Clare and another social media disaster

Here we go again. As the facts start to leak out, people are hypothesizing as to where the scam involving Clare, Heidi, I mean, Clare, began – and who else was involved. Channel 9? Specialist agency, The Projects? Just herself?

Duncan Riley summarises the events here and asks some questions about how the video came to be on YouTube in the first place, instead of staying with Nine. I won’t bother uploading the original footage because you’ve probably already seen it – if you haven’t, here it is on one of mUmBRELLA’s early posts on the subject, where Tim Burrowes makes an important assertion when the first rumours of fakery started surfacing, suggesting that Clare may well be legitimate saying, “I think we are witnessing a legacy of the Naked / Witchery Man furore of earlier this year.”

Unfortunately for the advertising and media industries, social media set and readers of all things online and off, this was another set-up. How contrived and orchestrasted by the corporate sector it was, is still to come out. The two places to watch are, A Current Affair this Monday night (they have apparently secured an interview with 19-year-old, Clare), and Media Watch, later the same night.

[Update] – Clare Werbeloff is just a 19-year-old kid from the Northern Beaches of Sydney with a loud mouth who’s watched too much Fat Pizza. She ran in front of a camera and mouthed off what she has copied from TV ethnic slang without thinking about the implications for others, like the person who was shot.

Here’s Channel 9’s response to the whole incident, explaining what their contract cameraman did and his experience and attitude to Clare.

Regardless of the specifics of this incident, what disturbs me is that most punters probably don’t care whether they were duped or not. Has the average media viewer become so use to fake news stories through people ‘punking the news’ or the media itself creating hyperbole or artificial events, that (a) it has become a great game to guess what is real, or (b) no-one cares anymore – news IS entertainment.

For marketers and brand custodians, however, this bizarre, artificial media environment can only last for a short time historically and can only ever be a short-term marketing communications strategy for those that pursue it.

Creating brand-value – establishing communication between users and giving them a reason to recommend your brand DOES NOT START WITH A LIE. Even one that goes massively viral super fast. Further, the more people get sick of being duped (and it’s happening NOW) the more they will attached ‘negative’ value to any brand that involves themselves in any dubious, cloaked, faked, viral, social media campaigns.

For a look at some of the excellent ‘spoof’ videos of Clare that are already out, mUmBRELLA has a selection here.

We now know that the Kings Cross Bogan had nothing to do with a marketing stunt (congrats to Tooheys for investing in that OOH poster) – advertisers, however, will now be chasing that viral magic that saw Werbeloff and Susan Boyle go balistic over the past few weeks and try to create ‘a story’ that will take their campaigns to space.  Nothing wrong with great, honest, engaging stories, of course – so it will interesting to see what viral plays come out over the next few weeks as agencies push the envelope.

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Viral jacket fake stripped Naked

Well, as they should be, Seven’s Sunrise team seemed annoyed at being duped by Naked and their fake Cinderella jacket girl viral video that they ran as a news story on Monday morning. Sunrise had Tim Burrowes on this morning explaining why it really wasn’t a very smart way to promote a brand. Naked came out defending themselves yesterday against claims their faked video for clothing brand Witchery was deceptive. Adam Ferrier, Naked’s planning partner claimed, “The word deception implies an element of harm. This campaign hasn’t harmed anyone, not even close”.

Well, creating false news that is circulated virally or otherwise,  especially with the intention of having it end up on prime-time media, and then denying  involvement seems like deception to me. It also paints our profession in a bad light.

An interesting discussion took place on Adam Ferrier’s own blog between Ferrier and Stephen Collins of Acidlabs, where Ferrier has tried to justify Naked’s actions. He asks, “Who in social media understands consumer behaviour”, and goes on to say,

“I think people with a history in social media who want careers in marketing and communications should get educated in the broader aspects of human behaviour and marketing. Please. Some of the comments people are making in this space are at best naive.”

Consumer behaviour is not the nub of the issue for most commentators. The discussion has not been about whether people will fall for false information and buy products. The concerns are focused on the falsification of the information in the first place. Is this what Ferrier means when he councils people to get “get educated in the broader aspects of … marketing”. Is he suggesting that as marketers we have become delinquent deceivers, and that people don’t care anymore – that they like it?

