Have you seen this? According to a media commentator, Applebee’s has a new campaign in which they are urging hipsters to dine at their restaurants “ironically” which makes sense since they are never going to get them there through conventional advertising. Take a look:
Funny thing is, Applebee’s actually is running a social media campaign that is far more bizarre as this, called “Girls’ Night Out. Life is better shared.” A Betty White character harangues ladies for spending too much time online, then tells them the solution is to get down to Applebee’s for some facetime. Take a look:
There’s also a tumblr page that anchors the campaign and has links to Pinterest and Twitter pages (no Facebook, maybe because it’s a regional campaign). All the elements of a well thought out and expensive social media campaign.
Speaking of social media, Applebee’s is also marketing this thing: which is a life size inflatable dummy you can leave at your desk while you sneak out for lunch. This one is on Facebook, where you can take the Desk Lunch Diagnosis Quiz (I am the “Break Room Hero… people are tired of cleaning up the microwave after you”).
Does this stuff work? The “goddess” video above has over 50,000 hits but how many of those are potential customers? There are only 400 plus followers on the Twitter page and the selection of inflatable dolls on Amazon was originally 7 but is now down to just 2. The bottom line is that Applebee’s is still Applebee’s (check the hashtag #applebee and you’ll get a far more realistic snapshot of Middle America’s view of the chain) and there’s only so much you can do to get hipsters to change their behavior… unless they do it ironically, perhaps.
When I started freelancing, a couple decades ago, a wise old art director counseled me: never turn down work. Even if you’re super busy, stay up all night to get it done or offload it to a fellow creative and hopefully mark up their work. After all, you never know which new client might become your bread and butter or, conversely, if your current bread-and-butter client might go belly up tomorrow.
And I do try to stay hungry. But recently I’ve been turning down a bit of work. Part of this is a hunch we are headed for good times. Freelance creative are the canaries in the coal mine, first to get laid off in a recession but also first to know when companies think they better get cracking to stay competitive. And that’s what seems to be happening right now. Buy U.S. equities, dear reader. Buy Facebook like I did last week. (Though not at the IPO price obviously.)
And, another part of my reasoning is quality of life. I’m trying to get some traction on a fiction project, which uses the same brain cells as my copywriting. At the end of the day, when I’m trying to get the attention of David Ogilvy at that great water cooler in the sky, do I want to admit I didn’t get my novel finished because I decided to take on yet another few hundred $$ project? Not to mention my kid’s in the Little League playoffs and we are looking pretty good over here.
Both my turn down projects this week had to do with budget contractions. When times are good, prices start rising all over the place (the $3.47 deck pieces I wanted at Home Depot rose to $5.94 in the space of a month, for example), and it’s natural to get aggressively defensive.
One client wanted to redefine a project to pay less for work we’ve already agreed to. There’s a line item for A, and a line item for B, but the assumption is you’ll get both and I do research and prep with that in mind before I ever type a word. Now this client wants to only pay for the “A” portion which makes it a loser for me since the prep work is the same, so I’m outta here. Have to finish current projects but asking to be excused from future ones.
The second contested budget was much, much larger… an entire website. This is always a leap of faith because you don’t know how the pages will shake out when you estimate and hopefully pick a per-page number that averages out (same with catalogs by the way). With a new client, you also don’t know how finicky they will be and how complex the revisions. So I added something I thought was pretty generous, which was an offer to write 10 pages of the client’s choice at the per-page rate, charge nothing for my startup research time, then after that we could decide if it make sense for both of us.
Client instead wants a deal of some kind, which I can’t offer because my deal was my deal. This could have occupied me late into the night for much of the summer. Instead I’ll be baking baguettes, following the capers of my protagonist (a 19th century Quaker with a terrible problem) and maybe watching Logistics One finally get the best of Staffing in the Saratoga American Little League. Maybe I’m crazy, but maybe not.
AT&T is pretty happy with its 2 million adoring fans...
The Wall Street Journal article on GM pulling its Facebook advertising mentioned that General Motors is third in U.S. advertising spending, behind P&G and AT&T. This prompted me to go take a look at what the other two companies are doing with their Facebook presence.
P&G does not appear to have a corporate Facebook page. That is, if you search “P&G” or “PG” or “Proctor & Gamble” you’ll come up empty except for some odd special-purpose pages. Makes sense because P&G does not generally market itself as a brand but rather as a family of brands, each of which has its own brand manager. And indeed a random search turned up pages for Charmin which offers “SitOrSquat”, an app for finding clean public restrooms, and “Charmin Fan Perks” which are cents-off coupons available in limited quantities at preannounced times (generated repeated visits to the site).
