A lot of crowdsourced or co-created projects yield questionable results. But there seems to be a new formula that works pretty well. Short snippets of film edited into something wonderful by a talented curator/editor. We saw the first big example of this with Ridley Scott’s Life in a Day. And this week we see another great effort from Mont Blanc to celebrate its 190th anniversary.
To honor Nicolas Rieussac’s invention of the chronograph – he recorded time to a fifth of a second in 1821 – Mont Blanc has challenged image makers to capture beauty in a single second of a film. Participants choose their favorite 60, each of which becomes part of a short film and qualifies to be chosen as the single best one-second video by director Wim Wenders. Hard to imagine that one one-second film can be the best, but someone’s got to win.
There’s also an opportunity to craft your own playlist of other people’s videos and be recognized for your visual prowess even if you choose not to submit.
Is this a good idea? I think so for a host of reasons.
- It’s a perfectly relevant idea. The beauty of a second. What better way to call attention to the chronograph?
- It’s remarkable easy to enter. Simply upload a film from a computer or mobile device.
- The prize is great: a trip to Berlin and a new Mont Blanc chronograph.
- The finished films that feature the top 60 seconds become something you can send to your friends with appropriate bragging rights.
- Mont Blanc generates a piece of content they probably couldn’t create themselves.
- And finally, the participants become a bit of a media channel, sharing and passing the videos around the web.
- Best of all, when you take a look at the first film, it lives up to the idea that a single second is plenty long enough to convey beauty.
In The Age of the SWARM*, when every news outlet, blogger and tweeter jumps on the story of the moment, it’s no surprise that on November 16, we saw thousands of Benetton-related headlines telling us that the “Vatican threatens legal action,” and “Benetton pulls pope-kissing ad.” After all, that was the day that all hell broke loose over Benetton’s new ad campaign featuring global leaders kissing each other.
But if you looked beyond the echo chamber of RTs and redundant posts there wasn’t much in the way of real analysis. Sure the Pope was PO’d. But was the campaign any good? Is the cause it supports worthy? Was the controversy a surprise or the objective of the campaign in the first place?
It strikes me these are all questions worth considering for those of us interested in branding, advertising and social media. So I thought I’d weigh in.
The Cause: UNHATE fits perfectly with Benetton’s history of social advocacy
These days it’s common for marketers to jump on the social cause bandwagon in an attempt to generate good will. But taking a stand and supporting causes has been part of Benetton’s DNA for decades. The brand has a long history of social responsibility (or in some cases advertising disguised as such). It’s run campaigns and launched programs to subvert stereotypes, protest war, fight famine and challenge the death penalty. There was even a campaign to encourage entrepreneurialism in Africa.
If you haven’t checked out Benetton’s new initiative, you should. Benetton’s in-house agency Fabrica (working with outside agency 72andSunny) didn’t just launch an ad campaign for the sake of generating buzz, it created the UNHATE foundation and introduced a series of programs it hopes will contribute to a culture of tolerance. The effort appears to be much more than lip service. It includes educational programs and support for international NGOs that teach tolerance, a Global Tolerance Index, efforts to promote human rights and support for art programs that bear witness or contrast hatred.
UNHATE may or may not be its biggest or best effort to date – it’s too soon to tell, despite the fact that SWARM thinking wants instant conclusions – but perhaps we should credit the Italian apparel maker; it chose both to speak out and to put resources behind a worthy cause and message.
(I did come across one face worth noting in writing this post: while Benetton is a brand that prides itself in social responsibility, it ranks rather poorly in certain related behavioral traits you’d expect the company to do well in, including carbon emissions, environmental policy and labor conditions.)
The Creative: Not the best effort
If the main job of a creative execution is to get noticed, then this campaign works brilliantly. But if we want to apply higher standards – taste, cleverness, originality – then the kissing campaign does not rank among Benetton’s best. Take a look at some of the United Colors of Benetton ads of the past. The integrated family. The vials of leaders’ blood, all of it the same color. The white baby nursing from a black breast. The images were not only startling, but less expected. There’s something about the kissing joke that feels a little too easy and obvious.
Then again, it does give a nod to another great Benetton kissing ad featuring a priest and a nun, produced 20 years ago. I suppose that for the few of us familiar with Benetton’s history you could argue it’s an inside joke.
We all know it’s easier to be critical than to come up with a better idea yourself, but it doesn’t help that Oliviero Toscani, the photographer who created the most famous Benetton ad images slammed the campaign, calling it “pathetic and the product of a beginner’s art class.” Ouch.
On another note, the website is pretty good. It’s clean, well designed, easy to navigate and invites participation via the Kiss Wall. Perhaps what this effort and campaign really needs is just some time.
The Controversy: Intentional or accidental?
If you want your next ad campaign to generate millions of media impressions just add a picture of the Pope in a compromising position. Search “Benetton Pope” and you get pages and pages of coverage. It’s hard to imagine a better viral scenario. The cynical among us have already ventured that the entire campaign was created for no other reason to generate press coverage.
