Stop advertising, start socializing

The other day, Aaron Rose, one of our stimulant Shift Disturbers speakers, said something that crystallized what I've heard from many different camps lately. The director of Beautiful Losers, Rose has been involved in brand/art collaborations like the Undefeated Billboard Project sponsored by Nike, which features the work of graffiti and fine artists from Dennis Hopper to Mr. Cartoon. Located on La Brea near the Undefeated store, it's become part of the L.A. artscape. He said that most successful projects work because they feel natural, and they become part of the lifestyle. The second thing is giving back, 'going into people's lives and making things better.'

The other day, Aaron Rose, one of our stimulant Shift Disturbers speakers, said something that crystallized what I’ve heard from many different camps lately. The director of Beautiful Losers, Rose has been involved in brand/art collaborations like the Undefeated Billboard Project sponsored by Nike, which features the work of graffiti and fine artists from Dennis Hopper to Mr. Cartoon. Located on La Brea near the Undefeated store, it’s become part of the L.A. artscape. He said that most successful projects work because they feel natural, and they become part of the lifestyle. The second thing is giving back, ‘going into people’s lives and making things better.’

This resonates with everything our teen panel told us about brands (p. 45), essentially: ‘just be yourself.’ Brands’ environmental selves should be friendly, be genuine and do good.

The young marketers, agency teams and students we spoke to for our round-up of assorted industry ‘big idea’ competition winners (p. 14) are also drawn to authenticity and doing the right thing. It has influenced their career decisions, and CSR – feeding the hungry, supporting the arts – and issues like diversity are their passion.

So when the budget for talking louder than the other guy dries up, it’s a good time to find new ways to make those lasting connections, and try something different.

Rose ran a punk art gallery in New York, and it was through his Alleged Gallery days that he learned the DIY ethic that informs his current projects for the likes of Virgin and Levi’s. The M.O. was to involve the artist community, collaborate, and by necessity, do things differently. ‘I learned it all by having no money, and not following the rules,’ he says. Having a punky ‘F U’ attitude helps.

In her Forum column (p. 61), Unilever’s Sharon Macleod also writes about doing things differently, and how budget restrictions can unleash creativity and lead to big payoffs, such as the decision to launch Dove’s ‘Evolution’ on YouTube. But doing things differently requires guts.

In the Upfronts (p. 9) we have a fresh example of breaking new ground in the recession-budget-friendly, social-media-only launch of Nissan’s Cube. It involves giving away 50 cars to indie creative types – musicians, artists, skateboarders – via an online audition and voting process, which invites that community to lead the conversation on what the brand represents. And it’s working. Prior to the invite-only auditions, people jumped the gun and started declaring their Cube love online.

Capital C’s Tony Chapman, whose agency suggested the social launch, says, ‘This is the stuff people should be doing on their watch. So much depends on Canadian clients not phoning it in. When you get a client who can sell it through and stick their neck on the line in the success of it, they’ve got the world’s eyes on Canada. We’re saying ‘stop advertising, start socializing.”

CD Bennett Klein gives credit to Nissan for embracing the extreme creativity route and ponying up 50 cars. ‘If it means something to the community, it’s going to work.’ He also says moving from ‘understanding to empathy’ requires a little more interaction than sitting on the other side of the mirror, but has bigger insight payoffs.

This issue, our Deconstructed panel (p. 30) looks at the Doritos ‘Guru’ program, which also lets the community lead the messaging for a new unbranded chip. Our pundits thought it was smart on several fronts: it seemed authentic for the brand and would genuinely appeal to chip fans; the mystery chip plain packaging really broke through; and because 1% of the new chip sales was part of the winner’s prize haul.

So don’t dismiss UGC as done to death, or consider that social media only happens in some obscure virtual corner. Instead, approach it like Frito Lay’s Tony Matta has – go into it looking for genuine partnering, and you’ll be more likely to generate real ROI for all parties.

Cheers,mm

Mary Maddever, exec editor, strategy, Media in Canada and stimulant