Friday, 11 January 2008

When Is Clever Advertising Not Clever? An Open Question Regarding The Human Flip Book

Found via a tumblr site, the human flip book.

You think it's a cute youtube video. But I guess we all know by now, most of those end up being ads. So really, what is the human flip book?

Erbert & Berbert sandwich shop based in the mid-west were looking for an innovative way to activate their brand online and come up with this cool little video which has now gone pretty viral with over 264 (now 265) blog postings.

I showed it to Peter and he agreed that it's a great little execution, but his question was (it always is) - sure, I get it, but what does it say about the brand? Well, what does it say about the brand?

The truth is, the first time I saw it, I didn't even know it was for a sandwich shop because once I got the idea I 'flipped' away from it before the reveal at the end (i'm so punny). The only reason I found out was an ad, is that I wanted to reblog it and had already closed all the windows - googling human flip book took me to the original site with the advertising message on it.

Clearly as an awareness vehicle their viral approach has been successful, but as a brand vehicle do we consider this a success? Does this make me want to eat their sandwiches? With these type of viral executions, it seems that finding the balance between WOM traffic and the building the brand connection is still an elusive goal.

I'm 50/50 on this particular one. I bet their traffic numbers were positively impacted so in the short term they would likely consider this a huge success. But is there a cost to that in the long run or (equally as possible) are we just a a bit up our own marekting arses on this one?


Mark said...

I'll vote for being up your own marketing arse on this one. In a UCaPP world, advertising may not be about building what we fogeys have conventionally thought of as "brand," at least in terms of relating to the product in question. Brand, in Valence Theory terms, I think maps strongly onto Identity, with some Socio-psychological, and Knowledge overtones. Even in a conventional (albeit critical) conception, building brand and marketing is all about establishing identity - more important is imprinting the individual's identity with an association with the organization, rather than creating a specific identity for the organization (this is the elephant in the marketeer's room). In a UCaPP world, the organization's identity is created for it by the members of its valence organization formerly known as customers.

In the case of the sandwich chain, the human flipbook ad equals cool, hip, and with-it (at least for the duration of the meme's popularity), and that is the identity imprinting they are going for. They could be selling scuba gear or snail's toes as much as sandwiches - the content of the business doesn't matter. It's the effect, or message that is the medium.

Leigh said...

Ok i'll agree I might still be up my own arse but....

Identity as it relates to brands is a very interesting subject indeed and while I agree it's no longer about creating an specific identity for the organization, brands are still creating customer as much as customers are creating brands.

My point is that as all brands try to be cool - and associate their brands with the next best hippest coolest meme - doesn't that in fact just make it a whole lotta noise if it doesn't somehow link to the content?

Mark said...

An interesting question, Leigh - "doesn't that in fact just make it a whole lotta noise if it doesn't somehow link to the content?" It seems to me that when it does link directly to the content that it becomes worse than noise, destroying the brand and credibility in the process. Some examples from the past year: "Wal-Marting Across America" was pulled after the supposedly meme-worthy blog was outed as being written by a corporate shill and her professional photog partner. "All I Want for Xmas is a PSP" was a disaster within days when Sony was revealed as being behind the agency that was behind the site and was was to be a viral video on YouTube (and the site now apparently points to Häagen-Dazs ice cream. How's that for a mismatch of content with meme?) And then there was the very successful meme, and disaster of a marketing campaign, that was Bridezilla. The self congratulatory nature of the linked article sort of ignores the fact that no one, outside of ad and marketing geeks, connected the viral video to the intended product or subsequent failed use of the term "wigged out" in the shampoo ads. And once it became known that the video was staged by some amateur would-be actors as a poorly paid gig, its meme currency diminished into that particular circle of Internet hell known as obscurity.

I don't think - wait, let me be clearer - It is plainly and painfully obvious that conventional marketeers have no clue whatsoever on how to create, manage, or sustain a viral campaign that does not hearken to a broadcast beat. To them, it's ultimately about numbers of eyeballs since that's about the only proxy they have to attempt to measure the very difficult to observe connections, interactions of influence, and mutual, collective construction of identity.

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