It’s unlikely that Benetton will admit whether or not they sought such a reaction, but it’s hard to imagine it didn’t cross their mind to expect comments like Father Federico Lombardi’s declaration that the doctored photo exhibited “a grave lack of respect for the Pope, an offense against the sentiments of the faithful and a clear example of how advertising can violate elementary rules of respect for people in order to attract attention through provocation.”
Marketers often find themselves deluged by unexpected reaction, whether in response to a calculated risk or a innocent mistake. Just witness Qantas’s #qantasluxury fiasco yesterday. But in Benetton’s case the brand had to know from past experience. In response to Benetton’s Death Row ads in 2000 Sears removed all Benetton products from its stores and terminated its contract with the company.
Last year Benetton net income fell 33 percent, a fact Benetton attributed to the economy. Perhaps a little free publicity and controversy is just what the brand needs to jump start business and stay top of mind.
It may not be a strategy for all brands, but it seems to work over and over again for the Italian company.
- Is UNHATE a good cause? Or is it too generic? Would it be better to choose a cause that would generate customer participation more meaningful than posts to a kissing wall?
- Do you think the work rivals the Benetton campaigns of the past, particularly those photographed by Toscani Olivieri?
- Is generating controversy a smart marketing tactic? Is it too risky? Could more brands take advantage of it?
Please share your thoughts. If you are a teacher, consider using this as a topic and discussion guide.
The SWARM is my new term for the digital echo chamber we live in. It’s an acronym for the Social Wave Amplified by Repetitive Media. We see it all the time. A story breaks — maybe in the traditional press, maybe online, maybe on Twitter — and in order to be part of the story bloggers, tweeters, and every one with a presence in social media feels compelled to link, RT or somehow declare they’re in the know, creating The SWARM. If you like this acronym, feel free to use it as a hashtag. If you want to link back to its original explanation here, you can do that, too.
Thanks for stopping by.
I am adding this video after the fact. Creativity Magazine recap of the campaign in its five best of November 23. A good perspective on the comprehensiveness of the effort.
It’s easy to bash Sapient Nitro for its social media faux pas yesterday. After all, they basically wrote the playbook on what not to do in digital and social media. Nevertheless I’ll shed a bit of a positive light, go out on a limb (to the very edge in fact) and declare that this is an opportunity for Sapient Nitro to create a really good social media case study and learning guide.
Want to convince clients not to over-react? Who is in a better position to offer such advice than someone who made the mistake and lived to regret it. Want to forcefully counsel clients not to delete those nasty Facebook posts? Guess who now knows about that. Want to get paid by clients to develop a crisis management playbook that can be followed when problems erupt? The team that didn’t have one yesterday today understands how essential it can be. Especially for global brands with multiple content creators. (Note: read Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto and you realize exactly how important it is to have instructions worth following when the situation gets so stressful that it’s hard to think clearly.)
If you want to use this as a social media case study, check out this sequence of events on Storify. It includes links to video, articles and tweets, along with my two cents.
If I were Sapient Nitro I’d take comfort in a few things. One, this too shall pass. It might seem omnipresent yesterday and today, but a week from now no one will really remember. United Guitar, Nestle’s and even Dominos all endured days of misery when they screwed up. But search Dominos social media on Google today and you get a story about re-invention.
Two, this story played out primarily on Twitter, a few blogs and AdWeek. At least so far. It didn’t really make the mainstream press and most clients don’t pay as much attention to the same blogs as ad industry types do.
And three, admitting mistakes and laughing about them, presuming you don’t repeat them, is something everyone can relate to. (We’ve all done something stupid.)
True some clients may prefer their agencies to know enough not to make such mistakes. But with a little bit of “positioning” Sapient Nitro ought to be able to turn this into a useful case study that talks about the eight mistakes not to make in social media.
- Don’t post the wrong kind of content
- Remember the web isn’t local, it’s global
- Engage proactively at the right time
- Don’t try and control the community or delete their comments
- If you do, archive everything
- Have a crisis management plan in place and follow it
- Try not to get defensive
- Accept the blame, apologize, and move on
If you want the beginning of a case study, check out the Storify post.
I just got back from my first trip to Mobile, Alabama. For most people an inaugural visit to the original home of Mardi Gras would be to hear some really good Dixie Land Jazz. And while I did get in some of that, the purpose in this case was to help Google get all, or at least 500, local businesses optimized for mobile.
To its credit Google and the competent folks at Duda Mobile agreed to Mobilize Mobile, creating optimized sites for free and covering hosting for a full year. The effort makes sense for both Google and the recipient small businesses. Ad Words ads that show up on a Google search made from a smart phone become a lot more effective when they link to a site that “searchers” find useful and easy to navigate. Everybody wins – Google, the business, and most importantly, the user.
