If you take even the slightest bit of notice as to trends developing through the social web, I’m sure you would have heard of the Old Spice responses campaign. You should at least be aware of their brilliant TV ads, an example of which is below. Even if you’ve seen this one before, I think you should watch it again.
Did you see that? Wasn’t it marvellous? Truly, this should be the direction that communications should be heading. In one month, that video has captured over 11 million views, which is over half as many views as Powerthirst, which has been up for years; because, you know, everyone should totally start using Powerthirst as a benchmark of awesome.
Indeed, it seems that I’m not the only one who’s mega enthusiastic about this all. People have gone wild for Old Spice, following their online exploits. Or not. Depending on who you talk to, Old Spice sales have either increased a great deal because of these campaigns, or haven’t really done anything amazing in the wider context of men’s toiletry sales. I’m of the opinion that it’s really too soon to judge whether or not Old Spice man has had a profound effect on sales. Instead, I think we should (without forgetting how recent these videos, and the responses campaign was) focus on the things Old Spice, and W+K, the agency behind all this, did differently.
Number one, people generally like being listened to, especially by brands. The historical connotations of the word ‘brand’ conjure up images of soulless offerings manufactured by the kind of organisations that Ronald Coase was harping on about in the 1930s. Think limited distribution, the marketing ‘push’, one way communication, or whatever you want to call it. We all know that’s certainly not the case now. Brands now are more friendly creatures, that have every opportunity to listen and talk back to their audiences. Generally, I’m suitably satisfied when a brand I tweet at manages to tweet back at me. That specific example is all about customer service, and all about AWESOME, but I’m sure you get the point. In their own way, brands are celebrities, and we’d all like to be noticed by some celebrities every once in a while, right?
Number two, the responses campaign was essentially responding to the internet in real-time. This, known as low latency advertising (props to Faris Yakob for that one), is truly the future of advertising, in my opinion. We all know, as people, that people generally hate waiting for things. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, we also love it when brands talk to us. However, Old Spice didn’t only respond to the internet in real-time, it responded to the internet in real-time with well polished, humorous video responses. To be on the receiving end of one of those bad boys must have made you feel like a celebrity, as well.
Used in conjunction with each other, these two things result in increased audience engagement on a scale we’ve never seen before. The internet didn’t know what hit it. This was a result of superb strategic planning, from the team who produced these videos, who managed to scour the web for decent questions from influential people, and then answer these questions as a way of maximising the campaign’s exposure.
One area I think really needs paying attention to, is that Old Spice has truly befriended the internet. I like to think of the internet as another country, almost. As such, it’s got its own cultural values, its own customs, and most importantly, its own unique sense of humour. The Old Spice responses were not only able to tap into this unique pool of memes and in-jokes, but exploit it to their advantage. I’m not sure if this is a deliberate result of brilliant writing and planning, or whether it just happened, but it’s a lesson the creative industries all need to learn. The internet can be your best friend, with just a little love. Get to know it first, and then make it happy. Just watch this response to Anonymous (the shady group of internet activists who were behind the Scientology protests), which they unanimously approved of, and you’ll see what I mean.
Many apologies for the lack of frequent updates, but I’ve been holidaying on the Greek island of Rhodes for the last week. It’s absolutely lovely here, if not a bit windy. The weather is just splendid, and the beaches are truly a joy to behold.
Rhodes itself, which is a small island an hour away from Athens by plane, is lovely and quaint. The island plays host to a medieval ‘Old Town’, which still, remarkably, is rather intact. There are small, quiet beaches and hidden coves, which give the island a wonderful sense of seclusion. It is, I guess you could say, a pretty quiet place. This is rather ironic, seeing as the town also is home to Faliraki, and its swathes of industrialisation: big, big hotels, big clubs, and big beaches, to cater to the many tourists who like to visit, and occasionally cause trouble. Makis, our hotel manager, who is a lovely chap, tells us that a few years ago, the tourists were causing all kinds of havoc in Faliraki, and around the island, but that this has generally subsided.
Considering Greece’s ongoing economic crisis, I was quite concerned to see how such an ordeal would have affected the country first-hand. Much to my relief, there weren’t any airborne flaming toilet rolls, or anything of the sort, when I briefly landed in Athens before connecting to Rhodes. No, the people I’ve talked to say that again, things have gotten a lot better. Yiorgious, a family friend, imparted that, “If you have a job, you don’t feel it.” It’s only when you don’t have a job that you start to feel the true extent of things. The job market isn’t doing fabulously, and it’s very hard to find work. Not so different from England, then.
However, a crisis of quite a different nature took hold of the country a few days ago. Truck drivers responsible for delivering petrol to the nation’s petrol stations went on strike, refusing to work because of new EU sanctions that would increase competition in the Greek oil industry, as a way of alleviating some of the pain caused by the country’s economic woes. The truck drivers, unfortunately, didn’t see things the same way, and three days ago refused to drive their refuelling trucks, essentially denying the country of petrol.
On the first day of the strike, as we drove through Faliraki on our way to the beach, we saw long queues of cars outside petrol stations, literally stretching for kilometres. Later that day, we heard that another family friend had queued for over an hour to fill her car up. Yesterday, the queues were gone, and petrol stations around the island were unanimously closed, as they’d all exhausted their petrol supplies.
Then, yesterday evening, the Greek government invoked a ‘rare emergency order’, forcing the truck drivers back to work. Minister of Finance, George Papaconstantinou, was quoted as saying that “No one has the right to paralyse the country.”
Despite the presence of this ‘rare emergency order’, truck drivers in Athens refuse to relent, comparing themselves to King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans. The internets are going to have a field day with this.
Suffice to say, it’s a sad state of affairs that a petrol shortage, in two, maybe three days has managed to essentially bring the country to its knees. This should perhaps be a sign that our reliance on oil is perhaps maybe a little insane. Then again, Greeks have always been (at least from my experience) partial to thinking in extremes. The economic trouble it’s now facing was caused by mass dissidence to government opinion (not paying taxes), and the problems that resulted from this was met by a collective uproar. I’d say it’s because we’re passionate.
I’ll try my best to keep you updated as things progress, but I’m being assured that the petrol stations on Rhodes are now all functioning once more, and that the island can rest easily once again. We’ll see. We’re just on our way to the beach now. We’ll hopefully make it back.
Update: We’re still not able to get petrol, even though the strike is supposedly meant to be over. I’m getting conflicting reports from the BBC News site that the truck drivers aren’t relenting, but I’ve also heard that there is petrol, but since there’s such a high demand for it still, it’s extremely hard to source. We’ve been advised to visit a petrol station very early tomorrow morning. I’ll let you know how that pans out.
Update #2: (30/07/2010) We finally managed to get some petrol this morning. There was a short queue outside a nearby filling station at 8am. The gentleman working there told us that things should be back to normal today, and that there’s plenty of petrol for everyone.
Update #3: (30/07/2010, PM) Have just come back from the beach, and the traffic all over town is ridiculous, thanks to large queues of cars outside petrol stations. If you’re in Rhodes, don’t go driving tonight, and if you need petrol, go early in the morning.
Update #4: (04/08/2010) Things have been normal for a few days, now. For any tourists thinking of visiting, there’s no more trouble finding petrol, at least not in Rhodes.