I started twiddling the idea of anti-social marketing between my proverbial thumbs a week or two ago.
Anti-social marketing is television commercials.
It’s advertising hoardings, bus sides and posters on the underground.
It’s direct mail, leaflets through your letterbox and flyers underneath your windscreen wiper.
It’s banners, overlays and pop-ups.
Some anti-social marketing thinks that by being creative and clever it can become artistic and intellectual and, ever so occasionally, it’s almost right.
More often anti-social marketing’s about people finding ways to interrupt our sentences in order to tell us about something we weren’t talking about, aren’t interested in and have no pressing need for.
The fact that we’re being interrupted may even predispose us negatively towards something we would have otherwise had a genuine interest in.
Instead we’re subjected to a process that’s as profligate in its indiscrimination as it is prescriptive in its approach, telling us what we should and shouldn’t think about something and why it is or isn’t of interest to us.
Anti-social marketing operates on the basic principle that our time and attention can be bought and sold in the marketplace. It does so with a brazen indifference to the question of how we might feel about that.
It’s a bit like being at a jumble sale.
(I think Americans call it a ‘yard sale’.)
There may be a few items of genuine interest kicking about. Maybe we’ll even buy something (even though it may well turn out that we didn’t really want or need it after all).
Most of the stuff will be junk though, of little more than curiosity value. We’ll peer down our noses at it for a little while then wander on.
Anti-social marketing is actually worse than being at a jumble sale. At least if we're at a jumble sale it's because we probably chose to be there, because we didn’t have anything better to do, and we had some time to kill, and we felt like killing it digging through a huge pile of vinyl on the off-chance of discovering a pristeen signed copy of Pet Sounds.
Anti-social marketing is more like a door-to-door jumble salesman.
He figures just because I have a door that gives him the right to knock on it. He knows that I’ll have to answer the door in order to find out who’s knocking, and that this will create a tiny window of opportunity in which he may be able to seize my attention with some random trinket.
He has to knock on a lot of doors, and he has to drag his box of jumble around with him. It’s hard work, but it’s all he knows, and he can always rely on the fact that if he knocks loud enough and long enough on enough doors sooner or later he’ll sell something to somebody (even though it may well turn out that they didn’t really want or need it after all).
He doesn’t really care how much of everybody’s time he wastes in the process. As far as he’s concerned his time is at a premium, and nobody else’s is. This is anti-social behaviour, and he is an anti-social marketer.
For a long time anti-social marketing was pretty much the only way anybody tended to find out about things they might want or need.
The only other way we’d find out about anything was word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth was great, in that the person telling us about something was probably a friend of ours, who knew us reasonably well, and had our best interests at heart. The problem with word-of-mouth was that we could only have one conversation at any one time, in the pub, on the telephone or gathered around the office water-cooler.
Then we invented the internet. We invented email. We invented ICQ, and forums and notice-boards. We invented instant messaging, chat rooms, blogs and social networks. We invented a thousand and one ways for us to connect with like-minded people, and to effortlessly express our enthusiasm for something some of those people might want or need. Word-of-mouth became word-of-mouse, and we began to have a thousand conversations at once.
At the same time, the advent of interactive media created a problem for the door-to-door jumble salesman.
We could see him coming.
It became our new surveillance system; a network of platforms and media empowering us to filter out the noise. As we continue to engage with these tools, and the greater control they grant us, our mindsets change. We no longer accept the door-knocking as a fact of life. Some of us don’t even notice it, subconsciously blinding ourselves to banner ads on web pages, or using Sky+ to very deliberately skip the ads every time a commercial break comes on.
Instead we’re busier than ever talking to each other, about the things we love, the things we hate, the things we want and need. All around us ‘social marketers’ are igniting conversations, fanning the flames with genuine care and attention, and fuelled them with fresh content and collaborative creativity, growing colourful communities around the campfires of our bright ideas.
I spent this morning at the Cast & Crew screening of Angus, Thongs & Perfect Snogging, at the invitation of director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham, Bride & Prejudice). I met her and her husband Paul on Thursday to discuss the forthcoming development of her own website, and she suggested that I toddle along to the screening this morning. So I did.
We've been working hard on the movie's marketing campaign over the past year or so, so I'd already glimpsed quite a lot of the characters in some shape or form. I was even fortunate enough to spend a day on set back in November of last year, filming a selection of original scripted material for use as part of our campaign. I blogged about the experience at the time, acknowledging how unusual it is for marketers to be given this kind of creative latitude so early in the process.
The film's still not out for another three and a half weeks, but we can already see our approach paying off in terms of the momentum the campaign has built up, at a point in the process where some online campaigns are still only just getting going.
Our long lead destination was an official Bebo profile we created for the character of Georgia. Bebo is traditionally very strong for exactly the same demographic as the book's core fans; teen girls, basically. Our intention was to harness Bebo's social networking tools to build a micro-community of fans and early adopters around the original content we'd produced, released over the course of the campaign as webisodes. Last time I looked, six months on, Georgia had over 4,000 friends, and the profile had been viewed almost 60,000 times.
Our strategy for the latter stages of the campaign has been to look at how we can widen this core awareness and anticipation into mainstream appeal. Certainly the official website we developed - one of my favourite examples of PPC's work from the seven years I've been there - is seeing levels of traffic suggesting that we've already succeeded in doing so.
Add to this the official widget (up there at the top of this post), a MySpace page for the band in the movie, The Stiff Dylans, and the forthcoming online advertising campaign (including a direct spend on Bebo) and you have the key constituents of what I immodestly consider to be a hugely progressive online marketing campaign.
What it really reinforces for me, which may seem blindingly obvious but is so often forgotten, is that online isn't something to sit behind the more traditional strands of the marketing process, such as the production of the trailer, or the design of a poster.
As a director who is prepared to entrust her movie into the hands of the distributor - and their agency - at an early stage, Gurinder is in good company; both JJ Abrams and Zack Snyder have shown that this can be an effective approach when applied to major Hollywood releases. As their currency continues to grow, and a generation of more traditional directors fall away, expect more online campaigns to start the moment a movie goes into production, and end only once the last sequel has been made, and the last DVD sold.
So this is new. It's the brainchild of Seesmic, Fox and Gia Milinovich, the latter being a blogger friend and collaborator on the Indy 4 video junket:
The embeddable version of Seesmic is a bit clunky generally, but what does that matter? What's of interest is that this is a smart little mash-up of that stalwart unit of movie marketing currency, the trailer, and the current trend for (pseudo-)threaded video conversations.
From what I understand the plan is to release a series of X-Files video clips and to drive online conversation and community around these through the player. It will be interesting to see how many 'X-philes' feel compelled to join the discussion, but from what Gia says this has already been embedded over 2,000 times, and I know from our own experiences working with movie widgets that this is a very respectable number, especially after such a short space of time.
CORRECTION: This stat actually refers to the text chat widget shown below, and the total figure is 2,300 at present, apparently:
Gia's been doing some very inventive things in the social media movie marketing space for some time, as you can see from her blog; she manages to keep a foot firmly in both camps, which is not always an easy thing to do. I've never been a major X-Files fan, but I still get a major kick out of seeing how the web can bring people together around a common interest, and create a new medium in which for them to share ideas and forge friendships.