Guerrilla games



(A) Joan McArthur, consultant Black Bag Creative Recruitment, Toronto


(B) Max Lenderman, president, Gearwerx, Montreal

(C) Raymond Wali, managing director, Mango Moose Media, Mississauga, Ont.

(D) Muriel Solomon, director of marketing, dramatic networks, Alliance Atlantis, Toronto

(E) Andrew Simon, VP/CD, DDB Canada, Toronto

McArthur: How do you define guerrilla?

Simon: The definition changes and it just becomes about being smarter, more tactical, and really thinking about your objectives. I don’t think any marketer, no matter how big, can afford not to do it.

In Vancouver, one of our clients, ICBC, has this program called Bait Car. Car theft is a big problem in Vancouver, and they wanted to address that. They said ‘do two radio spots.’ We said we wouldn’t be able to achieve their objective with two spots. We went back to them with everything. We built a 13-foot mousetrap to put in parking lots. We went to the worst neighbourhoods and spray-painted messages that were targeted to the thieves. Then there was a radio spot which sounded like you were in a bait car. It went ‘pssst, we know you’re there.’

A guy actually pulled over, because he thought it was the cops. That’s the power of messaging.

Wali: Also, it was used in conjunction with traditional media. Guerrilla marketing should be used as a support.

Simon: But it’s interesting. I was thinking about TBWA in Japan [for Adidas] doing the live billboard – with guys on bungee cords playing soccer. You almost don’t even have to tell me anything else about the brand.

Lenderman: Daimler-Chrysler in the U.S. took a chapter from that campaign. They created a parking spot on the side of 3 Penn Plaza and hoisted a Jeep Cherokee up there.

And you know that spot where people walk around with mud on their faces, because they’re looking inside the Jeeps? They positioned muddied-up cars all over NYC. There’s an underlying sensibility that cuts through the hoopla – you’re like, ‘yeah, Jeep can put me anywhere.’ A fundamental of guerrilla warfare is you continue the attack, and with [brands like] Mini, they keep on going. Burger King keeps on going. If it’s a one-off, I’d call it terrorist marketing because it’s meant to get a rise out of people.

Simon: You need the client commitment. A lot of marketers are scared because it feels like they’re not doing anything big. ‘I’m not doing a commercial which I can test.’

Wali: Also with guerrilla, a lot of marketers try to measure it by impressions. You have to measure it by impact. On an ongoing basis, the impact is cumulative. It’s just like you wouldn’t run a one-second TV spot.

Lenderman: That’s the million-dollar question – how do you measure guerrilla marketing? There’s ROE, or return on experience. [But it's] not immediately – not in two months or three months – but really a year, two years, 10 years down the line.

Solomon: When we do guerrilla marketing, it’s usually to increase our target audience for a specific show. What we try to do is identify other targets we can go after so we get maximum value for our initiative.

For example, when we launched Six Feet Under on Showcase, we had a large, integrated campaign and one component was a Six Feet Under truck. We took it around town in Toronto to areas that we identified as high-traffic, and the right target.

But we also took it to agencies, and that showed a real commitment on our part to promote the show. As well, we took it to our distributors and our call centres, so that the property became top of mind among people taking orders for the channel. We got a ton of mileage out of it, and a lot of press coverage.

McArthur: I remember hearing Peter Stringham give a talk, when he was president of BBDO. He said: ‘We need to get consumers to participate in their own persuasion.’ This was back in 1993. It was about ripping up the notion that humour is a bad thing in advertising, that, in fact, it’s pretty mandatory. If you don’t entertain the consumer, they won’t care. Now it’s even more personal.

Solomon: The focus is now to emotionally connect with the audience. And I think you are better able to connect when you have the one-on-one interaction.

Lenderman: I’ve always thought guerrilla marketing is the tip of the spear of what’s now becoming experiential marketing. My influence for guerrilla marketing is P. Diddy. He’s an experience provider. That’s the

progression: guerrilla marketing in the next 10 years is going to be an anachronism.