Does the marketing machine feel justified pumping out anything to the public under the guise of “tease and reveal communications” as Ferrier called it in B&T, or “light entertainment”, a phrase Warren Brown from BMF used when asked to comment yesterday?  Brown did go on to say that, “if you deliberately deceive the public, it’ll only bite you in the bum“. And there’s the rub, the ROO. Ultimately, Naked feel they will be judged by how many people buy Witchery Man jackets, or say they know about Witchery selling men’s clothes. However, as I said in my last post on this subject, creating a fantasy or fiction that viewers happily buy into is one thing, but misleading them is quite another. The slap-back from any loss of trust is reduced sales and diminished brand value. Check out the mixed (mainly negative) feedback from the market at the end of this news.com.au piece. What’s the multiple on negative/positive comments when evaluating social media campaigns?

The late, great David Ogilvy once said, “The customer is not a moron. She is your wife”. Regardless of who the customer is nowadays, when they watch the news they don’t want to be fooled by a deceptive ad for a jacket.

The jacket team came clean yesterday publishing another YouTube video exposing the truth as news of the fakery quickly broke across the web before they had a chance to continue the series with a rumoured follow-up from the “man in the jacket” himself.

For a more complete run-down of the www’s reaction to the event see mUmBRELLA’s coverage here.

New Year brings social media hoaxes

Happy New Year and welcome back to BDM for 2009. The advertising world has certainly hit the social media space in Australia with a quick one-two  that has everyone talking about how faking it can damage your brand, and can certainly damage the reputation of social media as a channel for those only mildly acquainted with it.

Tourism Queensland had one of their agency people pretend to get a tattoo and do a YouTube video, pitching to be a young hopeful competing for the ‘job of a lifetime’, while Naked hired an actor (now come on guys wasn’t that obvious) to pretend to be an inverse Cinderella looking for the owner of a lost jacket.

Claims by Tourism Queensland that the whole scam was about demonstrating ideas for the type of entries they wanted is a poor excuse for deception and I’m sure the team is now thinking the midnight six-hat session might have gone a bit too far. Best left on the white board, really. For an excellent backgrounder on tattooed Tourism and bitter fallout have a look at Tim Burrowes stories at mUmBRELLA here and here.

As for Naked and The Jacket Fiasco, I sat down to my cereal in front of Sunrise (OK, so there’s an admission) on Monday morning to see the YouTube video complete with comments by Mel and her gang about how it seemed like a set up. Was getting it onto Sunrise and making us watch it the set up? Were the Sunrise team saying it was a set up so they didn’t look stupid when it all came out that it was a set up? As they say in the classics, advertising a bad idea will just make everyone know about it faster. Put on some sunglasses before you hit play…

Perhaps the Naked strategy team could have called on the expertise of Julian Cole from sister agency, The Population, who has repeatedly warned against faking social media messages and advises full disclosure. Last time I looked, Naked’s CEO Matt Baxter was a non-executive director of The Population. Creating a fictional space and story which the viewer enjoys and the agency can extend the brand into is often dangerously close to just faking information that irritates your customers – that’s why there is a new skill set developing around social media marketing.

On that note, congratulations to social media consultant Stephen Collins of Acid Labs for his blog rocketing to No. 4 on the Top 129 Marketing Blogs. Servant of Chaos stays at No. 2 and Adspace-Pioneers, custodian of the list, has moved to No. 7. Beyond Digital Media has moved up a few spots to No. 68. Top of the list is creative site Bannerblog.

What else does 2009 have in store for us? As marketing budgets contract and social media starts to look like a cheap alternative to traditional advertising, exponents need to remember mistakes have already been made in this field – plenty. Lots of lessons have already been learnt.

[Update on post]

The FREE business model, as Chris Anderson explains

Chris Anderson’s discussion of FREE online business models raise many of the same questions that my posts about advertising-driven and subscription-driven media models did after the Future of Media Summit 2008. Read people’s comments on his original post.

This is a key debate taking place worldwide as traditional/print/atom/physical (call it what you like) businesses look to translate their revenue generation model online, as they acknowledge the growing impact of the digital space.

