Care less Wispa

Does anyone else think the following – one an honest-to-goodness advertising campaign (from Fallon no less) and one a piss-take of the world without computers – look suprisingly similar?

(And yes, that is Rolf Harris).

The entire cracked photoshop contest is a lot of fun, imagining what the world would be like if the internet disappeared tomorrow. Particularly good is the theatre audience watching a cat doing something cute (a la YouTube) and the real life Rick-rolling.

The Wispa campaign basically says: people like sharing this crap on the internet, now let’s take some pap and shove it on a billboard sign. There’s something interesting in the idea from the point of view of creating salient advertising – each poster will be unusual and might make the passerby wonder what on earth it is about? But – of course – it will also be meaningless to most people.

Salience is important, but… erm… what the hell has it got to do with chocolate bars.

The site explains:

“We’ve decided to give our advertising space to you guys as a thank you for all the love you’ve shown to Wispa.”

“We have bought thousands of billboards all over the UK and Ireland so that you can share your special messages with the world. Yes, that’s right, you let us know your special message and if it gets selected we will post it on a real billboard in the location of your choice.

“So if your mum lives in Birmingham you could post her a special message, say a poem, and we’ll try to give you a site as near to her as possible.”

Here’s one:

(It’s for a dog!)

All of them are up on the site. There’s also the ‘gold panel’ of ‘normal’ (there needs to be about five sets of inverted commas around this freak show) people like Cara Stripp. Does anyone older than Cluster (see above), really think that these profiles aren’t made up?

As you have probably guessed I love Wispa, and was really keen for Cadbury to bring it back. So a few years ago I got involved with the bring back Wispa facebook group, and even though it is now back, I still spend lots of time on the site chatting to other Wispa fans and getting involved wherever I can.

I love Wispa because it’s something that I grew up with and it holds good memories for me. Everyone remembers their favourite sweet as a kid and for me it’s never changed. I like the special texture and just the fact that it tastes so gooooood!

My love of Wispa has become infamous and I often receive Wispas as parts of presents from friends and family. I even have Wispa earrings and a necklace which were specially made for me!

The thought process seems to go along these lines: People are really motivated by social media. People follow recommendations from real people. So if we make up some ‘real people’ and have them recommend us, and then get a sort of weird implied (but not really obvious) recommendation in return for some free poster sites, then everyone will love us.

We’ve said it before but we’ll say it again. The term ‘social media’ is a bit misleading for the advertising types. It is media, but not in the sense of ‘media buying’. You can’t purchase a chunk of it.

It’s certainly a truthful observation that there is a phenomonen around social media that people like it and respond to it, but it does not imply that it can be used for commercial messages. Good commercial messages can be amplified by social media. But that will happen if they’re good, interesting etc; not because they appear to be social in nature. Fallon must know this… it’s the point of the Gorilla.

I find this whole stage of advertising evolution really embarrassing to watch. It’s like a Wispa sponsored X-Factor at Sunderland townhall: “People love X-Factor, let’s get us one of those…. obviously on a smaller scale though, cause we’ve only got a 100k budget”.

Another day, another dollar


Robin sparks some interesting rants over on Advertising 2.0, in response to a frankly bizarre set of comments published in Campaign about how twitter can be used by brands.

The debate appears to be over whether brands should tweet and how – should they pretend to be real people or inanimate objects, funny characters or abstractions?

Not suprisingly many respond by dismissing twitter out of hand as nonsense (echos of ‘this internet thing will never catch on’), others talk about how no brand belongs on the microblogging site.

It seems that – to me at least – first off, we are fundementally misunderstanding the important but indirect social role of brands, and secondly that the twitter ‘debate’ is no more and no less than than the debate we used to have about brands and websites all those years ago in the ninetees (on which Amelia has been passing some suspiciously tweet-length thoughts).

Look at this. It’s a Bovril website. With a breath-taking circularity of irony (or perhaps secret plea for help from a web designer), the site’s strapline (and perhaps the brand’s slogan) is ‘give me strength’. And, indeed, what on God’s earth is the point of all this? And who thought it was a good idea (apart from the agency that created it)?

