advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pitch Slap.

Time to dust off the topic of PR again, and to a lesser degree, branded entertainment and online marketing.

So I get a lot of things sent in, sometimes making it hard to go through it all. Nowhere the volume AdRants gets, but, enough to see how PR approaches things in trying to get the word out. Basically, nothing’s changed from when I first started blogging. For the most part, PR still treats ad blogs like fax machines.

I understand the job is to get the word out for clients, but, it seems that’s all that counts.

Get the views. Get the mentions. Job done. Let’s go drink, right?

Meanwhile, a nice Excel doc or Radian6 report is sent to the client saying how many views a video got across all the relevant social networks. (In this regard, Danny G. has an nice take on what this use of tactics has become.)

After getting the new Hot Pockets Eat Freely campaign sent in, it made me think how so many brands are now just using the various aspects of social nets as a delivery system for their message without doing something that truly engages the viewer.

Me watching a clip is not engaging. It’s me watching a clip.

Don’t even get me started on sales. Too often, the lack of any direct response mechanism in spots is accepted because advertising is meant to sell anything.

Least that’s what I hear every single time a hipster bitches that an ad blog didn’t like the latest jeans ad shot in B&W.

But that advertising mindset is now carrying over to social nets.

Who cares about effective in terms of sales—it’s about building awareness, right? True. In large part it is.

But at some point, it needs to convert to sales or at least relate directly to some kind of offer to get people buying and trying, no?

(T.G.I. Friday’s nailed their Woody promotion, reaching twice the participants they originally aimed for.)

It seems like I veered off the path, but the point relates back to a call for PR agencies to run social media campaigns. I just have to say really? Based on what?

This isn’t just about Hot Pockets, but if the kind of effort I’m seeing with the majority of campaigns is what PR shops come up with, then they’re the last ones to be touching a brand. There are more than enough brand mishap slash case studies where PR was responsible.

Based on what gets sent in here, PR has enough trouble remembering the name of the blog (if they even include it), my name, or that they already sent me the same release the week before.

I’m not putting down all PR efforts. (As noted here before, Len Kendall has a cool approach to social outreach and PR with his 3six5 project that shows the ways things can evolve here.)

I’m also not trying to put down any particular campaign or agency behind it. The idea behind Eat Freely is fine. And if you want a basic review of the program elements supporting that theme, then there you go.

(Which is another thing about PR and ad blogs: Sending the same thing to all the blogs at the same time expecting positive coverage.)

But when I get stuff labeled as branded entertainment that’s basically webisode product placement that wouldn’t make the cut at, something needs to change.

Part of any social networking component or buzz evaluation for me always starts not with what the client wants me to say about their brand, but with what’s out there already.

I have no doubt Hot Pockets likes what they see in this campaign. The clips support the Eat Freely theme the agency came up with, but it feels like a disconnect when I see forced viral support a theme at odds with something already out there in YouTube land.

We’ve discussed this before on the podcast about this need agencies have historically to create a way for people to feel about a brand. They research. Find a way in as to how consumers use a product, then create a theme to support that.

That’s fine. But what Danny points out is that that’s not enough.

Which is a long way of saying that Jim Gaffigan has a ton of views off a 4:00 minute routine about Hot Pockets that riffs on the tagline slash song. It’s the only thing I can think off when someone says Hot Pockets now.

How do you not use some of that buzz with your brand? Get people to do their own takes on his awful singing. Why not pay him to do a series of webisodes where he wanders through random offices handing Hot Pockets out.

(Wouldn’t be any more blatant than a product box on someone’s desk trying to awkwardly support an agency-created theme.)

At the end of the day though, nobody from the brand or agency will care about this post beyond the fact that I linked to their clip and website, thus gaining them and the agency more views for the post-game deck.

Because any PR is...

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