Pedigree’s fascinating new dog food commercial – inspired by Pleix

A Saatchi & Saatchi colleague recently sent me a new commercial for Pedigree dog food.  It’s a fantastic piece of advertising from TBWA, Toronto. No annoying voice over, just fascinating ultra-slow motion shots of dogs leaping in the air to chomp down on a single nugget of Pedigree’s vitality+.  I immediately forwarded it to dog lovers I know.  That’s what you want in an age of skeptical consumers who have the power to block unwanted advertising messages from reaching them.  Make something so good, people want to spread it around to their friends.  It’s garnered over a million views on YouTube since going up at the end of February.

The commercial brilliantly conveys vitality and great taste in an execution that breaks with all the boring conventions of the past 50 years for conveying those benefits.  As I said to a dog lover friend of mine, who is also a market researcher, it’s the first dog food commercial I’ve ever seen that communicates great canine taste appeal without showing the animal — who we know was probably half starved to death before the commercial shoot — lunging at a bowl full of food.  Take a look, and you’ll see what I mean.

The execution was inspired by a video produced in 2006 by Pleix Films for the music group, Vitalic. The similarity is unmistakable.

At first, I got all hot under the collar, because there was no acknowledgment on the YouTube page running the Pedigree version that the idea wasn’t original.  We live in an age of mash-ups, consumer generated content and transparency.  I don’t think people have a problem with borrowing ideas, or adapting them for another purpose, as TBWA has done.  But you need to acknowledge that you did.

Neither Pedigree nor TBWA are at fault, because it seems that wherever this spot appears on YouTube, it was posted by others.  Indeed, TBWA does call out on their web site that “the campaign was inspired by the talented directors at Pleix.”  Unfortunately, the post I saw on YouTube credits the idea to TBWA without any mention of its original source.

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Thoughts on a recent German social media debate

Recently a debate emerged among German social media mavens.  The question was whether social media can be successful when companies that use social media channels don’t respond to consumer comments or otherwise enter the conversation.  The debate was ushered in by a post from Mirko Lange on his talkabout blog entitled, Social Media Myth Buster: Successful Social Media Doesn’t Require a “Dialog” (Social Media Myth Buster: Es braucht keinen “Dialog” für erfolgreiche Social Media).

Two aspects of Mirko’s post bugged me.  First, he was fairly unspecific about defining “successful.”  It seemed simply to be the number of fans on Facebook or the number of followers on Twitter.  So one of his successful examples was Lufthansa Germany’s Twitter page.  Lufthansa has 20,000+ followers.  Is that a success?  Perhaps.  Some context would help.  How fast was the growth in followers?  How many of those followers actually engage with Lufthansa via Twitter?  On the face of it, it doesn’t look that good compared to Southwest Airlines, which has over 1 million Twitter followers.

The other point is that as far as I can tell, Lufthansa is indeed “dialoging” with customers via Twitter, much the way Frank Eliason has done with Comcast Cares, by identifying customers with problems and helping out.  One difference is that Frank identifies himself by name to leverage a key strength of social media, the opportunity for companies to behave like people, by having real people with real names engage on behalf of the company. As  Southwest’s Twitter bio aptly notes, ” Airplanes can’t type so @ChristiDay and @Brandy_King are piloting the Twitterverse!”

Nevertheless, I fundamentally agree with Mirko, as well as with Timo Lommatzsch, who, on the current edition of his Social Media PReview Podcast, which discusses Mirko’s post, points to the example of Die Zeit’s Twitter page, with nearly 25,000 followers.  Die Zeit is an erudite German weekly newspaper that covers a broad range of topics including politics, culture, economy and sports.  There’s no dialogue on their Twitter feed, it serves merely to inform followers of the online edition’s latest articles.  But one can imagine that these followers are the type of people who will retweet a post on Die Zeit to all of their followers, which is an effective way to spread the paper’s content across personal networks and potentially bring new readers to the site to the delight of the publication’s online advertisers.