Don’t get me wrong, once you’re there, it’s quite nicely done, graphically interesting etc. But why would anyone ever go there? Even if it wasn’t difficult to use, I still wouldn’t treat it as my number 1 source of information about Bovril itself (that would be Wikipedia), Bovril recipes (is that a thing?) (I’d start in Google and since the site isn’t search engine-friendly, it doesn’t show up), outdoorsiness (ditto, you’d never get there and if you did you wouldn’t stay long because of the thiny veiled comtempt for this audience), or even gurning cows. It’s just bizarre.

Anyway, brands on twitter are all just like that: pointless, unless they manage to be interesting, useful or entertaining. And not all brands can be those things every day, using content.

I’m sorry, I don’t want to ruin the party. But don’t believe your agency when they give you this nonsense. Coca-cola office furniture making jokes is just not as funny or interesting as even your least funny mates, no matter how clever it sounded in an agency brainstorm.

We do not need a detailed study or deep meditation to tell us this. Clients: when you’re first reaction is to tell the agency ‘don’t be so bloody stupid’, trust your feelings.

The other question is, conversely, do brands have no role in social networks? After all this pointlessness, it would be easy to conclude that they have none. But I believe this is an entirely different question. Brands are massively important in social networks. But they are a method of communication not an issuer of communication.  They are talking points, they are social tokens, they are items of self expression. And, of course, this is not just true in a digital setting.

To entirely steal from Seth Goddin, to turn this effect to their advantage, brand managers must make their brand interesting to a vocal audience. Providing genuine uility can amplify this effect.

This is why Barack Obama and Stephen Fry can be interesting brands on Twitter but Starbucks and Vauxhall can not. Is it really that complex a distinction?

Search as the new science

They weren't joking

A few weeks ago, on the occassion of the company’s tenth anniversary, Marissa Mayer – Google’s VP, Search Products & User Experience – shared her thoughts on the future of search. The most striking feature of the analysis is a kind of quasi-religious fervour with which Mayer takes on her mission to extend the scope and realm of search, and of course, the pure belief that the company has in its continued ubiquity.

More than any dramatic change in paradigm, Mayer is previewing the building of an incrementally ‘better mousetrap’ – perfecting the search toy. Universal search, socially-honed search, location-orientated search, context awareness, search without the box, improved language handling and improved spelling correction.

But, as much as search has so rapidly come to dominate our  lives (and certainly our advertising), shouldn’t we be expecting more in the next ten years than just cranking the handle on technology which even our grandparents now take for granted? An idea that’s already entered our dictionaries? A noun that became a verb-generic before it’s eigth birthday.?

Let’s not forget that the Google twins are mapping the genome and the surface of Mars. They’re indexing audio clips, recreating video advertising and may even be able to help you find a cab in New York City.

Considering how far we’ve come together in the last two bubble bursts, where should we be setting our hopes for 2020?

If we were science fiction writers or TV producers, we’d have all-knowing computers with sinister voices, or at least self-driving cars.

Perhaps a greater amibition should be for us to rethink the concept of knowledge and truth in a world where we will be increasingly overwhelmed by the number of propositions to be evaluated. What we are talking about here is the ability to deliver a practical epistemology, rather than a theoretical framework.

To do this with a Platonic concept of truth is one thing. When we see truth as socially constructed, we can question again whether we are indeed all looking at the same picture, or whether communities of truth (or even conditions of truth) should be adaptable by who is searching, how they are searching, when they are searching, why they are searching. As the scope of what can be searched extends, as the scope of where search results are used becomes ever larger, the significance of this question grows too.

If a million people incorrectly believe something to be true when it is not, does that make it any less false? What about if they all blog about it? Well it certainly shouldn’t. But I think we all know that’s not the case.

What about a true thing which is all over the web but Google thinks it’s SPAM?

The problem is that for something to be true, it doesn’t matter if no-one knows it.  But to be known, something must be both true and be believed. Google’s often in charge of the later, and as it becomes ever more the owner of the context of social defintion, its role in the former will increasingly grow.

Then there will be more to its power then deciding on CPC rates.