The program, going on this week, includes two days of seminars, training, and site conversion along with a little bit of evangelizing. I had some responsibility for the latter, presenting to 200 ad agency and brand folks last night at an event held at Red Square Agency.
Jason Spero, director of mobile at Google spoke first, covering trends and insights that leave no doubt about the proliferation of devices, changes in search behavior and a plethora of other uses. My job was to remind ad agencies that they need to jump on this opportunity full force while it is still early enough not to be late. An awful lot of advertising agencies were caught off guard with the pace of change brought on by all things digital. Many missed it out again when social media altered consumer behavior forever. Mobile is bigger than either of the previous disruptions and will inevitably affect every section of the purchase funnel, from awareness to loyalty. You don’t want to miss out on this one.
A couple of key facts are worth noting. First from Jason: “The consumer is adopting mobile and all that it offers far more quickly than brands, marketers and small businesses.” That alone should be enough to wake up any agencies or brands that haven’t put the newest digital movement at the forefront of their marketing efforts.
Second, from a conversation I had a few months ago with Joe Ferra, head of Fidelity’s mobile marketing: “Fifty percent of Fidelity trades, transactions and inquiries will soon be made from a mobile device.” That’s a wake-up call to anyone who thinks this is all about for 18—24 year olds. Doubt many of them are trading equities with Fidelity.
And finally, the battle for mobile payments, about to escalate as Google, Apple, American Express all vie for dominance, will end up creating numerous opportunities for retailers. We’ll know who’s in the store, when they were last there, their past purchase behaviors and their current loyalty status. Doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to see the opportunities in that.
Anyway, below is my presentation. (Or here’s a version with a few notes attached.) Up here in Massachusetts we give the presentations first, then open the bar and start partying. On the Gulf Coast, they party first — kicking out a few jazz tunes and making sure everyone has a drink or two before they invite the presenters up on stage.
But this alternative sequence made my argument for mobile sites even more convincing. If you think it’s tough to pinch, zoom and navigate an unfriendly mobile site when you’re totally sober, try it after a couple of drinks. Can you imagine searching from your smart phone for events on Mobile’s Mardi Gras site next February if it’s not optimized for mobile?
If you have a chance, visit the warm welcoming city of Mobile. It’s a happening town. Reminds me of Austin. And for the best grits there, try True’s.
My friend Erik Proulx is in the midst of his second Lemonade film, this one telling the story of what we all hope might be Detroit’s resurrection. As with his first film, the original Lemonade, it’s not government policy or unemployment checks, or even the bailout of the automobile industry – don’t get me wrong I was in favor of a better stimulus package than the one we actually got – that restores an economy, it’s personal and collective optimism, achievement and creativity.
And so it will be with Detroit. The often ill-fated attempts at urban renewal and the erection of shiny glass buildings are never what make a city great – it’s the people who live there. Erik’s film focuses on such people and as an exploration into the spirit and passion of Detroit residents intent on bringing the city back it paints a picture of hope and possibility.
Erik released the extended trailer of Lemonade Detroit right as I happen to be reading Edward Glaeser’sTriumph of the City. Erik’s premise is that with enough will power and motivation (the latter often comes from having got kicked pretty good) people have the ability to turn lemons into Lemonade. Glaeser’s hypothesis is that cities magnify those qualities. They attract innovators and entrepreneurs, place them in proximity to one another and encourage interaction, collisions and social mobility.
In the late 1800’s right before Detroit became the center of the automotive universe, the city looked a lot like Silicon Valley in the very early days of the computer industry. Dozens of small, innovative firms and an army of entrepreneurs – Henry Ford, Ransom Olds, David Buick – fueled each other’s ideas, created a community of competition and attracted investors.
A culture of learning and experimentation, and communication among and between industry pioneers, led to the growth of both a city and an industry. Detroit was a center of knowledge. If you were in the car business you needed to be there.
But unlike Silicon Valley, where constant learning, education, and ideas continue to attract thinkers, Detroit’s industrial model led to the opposite: a culture and a massive scale production process which, according to Glaeser, turned out to be “antithetical to the urban virtues of competition and connection.”
Instead, because the assembly line made it possible to be highly productive without knowing that much, it killed the need for learning and attracted the kind of worker for whom learning didn’t matter. According to Glaeser’s thesis, as soon as that happened Detroit was destined to die. “When a city creates a powerful enough knowledge-destroying idea, it sets itself up for self-destruction,” the author writes.
In the end the same industry that made Detroit great ended up destroying it. The vertical integration of the automobile companies crowded out new ideas, spinoffs and alternative industries.
Erik’s film suggests that if urban re-invention is possible it will emanate from a diverse mix with of human capital. Entrepreneurs, artists, educators and other creative people are the ones who’ll make it happen. They’ll make new connections, riff off of each other, and maybe turn Detroit into the kind of city that Glaeser writes about: one that attracts smart people and enables them to work collaboratively to build something lasting.
Kudos to Erik for celebrating the human spirit and making us all more hopeful.