The Portland Ad Federation had an event with Dean McBeth from Wieden+Kennedy to talk about the Old Spice campaign. I wasn’t able to attend, but it did motivate me to do a little analysis of a project I’ve been working on for about a month.
Ever since July 22nd, about the time the Old Spice campaign ended, I’ve been tracking their twitter stats. How many people they follow, how many people follow them, tweets, and so on. Why track this? I’m not really sure other than that I found the campaigns transition from T.V. to the web unique and I wanted to see what the tail looked like. While I think things like ROI are critical, without continuous access to sales numbers all the industry talk about the role this campaign played in that regard is really just blog fodder. It’s fun, but sort of pointless. What really interested me was the nature of the campaign – how it existed in the context of contemporary advertising.
I’m not an analyst of any sort, and until I heard about Dean’s presentation, I hadn’t done anything other than keep a daily (or nearly daily) tally of a handful of numbers. Hearing about the PAF event though, I decided to dump them into a spreadsheet and see what, if anything, was there. Here’s what I got:
From 07.23.2010 through 08.29.2010 the Old Spice Twitter account looked like this
They followed 719 people
They had 116,848 people following them
They were on 3,669 lists
They tweeted 1859 times
Note: that tweet number is slightly odd though because on 08.26 they had 1909 tweets.
Much of the conventional wisdom around brands on the web these days centers on the notions of communication and reciprocity. The idea here is that if a brand wants to be successful within the context of the “social web” they’ll need to act a lot more like people and a lot less like companies. But looking at the Old Spice campaign – I have to question some of that.
It’s worth noting that the Old Spice account follows back less 1% of the people that followed them. Also, their rate of communication is about .8 tweets per day. At the same they have about 1% daily increase in followers – about 1,000 per day. Basically – @oldspice was looking a lot like a celebrity account: lots of followers, very little following. This had me wondering if people were following Old Spice the brand, or Isaiah Mustafa, the spokesman? Further confusing the issue though is that unlike those accounts, there isn’t much human connection coming through the account. It’s mostly humorous non-sequitors, and even then, there’s not much of that being produced.
In fact – nearly the entire catalog of bi-directional communication, supposedly the point of brands in the social space, happened in a very short window right before the end of the campaign. This was the time when Wieden was staged their famous video twitter responses.
And here is where I get to the confusing nature of this campaign. For a campaign that’s been regarded as the best social media campaign of the year, and even the best web campaign of the year – it doesn’t look a lot like what we’ve assumed social media and the web look like: It’s not interactive, it’s not communicative, and the one technical boundary it pushed – the video twitter responses – was a boundary of traditional media, not digital. To the extent that there was engagement at all, it was limited to the terms of the brand: they choose a tiny fraction of the communication directed at them to respond to, and then retained absolute control over the tone and length of the “conversation.”
In the end, this all sounds a lot like a different medium: T.V.
Now, it seems like lately, “T.V.” or “broadcast” has become a sort of dirty word in digitally minded circles, but that’s not at all how I mean it here. But everything I’ve written to this point raised a big question for me: was the Old Spice campaign one of the best social media/web/interactive campaigns ever, or, was it actually the perfect example of what a post-web T.V./broadcast/traditional campaign should be?
If it’s the former, than I think we in this industry need to reexamine our canon of what makes great digital advertising – because we seem to have gotten a lot wrong.
If it’s the later, than I wonder if this isn’t an accidental (or intentional?) example of just how effective the internet and the web have been in totally blurring the lines where content lives and instead leaving us to focus entirely on the nature of the content – in this case, traditional “lean-back” content using Twitter as a distribution channel.
this article was originally published on thisisviolence.net