Wali: But if you compare how the Canadian marketplace attacks guerrilla advertising against American, it’s more timid and laid-back. In America, if Adidas is sponsoring a marathon, Nike will send 50 of their reps to that marathon. Why not? That’s your competitor and 15,000 to 20,000 of your target market is right there. The standard Canadian attitude is wait and see. In the U.S., they just go for it, and if there are problems, they deal with it later.

Simon: One area that’s really interesting is the area of influencers. I’m curious what everyone thinks of that. Is it crossing a line?

Lenderman: We’ve done a number of roach campaigns. We have stopped doing them. Especially when you’re on chat rooms and just dropping product names constantly – and you know that it’s [being read] by 12-year-old kids – I find that’s unethical. The bottom line: it’s going to backfire. Unless you’re James Bond, you will be found out, and the backlash will outweigh any advantages. A person may really respect you and want your opinion, but if every single time you’re talking smack, they’ll never believe you. Roach is like when Nike opened the Presto space. There was so much backlash and all they had to do was slap a swoosh on it.

McArthur: Back to true guerrilla, Alliance Atlantis shows are natural for buzz marketing.

Solomon: It’s on Showcase that we’ve done the most guerrilla marketing, and it’s the perfect channel for it, because the positioning is to be boundary-pushing. Our current campaign has fictional viewers provide testimonials about their Showcase experience, and how it’s helped them push their own personal boundaries. So you have a business man saying, ‘I got spanked last night, thanks Showcase.’ We also had audio ads in the washroom of bars. So when you moved towards the vanity, you would hear, ‘I’m wearing my wife’s panties.’ One night when one of our colleagues was at the Bier Market, someone came out of the washroom and said, ‘You have to see what’s in the washroom, it’s so funny.’ Everybody in the restaurant, one after the other, went to check it out. And then we got press in the National Post.

Simon: That’s guerrilla marketing gone right. Because it was the right personality – it can be extended in the urinal, that’s okay, as long as it’s true to the brand personality and true to the campaign. [But] you even have to be careful about the media because, for instance, say the audio tape went off every time somebody walked by. After a while, you’re going to smack somebody. I guess that’s the risk.

Solomon: We were really careful and, at one point, we thought about using that guy’s voice in the women’s washroom. But we thought it might be uncomfortable if a man suddenly said to them, ‘I’m wearing my wife’s panties.’ You have to think through it very carefully – you don’t want it to backfire.

Lenderman: That’s a key point. Let’s say you’re in the business of media planning and media buying. There are a lot of stats and it’s: ‘This is where the 23-year-old single mother watches her shows.’ For guerrilla marketing, you have to go deeper. You have to think: What is the

environment we’re doing this in? What are their expectations? What are they thinking? What are they feeling? And if anywhere along that line, you’re taking away from that, get out. You can’t afford that mistake. You have to do a lot more planning, tactically and psychologically.

Simon: You have to know your consumer well. ICBC was a big success for us. The follow-up is, because people self-select to go and experience this, and it becomes a medium unto itself. The site is a parody on car shows. There’s a host, an attractive woman, who takes you through, and she’s talking in her own voice. You can send e-mails to friends with photos of her saying: ‘I don’t want to get busted anymore.’ There’s a trophy room, different T-shirt options, etc. It’s very interactive and fun. I’m sure everybody was thinking: ‘Let’s do something bigger.’ But no, sometimes it’s smarter to do something smaller.

Lenderman: Talking about really understanding your target market, we did a campaign for Adidas’ men’s skin-care line. Not only did we do men’s facials in parks, outside office buildings and on street corners, we even went into nightclubs. Everyone we talked to said ‘you’re crazy.’ But then we really thought about it and we realized that if you’re a guy who’s comfortable enough with your masculinity to sit down and get a facial in a club, you’ll look hot to girls you’re trying to attract. So we cornered off a section of the club. Not only did we brand it, we brought in our own furniture, and had attractive brand ambassadors. We were capitalizing on the instinctual drive of someone in a nightclub trying to look secure and cool, and that’s an experience. If you can have them break that inhibition in front of all their friends, it becomes a memorable thing. That’s a good example of how the guerrilla approach can transcend into something experiential.

