you think to its authenticity? These sorts of virals / candid shots / advertisements are becoming increasingly popular – though BMW years ago produced the perfect example – as typified by the below video featuring a tennis player and a suspiciously nice-looking Mercedes. This is not the first time that Mr. Federer has shown off his viral-inducing skills. Could this sort of practice be extended to other brands? How about a blurry video of someone looking remarkably like Gordon Ramsay rushing into the Tesco Express that sits two doors down from his flagship restaurant on Hospital Road for some last-minute ingredients?
One question to ask might be whether the authenticity of the video even matters if it creates and stimulates discussion about the brand. In large part it is the aura of candour that provides excitement to the viewer; ‘this wasn’t meant to be released, you shouldn’t be watching this’, or ‘you are one of a select few who can’. As one blogger notes on a Mercedes forum, speaking to these types of video, “Fake, but I enjoyed every one of them :D”. And that, surely, is the point.
Recently, those boffins over at Leo Burnett came up with an intriguing idea for the low-cost food store Lidl. They invited a prominent chef to cook a meal using food from the store and then serve it aboard a flight to Cancun. Adverblog notes, “Sure, it’s a nice case study, I love the idea… But I’m not sure the effort is worth the result. Creative geeks like us will celebrate the idea, but how many consumers actually were exposed to it?” That’s true; it was only a plane full of people who were exposed to the meal. But the story was followed through in TV spots and recipe books, creating a nice thread of a tale.
Last month in New York, travellers on the subway were treated to a similar gastronomic delight when they were served a delectable six-course meal, in-transit. Both events show how something experiential can sometimes be far more memorable than other forms of marketing. In both these cases, the events involved defying expectations by creating special experiences in spaces that are otherwise seen as ephemeral, rather than being a destination in of themselves.
The Muppets and LCD Soundsystem
Happy Friday! While Zeitgeist is caught in the toil and tribulation of work, insightful articles have been coming off the production line a little slower. Rest assured there are many in the pipeline. In the meantime, please enjoy this video of The Muppets, found via Mashable. Though discovered days ago now, it just about still falls in the realm of the zeitgeist. This is not part of any advertising campaign, so it doesn’t matter a great deal, but it’s really staggering to see just how de rigeur it has become to immediately whip one’s phone out and start recording an event now. Did that media end up on Facebook, Twitter et al.? It’s arguable that things like this hurt the muppets’ brand equity, particularly with their younger demographic (or, more precisely, the over-protective parents of such a demo). Such things though are perhaps not important in the context of watching muppets dance.
Unofficially rocking out here to one of Zeitgeist’s favourite bands, the imminently-retiring LCD Soundsystem, the Jim Henson progeny have of late been recasting themselves as social media gurus, in everything from Ode to Joy with the irrepressible Beaker, to the rather more (again) unofficial take on Kanye’s new “Monster” video. And if you were wondering what “the Church” can learn from the Muppets’ social media savvy-ness…
The importance of having a brand attitude.
In categories where the offering is essentially the same, a brand’s positioning and the way it behaves become all the more important as means of differentiating them from the competition.
One such category is online gambling.
In essence, all of the companies offer punters the chance to stake some of their hard earned cash on all manner of sporting and cultural events. The market is extremely crowded and with sites like oddschecker.com enabling gamblers to find the best odds on a given bet, building loyalty can be difficult.
All of which means that acquiring new customers is essential and online bookmakers must stay front of mind in order to be considered. For brands with large budgets, oft-pursued routes include high profile sponsorship, advertisements and idents.
One brand with a smaller budget that manages to maintain a high profile is Paddy Power.
Their novelty bets, early payouts, refunds and risky communications have helped them carve a niche position amongst their rivals. Ranging from the Last Supper reworked as a casino table to a poster seemingly offering odds on which old lady would be hit by a car to sponsoring Tongan rugby player Epi Taion to change his name to Paddy Power by deed poll for the duration of the the 2007 World Cup, their activities are marked by a rebellious streak and a desire to generate as much free publicity as possible.
Their ability to respond quickly to current events helps keep them in the public eye, the poster at the top of the article greeted visitors to Ireland immediately after they’d been knocked out of the World Cup Play-off by France and Thierry Henry’s imfamous handball. The stategy of capitalising on current affairs is as strong as ever has as evidenced by a couple of recent viral activities.
The first was an opportunist game, turned around in under 24 hours, which invited users to ‘slap’ former SkySports pair Richard Keys and Andy Gray. Capitalising on the furore caused by their sexist comments the game was passed around by football fans and feminists alike.
The second is a great piece of activation.
Following the high profile deadline day transfers of Fernando Torres from Liverpool to Chelsea and Andy Carroll from Newcastle to Liverpool, the bookmaker offered distraught fans the chance to trade their old hero’s shirt for a £50 bet.
Better still, the unwanted shirts will then be given to Oxfam and sent to Africa.
Both activities will have been relatively cheap to implement, but their relevance both to current events and their target audience ensured that they were shared virally, thus saving a fortune in media costs.
Paddy Power’s long history of courting controversy and clearly defined brand personality distinguishes them from their myriad competitors and allows them to continue to engage their audience in such a distinctive style. Each stunt serves to raise their profile in the short term while further reinforcing their brand identity in the long term.
Their behaviour might not appeal to everyone and their stunts often cost them financially, however so long as no one used their £50 wager to bet on a draw after Arsenal went 4-0 up at St. James Park on Saturday, the Irish bookmaker will look back at a couple of weeks of good work courting publicity and living up to expectations.
How great timing can accidently help you become part of a mini viral sensation.
With the news in the UK pretty much exclusively focussing on how the cold weather has brought most of northern Europe brought to a standstill, Zeitgeist was reassured to see that the snow and ice are playing havoc in the US too.