There’s no brand page for Prilosec, another random choice, but there’s one for Pringles. Here you can find the “Tournament of Flavors”, a collection of fan-submitted videos, and “Make Us Laugh”, a joke contest which seems to be in Arabic. In short, P&G’s brand managers seem to have figured out how to use Facebook in a way that is appropriate to the medium and encourages user involvement.
...but the feeling is not entirely mutual.
ATT, on the other hand, makes GM look like a social media maven. Their page is all over the fact they’ve gotten two million “likes” (Pringles has 19 million) with a big “two million thank yous” graphic at the top and a “two million thanks” link just below this. (The link actually leads to something interesting: on May 22 the ATT “house band” is going to start pumping out “thank you” songs written for people who sign up and submit personal information to be used in writing the lyrics. Sort of like the Old Spice Man.) Yet the rest of the page is full of gripes from customers about AT&T. They should do something to moderate these, or at least respond to them.
The moral of this story? With three so different approaches to Facebook, by America’s three top advertisers, this is still a very young medium. Or as Clint Eastwood might put it, we’re still waiting for the ball to come down after the opening kickoff.
So General Motors has pulled its Facebook advertising because it determined its ads had little effect on consumer behavior, according to the Wall Street Journal. Marketing VP Joel Ewanik says the company “is definitely reassessing our advertising on Facebook, although the content is effective and important.” And by “content” he means the pages GM isn’t paying for, as opposed to the sidebar ads.
The story goes on to say that GM had a $40 million Facebook budget, only $10 million of which actually went for ads. The rest “covers content created for the site, agencies that manage the content and daily maintenance of GM’s pages, people familiar with the figures said.”
I took a look at what we can assume is the flagship page for the company, http://www.facebook.com/generalmotors. You can see it pictured here, but you should go check it out for yourself. Then go check out a few other pages, like Chevrolet (NOT “Chevy”) , Camaro, Chevrolet Volt and Corvette. Notice anything interesting? Yeah, the layout and content design is all the same. The whole thing is probably auto-filled by a content management system. If this is worth $30 million I want that gig!
Now notice what GM is doing to promote itself: promote ITSELF. There’s news of what this brand or that brand is doing, Guy Fieri driving a Corvette at the Indy 500 (let’s hope it doesn’t get stolen like his last car) and some proud customers pulling up to a plant in their car on a road trip. Yes, there’s a blurb at the top, “Welcome to the official GM fan page [sic]. Share your thoughts, tell us your story and join in on the discussion.” But nobody’s actually doing that. How about inviting readers to interact with you by sending in photos of their cars, telling stories about their first car, and maybe giving them a chance to WIN something?
And, almost none of these pages has any sidebar advertising. I’m guessing that Facebook pulled all the ads in a fit of pique, to make the pages even less interesting than they are. But here’s an idea: now that you’re spending 75% of your budget to build a “web presence”, is it worth the other 25% to give people a call to action and maybe buy something?
Probably not, if everybody is like GM executives and other WSJ reader: in a poll accompanying the article, 93.4% said they “rarely or never” are affected by Facebook advertising. What more proof could you want that this whole Facebook thing is a flash in the pan?
[UPDATE: The Facebook roadshow video's been taken down so the following is of archival interest mainly. Went looking to see if someone had saved it to YouTube, and no, but here's an interesting 60 Minutes story from when they were at 60 million members.]
As a creative guy I’ve sat through a lot of agency capability presentations that made the air slowly leak out of the room before I ever got to speak. So there was a bit of schadenfreude associated with hearing that, after poor reviews in New York, Facebook had withdrawn their video from the IPO investor roadshow before today’s appearance in Boston.
But actually, it’s a pretty good video and you can watch it right here. (No freeze frame to click, sorry, and you have to sit through a long disclosure/disclaimer crawl before you ever see the people.) It’s the clearest statement yet of “who we are and what we’re trying to do” from a company that is usually very opaque about what it’s up to. And their explanations of the Facebook phenomenon make a lot of sense. Eg. At the beginning user profiles were static and the only thing users could easily change was their profile picture so they constantly changing them. Then they let users tag friends they saw in other photos and the whole social network thing took off. (That from Chris Cox, Vice President, Product in tandem with Mark Zuckerberg.)
The investors were apparently pissed off that after the video there wasn’t enough time for questions. So now there’s no video—and also no Zuckerberg. Did he skip Boston because he was disgusted with the reception to the video, which obviously they’d worked hard on? Time will tell, maybe, but meanwhile look at the video before they take it down. It’s about marketing, just like we are.
