Create an impact with a viral marketing method first used in 1919

This afternoon above the steets of Manhattan, I witnessed a light aircraft ‘write’ a number of short phrases in the sky. Today was a particularly warm and cloudless day so the streets and parks were thronged with people, most of whom gazed skyward as the apparently unrelated phrases painted their way slowly and somewhat errily above Manhattan’s west side.

Cue a Twitter frenzy. What did these prases mean? Who was behind them? And why, of all the phrases was ‘LAST CHANCE’ one of them? Unsurprisingly, every phrase instantly warranted its own hashtag, as did ‘skywriting’ of course.

Written in the sky over Manhattan. But is it art?

Reactions varied from the near hysterical (one Tweet, from a man in Brooklyn said he and his family had begun packing their car to flee the city) to the downright dismissive. Either way, a conversation was suddenly under way, and on a darned large scale. The consensus was that this was clearly a marketing stunt and we would discover the meaning in due course.

Turns out, the messages were not marketing related at all (at least not unless you’re really cynical). No, the messages were in fact, public art. Now I’m no art critic but for the 30 minutes or so it took to complete and subsequently lose the artwork on the wind, I was as transfixed as much of New York City. Powerful stuff. Stuff which was apparently first performed in 1919.


I have decided to become a Social Media Guru

I have decided to become a Social Media Guru. However, if current figures are to be believed I need to get moving quickly before people no longer LIKE the idea.

Statistics* show that by 2015:

  1. 1 in 3 of the World’s population will be Social Media Specialists:
  2. 1 in 4 will be Social Media Experts and:
  3. an amazing 1 in 6 will ascend to ‘Guru’ status

Note: Statistics also show that 76% of stats are made up, with 48% concocted to Form The Basis Of An Argument, 23% to settle a bet, 61% to underline a strategy in the absence of any evidence and an alarming 93% to decide who buys the next pint.

Passion, innovation, and other meaningless words

This post requires reader participation. Don’t worry, it’s not the kind of participation that makes your toes curl, it’s rather the enlightening kind. The ‘things that make you go hmmmm’*  kind.  Here’s what to do:

1) ‘Google’ (or ‘Bing’) the following words: WE ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT

2) Look at your search results and note the words following “…ABOUT.” For example, if one of your results says “we are passionate about Tupperware,” note “Tupperware.”

Here’s a selection of what I get; theatre, brand development, paragliding, what we do, carp fishing, tensile structures, free standing baths, unleashing creative potential, traveling responsibly in Mongolia, facilities management, politics, pashminas, organic self-sufficiency, and my own personal favourite from the Scarlet Band Bus & Coach Company, who tell us (in their list of USPs) they are passionate about ‘operating all of their scheduled mileage.’ Although let’s be honest, who isn’t?

Repeating the same exercise but this time with the words ‘WE INNOVATE’ and within the first couple of pages of results, a company with perhaps the most literal justification for using the words ‘passion’ and ‘innovation’ appears: Durex. In fact, Durex proudly claim to ‘innovate and innovate!’ whatever that means.

Durex: Subtle

Now don’t get me wrong; I understand and sympathise with companies wishing to convey their passion and innovative achievements. It’s a good thing. But the fact is, the use of these words has become compulsory.**  They’re sprinkled liberally across the Web to such an extent they become background white noise, their significance lost entirely in the ether.

**Modern Website Copywriting 101, Lesson 1: Mention Passion and Innovation  – and do it quick.

“We have a passion for curing disease and finding new innovative ways to tackle World hunger.” Would this sentence mean any less if it said “We cure disease and work to tackle World hunger”? I don’t think so. Whilst the former sentence may convey more accurately the emotion and intelligence of those behind it, the intended impact seems lost.

In many ways I suppose this dilution of meaning is inevitable. There are so many people in the World yet only so many words. When pooled together in the maelstrom of the Web, repetition is unavoidable. Sad in a way, but perhaps rather than professing passion and innovation, it need simply be reflected. Reflected in the creativity, the work and and ultimately, the results. Just ask Durex: 95-98% efficiency apparently..

*copyright C+C Music Factory

Biting the hand that feeds

I attended an Awards do last night. It was actually a great evening as it didn’t follow the usual convention of most (i.e. drink too much in the bar, get ushered in for a mediocre meal, hear a celeb recycle some jokes and then sit through 300 derivatives of the same award). Instead, entertainment came in wave after wave and all seemed fresh and well-received.

However, maybe its just me but I always feel uncomfortable if the host, in this case Jimmy Carr, anchors his routine around taking the piss out of the industry for which the Awards are held. Its a fine line. Many people work very hard to win such awards and it leaves an unpleasant taste if their big night is mocked, often pretty vociferously. As I say, maybe its just me but I maintain, its a fine line.

(Not so fine as to prevent me stealing a couple of jokes though..)