As the out of control cars smash into each other a FedEx van appears and chooses a route that doesn’t involve climbing a hill of ice and manages to continue its journey onwards to deliver Christmas presents.
The truck is only visible for around ten seconds of the two minute clip but subtly shows that while others struggle, Fedex delivers.
This particular clip has already been viewed by over half a million people and other instances and TV broadcasts will boost that number considerably.
And all through the good luck of having a competent driver in the right place at the right time. If the Fedex marketing team haven’t already broken up for the holidays they might even think about buying the rights to the first 30 seconds of the clip and running it as an advert while the weather remains so severe.
Whatever they do, Zeitgeist hopes Fedex identify the driver and give him (or her) a nice Christmas bonus. They might also want to offer jobs to the drivers of the red and black cars who managed to keep calm and deliver a driving masterclass.
Timing it would seem, really is everything!
Sex sells. This much is accepted, but as stated by Jef I. Richards, ‘only if you are selling sex’.
With the weather reminding us that Christmas is coming up, brands are fighting to be considered as great presents. For some, this means appealing not to the consumer but to the shopper.
One brand that has identified the link between musical notes and bra sizes is lingerie emporium La Senza who have launched a Cup Size Choir. The premise is quite simple. Each model represents a note relating to her cup size.
To start with, the girls sing a Christmas carol. After that the visitor can play them and make their own tunes. Users can record their compositions and share them with friends as well as endorse the site via Facebook and Twitter. You can even win a years worth of lingerie!
With men in the market for gifts for their partners the site should help La Senza reach an audience that maybe wouldn’t be regular shoppers.
The ingredients of interactivity and women in skimpy outfits won’t do any harm to the sites attempts to go viral. The idea is simple, relevant to the brand and not crucially not gratuitous or overly demeaning to women.
That might be enough to breakthrough the noise of all the other brands attempting to get your Christmas coins.
Let us know if you manage to make any cool tunes.
Roger Federer, the world’s most successful tennis player with a staggering sixteen Grand Slams to his name, shows here why he is so great. This ad appeared on YouTube earlier this week from Gillette. It appears to be an unofficial edit from when Mr. Federer et al were breaking between shooting a commercial. The Wall Street Journal recently added to the mountain of editorial written over the past 18 months predicting Federer’s demise – Federer’s reaction was to win three more slams in that time, an achievement which most tennis players spend a career trying and failing to obtain – with coda that attempts an abrupt volte-face, perhaps having already learned from last year to never, ever count Federer out.
Your views on the authenticity of the shots in this ad are welcome. Is it a William Tell-like feat of extravagant excellence caught in a candid moment? Or a nice bit of CGI in a very constructed environment? Federer, according to Reuters, remains coy on the subject. Regardless, Zeitgeist is definitely playing tennis in a suit tonight…
UPDATE: The video has officially gone viral.
Orson Welles once said “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story”. Many pundits thought that a third iteration of the popular ‘Toy Story’ franchise would be a step too far; could a film released eleven years after its predecessor still pull in the crowds? Any such questions were swiftly forgotten about when the film grossed a record-breaking $110+m in its opening weekend in the US, and held it’s number one spot this weekend just passed as well.
Apart from the enduring popularity of the series, as well as studio Pixar’s seemingly unending run of stellar films, the film (which has yet to be released in the UK to avoid clashing with the World Cup) surely owes some of its success to an excellent marketing campaign. As well as simple things like the teaser trailer, which handily features the ‘Toy Story 3’ logo in the middle of the clip (the image YouTube then uses as a thumbnail), and releasing apps for the iPhone et al., there are three examples in particular that Zeitgeist will be focussing on in this article.
The first example was intended to build some viral buzz around the film by releasing various videos on YouTube. These videos were commercials that featured old toys from the ’80s that appear in ‘Toy Story 3′, such as the Lots-o’-Huggin’ bear. The catch is that these commercials are fake, because the product itself exists purely in the film. The video however is so realistic, from the VHS-like video quality to the ’80s music, voiceover and clothing, it blurs the boundaries between fiction and reality, and takes you into the ‘Toy Story’ universe. As Mashable writes, “Thus far, Disney and Pixar have heavily marketed the film across different demographics, but there has a been a strong viral push to grab the attention of people in their mid-to-late twenties. For that reason, creating an ’80s-esque toy commercial makes a lot of sense, because we’re a generation that is obsessed with recollecting our past and relishing what once was.”
SEO has been under the microscope as well, to great effect thanks to Google and Twitter. eConsultancy ran an article on the film’s promoted Twitter presence, saying “the placement is great branding for the Toy Story franchise”. It’s presence was on the Promoted Trends slot, which brands have to “win” to be lucky enough to feature on. The article continues, “media mentions of its Twitter purchase are also working out to its benefit.” For Google’s part, the film jumped on the Search Stories bandwagon, creating a fun video of what results the user (in this case characters from the ‘Toy Story’ films) get when they type in certain words on the search engine.
Lastly and most impressively (because it is such a simple thought), there was the fantastic idea of allowing people to buy tickets to the film through Facebook. This is a first, and a great step. For too long, generic thinking has operated along the lines of “We’ll put together a site, make some great content, make it really engaging, and people will come to visit the site.” This example represents a shift to thinking more along the lines of “Let’s bring this content and functionality to where they already are.” It’s just a simple and superb idea, no doubt the first in a long line of such promotions from all the studios. One marketing head from a rival studio told Zeitgeist they were “all over Facebook now”.
Overall, great thinking and great execution have led to several promotions that not only make the consumer feel closer to the brand, but also, as with the latter example, help lead to direct monetisation.
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