In case you missed it, yesterday was a good day for The Internet.
Most brands’ social media forays have been either one-sided (e.g. Skittles skinning on top of twitter, flickr, Facebook) or dismissive, leaving it to interns or junior marketing execs to man their twitter account or facebook profiles. This has reaped pretty awful rewards in the past, Habitat finding themselves the focus of a twitter hashfork campaign for their dreadful spamming of #iranelection.
Social Media and Branded Content have been around a long, long time, but there are still only two main models for Branded Content: the seventy-year old television model of product placement and the Nescafé / Oxo Family episodic adverts. There are exciting blurring of both of these, but they’re the basic tenets. It’s unadventurous, obvious and demanding. That’s the main problem. Television has grown up as an activity, a communal appointment with a programme that demanded attention.
The web has so much content, it is stupid to demand attention. The shift in culture from blogs to twitter shows how our attention flits, aiming to consume as much information as possible. An hour-long weekly webseries is not going to win. Quick, personal, short-form content wins.
Old Spice wins.
Old Spice, you remember them. That’s the smell of the man at the swimming baths. The one with the mottled grey chest hairs, low-slung testicle sack, and beach towel with “Tenerife 1982” emblazoned on it. A man you hoped you wouldn’t end up as.
Wieden+Kennedy know that. They’ve done a series of great ad spots spinning Old Spice as the desirable smell of “the man your man could smell like”. He’s on a horse. They were so good, they went viral. People love them, they’ve racked up millions of YouTube views.
Old Spice: we love you now you’re a cool black guy and not a creepy paedophile.
YouTube spots are still just ad spots, though. It’s a good way of getting extra life from content created for TV. It’s still advertising, it’s not social media because it’s on YouTube and people can comment on it. Social Media needs to be social, a two-/multi-way experience, otherwise it’s just media. Again, W+K know this. They created The Guy, they’ve made Old Spice hip, they’ve won Cannes Lions for it.
Then they made him personal, and very social.
Through a promoted trend on twitter, Old Spice launched The Guy. You could tweet at him, comment on Facebook, Reddit, Digg, YouTube. He might read it. He might respond, but most brands won’t so don’t hold your breath. He responds. In person, via YouTube. A personal video from Old Spice Guy to you.
That’s what is so novel. I’ve had dozens of poorly executed responses, from O2, TheTrainLine and a particularly pissy Dairystix. I’ve received some Panda Licorice from an over-eager PR. Made By Many spent a year gaming Soreen and receiving the mother lode. None of it is really personal, it is as social as a shop assistant asking if you need any help.
Old Spice Guy said your name, engaged with the content of your message and replied. From him to you. He made you a little bit famous for a second, and part of something special. People clamoured to be answered, even po-faced Guy Kawasaki, Huffington Post and Kevin Rose. Old Spice Guy proposed on somebody’s behalf.
W+K have taken the basic principle of Branded Content — the desire to “insert brands meaningfully into people’s lives” — and reversed it. They have inserted people meaningfully into the brand.
W+K have seen the way the web works — real-time, low attention, fast consumption — and adapted to it. They have created real-time, social advertising. It’s raised the bar so high with such a simple idea.
The only thing I can think of that comes near to this is three years old. Created by the always exciting David Bausola, Imagination’s campaign for Ford Where Are The Joneses? attempted to create rich content using professional writers/actors/script-writers and UGC via a wiki and licensed using CC-BY-SA. It wasn’t too demanding, a two-to five-minute daily video, which you could well have helped shape. (Spend a minute reading the case study of WRTJ)
It still followed the product placement/Nescafé path: episodic narrative following characters driving around in a Ford hatchback. It was a bold move to creat content of value, and actually involve (not ‘engage’) an audience as creatives.
At the same time as Old Spice’s brilliance was wowing everyone, Perrier dropped the ball massively. They launched The Perrier Mansion, featuring Dita von Teese. Ostensibly, it is a big budget online campaign featuring high definition videos of Dita toussling her hair or sucking a finger. If you stick around for a while, you might get lucky, she may pour Perrier down her (clothed) chest.
You can’t drop in and drop out, you have to sit there, jumping through hoops in the hope you might see a tit. That doesn’t work. It’s broadcast-only, demanding and alienates a large proportion of their market (over 18/21s, men and lesbians only). There is nothing compelling to retain your attention. If you want to see Dita von Teese in various stages of undress, use Google. Everyone does it. It’s quick and easy. You don’t have to endure tacky Perrier placement to do it, either.
I feel that W+K have already adopted The Kaiser’s T.E.S.T.I.C.L.E. Model. Perrier are much in need of doing the same.
 There is a rise in branded games, but still very much in the minority.
 They didn’t create “virals” because that’s as true as someone who calls themself a “Social Media Guru”
 Old Spice is also the first to make Promoted Tweets actually work for them in a well-planned campaign.