Consider also that consumers aren’t as puritanical about demanding dialogue as social media “experts” assert.  I recall recently a study quoted by Shel Holtz on his For Immediate Release podcast.  It found that the main reason people become fans of brand Facebook pages is to find special deals and price-off promotions.

As long as a social media provides value based on how the community defines it — be it  special deals, product information, help with problems, or the pleasure of sharing one’s passion for the brand with others — the community will grow.

In writing this post, I remembered something I included in the “Who’s on the soapbox?” section when I started this blog in July, 2008.  It said, “I’m Steve Rothman … I have a passion for new media, social media, web 2.0 — whatever your preferred label for the way people are using the web to connect, share and empower each other on the things they care about. And that includes the products and services they buy.”  I didn’t write that those people necessarily had to include the company or the brand.  That’s as true now, as it was then.

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Check out this new databank of social media case studies — CaseStudiesOnline

I’m a case study junky.  Whenever I have a recommendation for clients, I instinctively try to find pertinent case studies that can support my proposal.  They aren’t a magic bullet.  Clients can always find reasons to say, “Well, that doesn’t apply to us for reasons A, B, and C,” especially if my proposal takes them outside their comfort zone, as social media sometimes does.

That’s why I was happy to learn of CaseStudiesOnline, created by Tod Maffin.  You can search and find links to social media case studies sorted by demographics, industry, organization and tactics (i.e. social media tools used).  Tod also invites users to add their own cases studies, which means this resource is likely to grow in relevance and usefulness over time.

I would love to see a function that allows users to rate the case studies for usefulness.  For these and other suggestions (from you perhaps) Tod provides a feedback link.

Here’s a short introductory video:

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Nerdy new year’s resolution — understanding social media monitoring tools and types

Social Mention is a free social media search and analysis platform

Talk about nerdy new year’s resolutions.  One of mine is to start getting a deeper understanding of social media monitoring tools and methods.  Measuring the effectiveness of social media, and in particular the whole question of ROI, is a topic that appears to be heating up in 2010 now that social media has garnered broad scale awareness among marketers as a phenomenon they need to reckon with.

Recently I came across a very good overview of some of the major tools assembled by Dr. Dave Chaffey on his SMART Insights Digital Marketing Blog.  According to Dr. Dave, the number of tools and services on the market grew significantly in 2009.  His list groups providers and products into 7 different categories defined by Michael Brewer of Clerestorey:

Category 1 – Wide scope analytical and reporting tools for all aspects of monitoring customer opinions and campaign effectiveness

Category 2 – Blog based influence assessment tools, designed to gain access to influential customers/commentators

Category 3 – PR and media management tools for reputation management and assessing opinion forming influence

Category 4 – Social media tracking and intervention including free tools

Category 5 – Fraud protection, security and threat detection

Category 6 – News media tracking

Category 7 – Social media within sales management – for identifying B2B prospects

Frankly, the range of tools, services and providers is a bit overwhelming.  So I’m starting small, with the free tools.  Also, social media tracking is the category of most interest to me.  I’ve started playing around with Social Mention already, which I’ll write about in another blog post.  Viral Heat also seems interesting, so that will be the next one.

Stay tuned, all you nerds out there.

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Have T-shirt, will twitter. I Wear Your Shirt is social media marketing at its simplest and most human

Evan White and Jason Sadler of I Wear Your Shirt

Jason Sadler rents out his torso as a billboard.  At his web site I Wear Your Shirt, companies, organizations or just regular folks like you and I can hire him to wear a T-shirt sporting our brand.  Jason wears the shirt for a day in Jacksonville, Florida, where he lives.  He uploads videos to YouTube, posts and chats to his community on Twitter and Facebook, and hosts a daily chat about the shirt and the sponsor at UStream.tv.  His videos are like those long-length knife set commercials you see on late night television, only much more fun and not so blatantly about making the sale. Sometimes his audience can win prizes when they leave their own posts mentioning the brand, helping the name to spread.

His pricing model is as simple as it is serendipitous.  Two dollars for January 1st, $4 dollars for the January 2nd, increasing by two dollar increments every day.  So December 31st comes in at a whopping $730.  Last year it was half the price, but Jason doubled his staffing in 2010 with the addition of Evan White, who parades his T-Shirts around Los Angeles, California.

