Advertising / Experiential / PR / Social Media

Tweets in print ads? #VerySillyIdea

“I love the idea, but we need to get social media in there somehow…”.
There can’t be an advertising agency in town that hasn’t heard these lines from a client. Pity the poor account person who has to trot back to the creative team with a client diktat that will have them up in arms. And after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, the agency will come back with the amended ad – with Twitter shoe-horned in, looking as uncomfortable as a cat at Crufts.

Hands up, I’m no social media expert. But I use Twitter. I use it because it’s immediate, responsive and (generally) authentic. It lives on my phone and my laptop. So I was mightily surprised when I came across it in two places where it had no business being: the back page of The Times Magazine and the underground tunnel at South Kensington tube.

The Times Magazine was carrying this press ad for the Seat Ibiza.

Seat Press Ad

Seat Press Ad

At first I didn’t notice anything unusual, then the @ symbol caught my eye. And there it was in all its glory. With all the authenticity of an X Factor audition.

Seat Press Ad Close Up

Seat Press Ad Close Up

So I thought, let’s see what  @bigchris77 has to say about the Seat Ibiza. I found @BigChris77.  And yes he had tweeted positive about the Seat. But not the words attributed to him in the ad. What was it I said earlier about Twitter being authentic? He is also quite free in his use of what I will call ‘expressive’ language. Maybe the agency should have checked that out before they attached his username to the Seat brand in a national advertising campaign… #Oops

The next offender is a poster for The Book of Mormon.

Book of Mormon Poster

Book of Mormon Poster

As I mentioned, it’s in the underpass at South Kensington Tube. Not a place where you want to hang out, or stop and try and read 18-point type. If you want your message to get noticed here it has to be big, bold and simple.
Three things this poster is not.

Maybe the agencies that created these two ads should have listened to what Sir Martin Sorrell had to say about Twitter.  “… I think it’s a PR medium… it’s very effective word of mouth…”
Personally I don’t agree with Sir Martin. Well actually I do, sort of. Twitter is a great PR medium. But it can also be a great advertising medium. If used correctly.

The launch of the Huffington Post in the UK is one such example. Last July The Huff faced a big challenge: how to stand out in a crowded market without spending a fortune on media. The clever team at Total Media cracked the problem with a great idea called ‘Blog All About It’. Mixing up traditional and new media, digital posters were placed in major railway stations. The posters had live Twitter feeds that invited people to Tweet their views about streaming news headlines.

Huff Post Railway Poster

Huff Post Railway Poster

Huff Post Twitter Feed Poster

Huff Post Twitter Feed Poster

The results were astonishing. #huffpostuk trended number one on Twitter. Visits to the site doubled. And celebrities even got in on the act – including Gordon Brown and Ricky Gervais. Not only that, the campaign won an award for Best Use of Digital Outdoor. Congratulations.

But when it comes to Twitter as a PR/advertising medium, my personal favourite is the campaign for the launch of Special K Cracker Crisps. The idea was truly inspired – replace monetary currency with social currency. In short, Tweet for food. They opened a pop-up shop in Soho and invited passers by in.

Special K Crackers Tweet Shop

Special K Crackers Tweet Shop

Tweet Shop Menu

Tweet Shop Menu

The results were impressive: Over 400 pieces of coverage. Over 10,000 social media mentions. #tweetshop was a Twitter trending topic. The idea was included in the top 10 Social Media Hall of Fame 2012. And to top it all off, it was Kellogg’s most successful new product launch. Well done Mischief PR and Slice experiential.

So is Twitter better suited to PR or advertising? Who cares? Not consumers, that’s for sure. They love Twitter, and they’ll engage with it when brands use it appropriately.
Or as a nameless source in McDonald’s marketing department said:  “Our head of Social Media is the customer.”

And as we’ve all had drummed into us time and time again – The customer is always right.

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