Solomon: We’re launching Angels in America, and we have a trade campaign planned to build awareness among the media community. But we want it to go a little further. The agency [FCB] pitched beautiful ideas. One was to distribute white feathers in the reception area of agencies, with a card saying: ‘Angels in America coming to Showcase.’ The second idea was to put decals of wings on mirrors in agency washrooms, so you look like an angel when you stand in front of it. Very nice idea, and fairly cheap to do.

Simon: Rethink does a lot of good stuff in Vancouver. The thing they did with 3M and the bus shelters – they were made of glass that was unbreakable, and they supposedly filled it with a million bucks. It was really only $600 and play money, but it looked real. It got so much PR coverage.

Lenderman: I think Nike’s doing great stuff. The Battleground tournaments are experiential, yet still underground. I like Inventa’s Nike pop-up stores and the test runs in Vancouver, where at five in the morning they got those hardcore joggers. That type of stuff is great. And Starbucks did a great campaign, and it’s the most simple, beautiful thing I’ve heard in about six months. They had cups of coffee and fixed a magnet on the bottom, and put them on top of cabs. So it was as if someone forgot their coffee. People on the street were yelling: ‘Your Starbucks coffee!’

Wali: It’s finding marketers willing to try it. It’s about convincing them that you’re putting some thought into it. There are campaigns that have gone terribly wrong. MSN did a campaign – The Butterflies – where they did sidewalk stenciling and used permanent spray-painting.

It doesn’t have to be totally in-your-face; it could be a little bit more planned-out.

Another good Canadian example is 1-800-Got-Junk. They do all PR and guerrilla. They have street posters. They take their trucks and park them off the 401. They sent 50 people in wigs to the Vancouver Canucks game just promoting 1-800-Got-Junk. Just very low-cost stuff that generates buzz.

McArthur: The thing about guerrilla is you don’t have a guaranteed result. You’re out there taking a chance. And it’s big risk – and big rewards – and a client has to buy into that.

Lenderman: There are quantitative metrics you can deliver after a campaign is done. We support our quantitative stuff with a video recap. We did a campaign where we gave hand massages on the street with Keri hand lotion. It was the middle of winter, we had hand warmers, and the team was really personable. There must have been 50 shots of consumers hugging the reps. You show that to the client: ‘There’s 50 people hugging guys dressed in your brand uniform. So you really want to see how many hand massages we’ve done? And how many units you sold that week?’

Simon: It’s the same thing with the Adidas campaign in Japan. The film they shot was of people pointing and staring.

Solomon: You know it will impact the brand; what you don’t know is what impact it has on your actual business sales.

But if you can get PR out of it, if it’s showing a benefit to the brand, if you have multiple targets – I know I haven’t spent a lot of money on guerrilla but I know that in going after four different targets, I’m getting good value

for my money.

Simon: I had a distinct image of Burger King. And then I saw Subservient Chicken, and I thought, ‘That’s brilliant and cool.’ Then I go into a Burger King and I’m eating, and I’m reading the tray liner. And I’m like, ‘Damn it, these guys are good!’ It’s down to the tray liner, and it’s completely written in the brand personality.

Lenderman: CP+B [Crispin Porter + Bogusky] went in and told BK: ‘Change all the doors in your restaurant around the world.’ We’re

talking hundreds of millions of dollars. They said, ‘Right now they say ‘push.’ We want it to be ‘push’ or ‘pull,’ because ‘have it your way’

is the tagline.’

[It didn't happen] because the money was an issue. But it wasn’t about ‘Where are the commercials?’