Years ago, around the turn of the millennium, I was walking near the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park when I saw an impeccably dressed man blow his nose and then toss his tissue into the manicured garden. I was outraged at this behavior and also by the realization that, since I myself was too meek to beard him, he was about to get away scott free.
I saw what you did, CVS...
It was at that moment I decided to create an online bulletin board where people could register outrageous things they saw other people do. On some level, miscreants like this could be brought to justice if only in the mind of the poster. I registered the domain name that day: isawwhatyoudid.com.
That was a nasty and brutish era where there was no Facebook, no Twitter (imagine!) which today could serve the purpose of venting my outrage. I never got around to doing anything more with the concept and after a couple of years I let my ownership of the domain lapse. It was immediately snatched up by Warner Brothers, probably as the website for a teen movie they were planning. But the movie never got off the planning stage, they in turn let their ownership expire, and I bought it back again.
I think this website could still be useful today, for a somewhat different purpose. Above is a photo of an outrageously worthless product I bought at my local CVS pharmacy. It’s a travel-size bottle to be filled with shampoo or whatever, and it’s an abomination because the screw top doesn’t seal. If I had taken this on a trip it would have leaked all over and made a mess when air pressure changed on the airplane.
At $1.99 my reasonable response would have been to just throw it away, but instead I took it to CVS and got a refund and asked the cashier, a competent woman named Jodi, if she would report it to corporate and ask them to stop carrying this defective product. She said she would but I have doubts how much difference it will make. So let’s suppose I also record my story on isawwhatyoudid.com. In its new configuration the site is not going to be an organized BBS, just a soup of angst where people can post whatever they like (except there will be an adult content filter) and it goes into a searchable database.
Thus, months after my experience, when another customer has their Louis Vuitton toilet bag ruined by one of these bottles and sees that CVS was asked to stop selling them but did not, then they will have some fodder for appropriate action. Make sense? There will also be a tag cloud documenting the frequency with which certain words or phrases are used…. Unlike the tag cloud on this blog, which is created manually, it will grow organically like a boil to reflect current topics. Commonly used words will be excluded from the tag cloud and there will be extra weight for recency so it’s constantly changing and relevant.
Actually, I’m probably going to be too busy to do anything with this for awhile. If any of my readers wants to take this project on, shoot me an email.
Researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison reviewed publicly-available Facebook profiles of 224 students for references to being drunk or problems related to drinking. All profiled students were then invited to take a 10-question quiz. Researchers found that 6 of 10 who mentioned excessive drinking symptoms on Facebook (as opposed to just saying “I had a glass of wine”) showed other signs of problems with alcohol, such as the fact nearly 1 in 5 risky drinkers admitted an alcohol-related accident in the past year.
That’s good if it helps head off risky behavior before somebody gets hurt, but bad from a privacy standpoint. Or is it? All these students had freely posted and their profiles could be accessed by anyone who took the time to look for them. This study was not conducted by the university itself but by independent researchers. But what’s to keep the Dean of Students from doing the same digging?
Or, for that matter, what’s to keep marketers from using the same sources to do similar research? Establish a cohort by the way participants have identified themselves, set up rules for doing a query, push the button, do your analysis. The difference from other research being that the participants are anything but anonymous.
If you too are just now catching up with the Cooks Source train wreck, this LA Times blog entry is a good place to start. A small, low budget regional food publication printed a blogger’s post without permission (apparently this is the only event that is clearly documented and an uncontested fact) and when the writer protested, the editor or someone using the email of the editor of the publication wrote back and said everything on the web is public domain and the writer should be glad they were not sending her a bill for editing the piece.
I don’t have the complete chronology but apparently it was last Thursday, November 4, that all hell broke loose. Just before midnight on the 3rd, the blogger posted her account on her own very eclectic blog and by the next morning the story was everywhere including the LA Times. At some point it was discovered that Cooks Source had a Facebook page and that was when the pile-on began.
Some time during the day on November 4, the editor or someone with access to her account posted on FB, “Well, here I am with egg on my face! I did apologise to Monica via email, but aparently it wasnt enough for her. To all of you, thank you for your interest in Cooks Source and Again, to Monica, I am sorry — my bad! You did find a way to get your “pound of flesh…” we used to have 110 “friends,” we now have 1,870… wow!”
But of course, those “friends” were simply “liking” Cooks Source so they could post. The comments, assuming they are still there, are pretty funny for the most part but the whole experience certainly adds up to a public dunking or time in the stocks, which is appropriate considering that the original recipe was from a blog on medieval cooking.