In 2009 Jason netted a reported $84,000.  “Kleinvieh macht auch Mist,” as they say in my adopted country.  Literally it means “Small livestock also makes manure,” or more politely, “Every little bit helps.”  (I prefer the literal translation.)

Most of Jason Sadler’s customers are indeed “Kleinvieh,” not your big major marketers by any means.  But I think it’s cool how the connectivity of the social web can make a micro-scale business idea like this even possible.  Jason earns some pretty good income, and small businesses, with small budgets, get to trigger some potentially significant word of mouth.

Hmmm.  Maybe I’ll hire Jason to promote this blog.  I’ll have to wait till next year though.  January through August 2010 are already sold out.  And more than 200 bucks would break my budget.

And then there’s the T-Shirt.

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Introducing Blippy, where ca-ching connects with the social web

I just checked out Blippy, which, if you’re a cynic, you might just think of as place for a new consumer segment — the shopping exhibitionist — to indulge a perverse desire to show the whole world every purchase they make.

When you register a credit card on Blippy, your purchases show up on the Blippy feed.  It looks a lot like a Twitter feed except the only thing it says is “So and so” (that means you) spent “so much” at “such and such a place.”  It also shows a list of what you bought. You can imagine what kind of trouble that could get you into.  But like most social media sites, you can limit who sees and who doesn’t see that you just spend $180 at the Filene’s basement designer wedding gown sale, even though you’re a guy.

I don’t quite know what to make of Blippy.  But it has some cool functions.  You can follow and be followed, so there could be value in keeping tabs on people who make frequent purchases in the same categories you do.  You can click on people to see a record of their purchases.  Or you can click on a location to see a list of everyone on Blippy who bought someting there.  You can also comment on purchases, which might include tips on where the person might get the product for less the next time, or make suggestions of related goods that might interest the buyer.

Apparently there’s no revenue model yet, but one can imagine that the data collected here could be a gold mine for retailers to connect with their most loyal and valuable customers.  Check out this New York Times article for more information.  I learned a new term there.  It’s called passive sharing.  That’s what Blippy does because your posts are automatically uploaded every time you buy something with the designated credit card.

If you’re not careful, that really could get you into trouble!!!

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The agency of the future will be a horse of a different color

Brian Morrissey recently wrote in Adweek about the “great race” between traditional and digital shops to become the lead agency, that is, the agency that leads all brand communications efforts for the client among a stable of shops covering specific specialties.  Morrissey’s piece reports on a Forrester “state of interactive agencies” survey showing that only 23% of global interactive marketers believe that the “the traditional brand agency is capable of planning and managing interactive marketing activities.”  Conversely, only 22% think their interactive agency is ready to assume the leading role in managing all brand communications.  Thus the great race for world domination of brand stewardship between the traditional and digital agencies is off! To quote Morrissey, “…traditional shops scramble to add digital know-how and digital shops seek to move up the ladder to become brand stewards…”

Joseph Jaffee, in his latest installment of JaffeJuiceTV suggests there’s a third horse in the race, the social media agency.  (Thanks to Joe for drawing my attention to the Morrissey article in his video.)  You have to admire Joe for waving the social media flag, since his company, crayon, was just acquired along with two other companies by powered to create the first “social media agency with scale,” as I believe he calls it.

When a traditional agency acquires digital know-how — usually that means buying a digital agency — that’s one thing.  Integrating that expertise with the brand strategy capabilities of the acquiring agency is quite another.  Whether it’s a two or three-horse race, ultimately it’s about tearing down the walls that stand between traditional, digital and social in our minds and in the way we work so that ideas move freely, are informed and work across all three. It means bringing people of different minds, with different perspectives, together, ideally in physical space, not separating them into silos, so they can create something better and more powerful together.  The agencies that get that right will be the ones that win.  And then it won’t matter if they’re traditional, digital or social.  Because at that point they will be a horse of a completely different color.

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