I had a meeting today with a travel agent who has a website. Their site, however, is nothing more than manually controlled brochure ware for events and prices. They didn’t recognise the significance of search engine traffic, the potential for ongoing interaction with clients, or the ability to offer FREE advice and information to new visitors. I could go on. You don’t think about a travel agent being involved in the FREE economy, however, they have built up so much specialised information which they happily pass on to people over the phone, or across the desk on a regular basis that they ARE giving away valuable ‘intellectual property’ without having it clearly packaged-up and branded. This content can easily be ‘wrapped and branded’ as important, FREE product that will assist travelers, particularly in highly-targeted markets. Will this sell travel services? If the information is valuable and engaging, it’s a reflection of the type of service you will provide. And people want to buy valuable and engaging services and products.

Here’s what Chris Anderson has to say about FREE:-

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FREE: the cocktail party version

When you’re writing a book you need to have your elevator pitch down or “What’s the book about?” will become the most dreaded four words you can hear (followed closely by “how’s it going?”).

Obviously the one-sentence version of the answer should be something close to the book’s subtitle. But I haven’t nailed that one down yet, so these days I just say “The economics of zero dollars and zero cents” and hope for the best. Some people glaze over and move on at that point, but for those who stop, intrigued, and ask me to explain, here’s what I say:

We all know free–it’s a trick that marketers use. But free is changing. When you think about it, there are two economies, one of atoms and one of bits. In the atoms economy, which is to say most of the stuff around us, things tend to get more expensive over time. But in the bits economy, which is the online world, things get cheaper. The atoms economy is inflationary, while the bits economy is deflationary.

The 20th Century was primarily an atoms economy. The 21st Century will be equally a bits economy. This book is about the differences between 20th Century free and 21st Century free–free moving from a marketing trick to a new economic model.

Anything free in the atoms economy must be paid for by something else, which is why so much traditional free feels like bait and switch–it’s you paying, one way or another. But free in the bits economy can be really free, with money often taken out of the equation altogether. People are rightly suspicious of free in the atoms economy, and rightly trusting of free in the bits economy. Intuitively, they understand the difference between the two, and why free works so well online.

– For more see: The Long Tail – Wired Blogs.


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“Slammin” Sam takes Photon to a new level

If you haven’t seen “Slammin” Sam Kekovich announcing the Photon Group Annual Report 2008, then you’re probably missing a breakthrough moment in corporate engagement.

The design, delivery and humour of Sam and Photon’s execution has created a successful viral video of an Annual Report – what? Yes! Imagine sending good financial results around in a humorous viral video to maximise the confidence in your organization in these dark days. Not to mention the whole delivery encapsulating your brand values, positioning and philosophy.

Yesterday, I watched Mark Pesce discuss how, as a community of users, we have spent many years working out how to maximise the functionality of the internet. Many tools have been available for over a decade (for example, wikis) but have not had their inherent value understood until recently. As Pesce points out, the big move to web 2.0 came when we made the shift from thinking about the web as a publishing environment to a communications environment.

Pesce also talks about hyperconnectivity. With the grey matter of our human brains we can only handle around 150 contacts – Dunbar’s Number (maybe a few more according to other anthropologists such as Bernard and Killworth), however, with the aid of electronic equipment and social networking tools many humans have hundreds and, often, thousands of “friends” in their networks. Forget targeting those A-type influencers, nearly everyone feeds into a massive network of hyperconnectivity. I watched another presentation, also by Mark Pesce, yesterday (it was one of those catch up on Mark’s blog days) and saw 1200 twitter avatars race through at superspeed – it’s amazing how many faces, including my own, I recognised. I purposely keep my network tight so I can follow the stream of tweets coming through (another issue Pesce talks about), but I realised, regardless of my pathetic number, that if I sent out an important message on twitter, it would very quickly spread into the hyperconnected internet at lightening speed. It’s this velocity that internet tools such as twitter (and many others) allow; this speed  feeds this hyperconnectivity and creates a new paradigm of information transferal. People are happy to buy into connection because they know that it leads to timely knowledge.

Viral marketing is all about capturing this community of hypeconnectivity and velocity of information spread. So, how can we use the internet more effectively in managing financial reporting? Here is Photon and Sam for a laugh and your thoughts.

Sam Kekovich on Photon's site

Sam Kekovich on Photon


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