After all that I got around to checking out the actual Cooks Source website, where there was an announcement that the magazine has taken down its website (sic), and shut down its Facebook page as of 6 pm on November 4. Unfortunately, the announcement continues, the Facebook page is still there because it has been taken over by hackers. I wonder what the Cooks Source people thought they were doing and if they know it is actually pretty simple to take down your Facebook page if that is what you want to do. I hope nobody tells them because like I say, this is an entertaining read. Also, on the bottom of the non-website Cooks Source page there is an apology to the blogger which seems sincere.
This is a cautionary tale for how there really is no privacy on the web and no place to hide once you make a mistake. This particular editor (or some devious person portraying her) offended a particularly vocal segment of the population and apparently did not have the good sense to make a full and complete apology in time. Crowing about the situation on Facebook, if indeed she did this, was gasoline on the flames. If you’re wrong, or simply if you decide for your business survival to say you’re wrong, the only possible course of action is to apologize repeatedly, abjectly and without reservation to anyone who will listen. RIP Cooks Source.
Robert Scoble had an example at one of the SXSW panels on how the “check-ins” we were all getting from Gowalla and Foursquare (“Jim Wood has just checked in at the Blogger’s Lounge”) could be made useful, instead of annoying.
Suppose he wants a recommendation for a barbecue place in Austin. He’s going to browse among his thousands of contacts for the handful of people who have completed the Gowalla BBQ hunt, requiring them to check in at six different BBQ spots. He can assume they know more about BBQ than 99% of the rest of us, based purely on their activity stream.
Of course, we don’t know if these reviewers have good taste in barbecue, but there are tools for that as well. It’s what is done on Amazon and Yelp, where reviewers gain authority based on how active they are and how useful their reviews are to others. Combine an authority ranking system with check-ins and you’re getting some pretty good info, all auto-generated.
The biggest user of check-ins will soon be Facebook, the 800 pound gorilla that nobody at SXSW wants to talk about even though they reccently surpassed Google as the #1 Internet destination on the Web in terms of daily visits. Facebook users are already conditioned to share their activity streams with their friends anecdotally, and Gowalla and Twitter are adding links to make those streams geographically meaningful (Gowalla through geolocation, Twitter through its newly added “location” feature). You’ll know how popular your local Starbucks is with your friends and how often your best friends can be found there.
And wouldn’t it be great to add to this a coolness factor, what the smart and savvy kids are recommending? Well, that’s what Yelp is for. How about adding a Yelp tab at the top of your Facebook page where, after you visit a place, you can Yelp it? How about assigning reward points for the frequency of Yelp reviews; wouldn’t that be at least as satisfying as feeding the animals in Farmville?
Facebook also gains a bunch of new users (plus many already on Facebook who will become much more active) and a sales force trained in micro-targeting local businesses. It’s just too good a fit not to happen.
Here’s a good strategy for working a conference as unpredictable as South by Southwest Interactive. Give yourself an assignment, e.g. a resource you need to find or a topic you learn about, then refer back to it whenever there’s a choice to be made in your activity flow.
The Silent Majority: Facebook developers at SXSWi
Here are my two. First, I wanted to find out about Facebook and SXSW. Specifically, I wanted to follow up on my hypothesis that while it is a vast online community, people in the geek world don’t want to talk about Facebook because it runs on a proprietary platform. I started by putting up a #Facebook #sxsw hashtag search in TweetDeck and watching the traffic. Yep, not a lot of it. I did run across the Facebook Developer Garage off site event and spent a couple of hours there yesterday. Show of hands requested from the audience: how many of you are Facebook developers? (almost everybody) How many actually use Facebook? (quite a lot fewer.)
We all love Twitter because it’s an erector set, but meanwhile Facebook is Dad’s muscle car (or maybe Mom’s) idling in the driveway. You can’t ignore 400 million users indefinitely. Josh from Gowalla got cheers on the stage and everybody loves Josh/Gowalla and how they now have their Facebook Connect check-in. So what happens in a few months when Facebook introduces its own check-in feature?
Meanwhile, my second assignment was related to the fact that several folks have recently asked me about being a social media consultant for them. I’m not sure it’s a good fit because social media marketing requires constant attention (similar to good P.R.) and as a freelance copywriter I sometimes need to hole up for a couple of days at a time. So I wanted to find folks who actually are social media consultants and are good at it. Through the #facebook #sxsw tag I ran across the the folks at The KBuzz. I went to their mixer to meet them and talked to some of their clients and was impressed. Mallorie Rosenbluth is their Director of Small Business which is what most of my inquires would be; for $1000 they will design a Facebook page for you and do a detailed analysis of your business and your social media opportunities, then provide recommendations which you can execute on your own or through a monthly contract with them.
Check them out. UPDATE: Mallorie contacted me to say that if you use the code OTIS10 they’ll give you 10% off above pricing.