I spent some time with some great digital work from Asia recently and there was one piece of work that for a couple of outrageously big reasons stood out from the crowd. This campaign for Pepsi was on the face of it a pretty run of the mill on-pack promotion, the kind of bread and butter filler we see day in day out. What made it different was the sheer scale of the response, over 200 million unique visitors, each of whom were vying to get a picture of their face on to the can itself. The second thing that made it remarkable it was the fact that they were able to make the logistics work on such a grand scale, not something that happens quite as easily over here in most cases.
You could say that it was broadcast mass-market advertising in its truest form. The fact the internet was involved, was merely what it made it possible. The execution, format, delivery and result all took their cues from the most traditional of worlds.
What it was able to take advantage of is a pretty unique moment in time, with a rapidly swelling digital population in a relatively uncluttered market place, with an audience hungry for new relationship with brands.
Now most brands don't need 100's of millions of participants for a promotion to qualify as a success. Most of us aren't in China with its sheer weight of numbers and most brands aren't a Coca Cola or a Pepsi so usually can't and don’t expect anything approaching this level of mass involvement.
So assuming that we don’t have the luxury of being able to fall back on our old mass marketing techniques clearly we need to be a little bit smarter, especially as the reality over here is a little more muddled.
Real life is messy and complicated as much as it is exciting and inspiring. We all know that we don’t experience life as perfect consumers, neatly being exposed to each step of a campaign message. That’s of course why we talk about the importance of engagement and entering into conversations and listening and responding to feedback. Yet rarely do we do this much talked about approach justice.
We still see campaigns being planned and bought imagining we’re like Pepsi in China. In the vast majority of cases all of our budgets will be allocated and spent in advance of the campaign going live. Rarely I expect is much cash kept aside for even the most basic of responses to comments from the public, never mind actually building in plans to evolve a campaign organically.
What would happen if we allocated half of our budgets for work after the campaign goes live? In fact what would happen if we got rid of the idea of the campaign altogether? People don’t stop experiencing our brands just because the campaign is no longer live. The conversation continues on without us.
More advertising is probably not the answer, but we do need real ideas that reflect this real situation we live with day to day. At glue we’re grappling with these issues every day, trying a variety of approaches, looking for interesting new ways to start conversations, to behave in a more continuous fashion. We haven’t thrown off the shackles of the campaign yet, but we’ll give it a damn good try.
This approach won’t be right for everyone, but if you get the chance I’d urge to push for a bit more thought, time and money to go into what happens after the campaign goes live, and learn a bit more about real life.