Monday, January 26, 2009

Friends, tricks, strangers and lies

The other day I watched a Youtube video of a cute girl who apparently met a man in a cafe, had some great conversation and grabbed the coat that he left behind. Why did she make a Youtube video? An attempt to find him and return the jacket. Ahh romance!

Here's the part that's causing some controversy - its a fake video created by a media agency in Sydney for a fashion retailer called Witchery. 

As the effects of the global recession begin to hit Australia, I think more and more agencies will be asked to explore these digital stunts and inevitably more and more agencies will make the same mistake this agency has - believing that a stranger (unknown brand) can behave like a friend (preferred brand)

The problem I have with this video is that a STRANGER has made me the butt of her joke. 
Close your eyes and imagine a stranger making fun of you at a party, okay now open them and say the first thing that comes to mind...mine was "ASS (pause for emphasis) HOLE." 

Droga5's successful Airforce1 viral for Marc Ecko did it differently. They "tricked us" the way a magician would,  the treat was well worth the trick. The trick was so entertaining that the impact was only slightly diluted when we discovered the truth. And if you are a real Marc Ecko loyalist you were rewarded with an insiders clue, "live free" was tagged on the presidents plane - giving you the social currency of knowing Marc Ecko was involved before the general population. 

The differences between relationships with strangers and friends are well documented in social psychology studies. Dan Ariely describes 2 distinctly different worlds in his book "Predictably Irrational": The world of monetary market norms (money=service e.g. a prostitute) and 
non-monetary social norms (friendship/love = service e.g. a date who decides to sleep with you because she likes you). 

The Witchery video leads us to believe that this woman is from the world of non-monetary social norms (girl you date), but once we discover the author is actually from the world of monetary market norms (prostitute) many feel ANGRY. 

Droga5 seems to have first understood the relationship between Marc Ecko and the consumer. They made sure that the behaviour of the brand was consistent with the image in consumers minds. Mixing those 2 up leads to massive problems, just ask the white kid who walks into a room full of black hip hop aficionados and says "what's up my ni...."... That's an exact quote, he never finished the sentence. 

A friend can play an entertaining trick. What Witcherys agency did not seem to understand, is that a stranger playing a similar trick...is nothing more than a liar. 


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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dead or Alive

While working on Nissan at TBWA Chiat/Day in Los Angeles, I came across a really interesting phenomenon. 

During the launch of the '09 Nissan Z, we discovered that the owner to vehicle relationship was strikingly similar to those of Porsche, Mustang and Corvette. 

Unlike most vehicles, these cars inspired multiple purchases of the same make and model - again and again, year after year. I met several people that owned a 4th Nissan Z, a 5th Mustang, a 3rd Corvette.

During the process of conducting an ethnographic study, I attended several owner groups and drives. I met with owners individually, some of their wives or husbands, went for drives in their cars, listened to their stories (Without a notebook. I looked at them when they spoke.) and asked loads of questions online, across dozens of blogs. 

After becoming active on several Z owner sites, I began to feel a sort of quietness every time I returned to the Nissan built site. To be honest, it confused the shit out of me! The Nissan built site was beautiful, had gorgeous imagery and was very easy to navigate. All the right boxes were ticked!

I began to do these side by side comparisons with the other vehicle sites as well and noticed that a VERY different language was being used by owners when compared to manufacturers. 

This directed my curiosity towards psychology, social science and philosophy journals to find if there were any studies conducted on people and the relationships they have with certain kinds of objects.  

To my surprise I found an amazing book called "ich und du" translated from German to I and thou by Martin Buber in 1923. 

In the book, Buber describes 2 relationships he named "I-it and I-you": 
I-it describes an unemotional relationship, one where a person may treat another person as an object e.g. a surgeon NEEDS to maintain an i-it relationship with the patient he is about to cut into. 

It is incredibly difficult for surgeons to operate on family members or loved ones for example. Unfortunately, once surgery is complete many surgeons have difficulty treating that patient with the emotion they removed from the relationship...often leading to the all too common complaint of "poor bedside manner".

The reverse can be seen with a human to object relationship e.g. asking to buy an object at a yard sale where your question is answered with a "Sorry, this teddy bear is NOT for sale, HE has sentimental value". 

That person has ADDED emotion to an object. Essentially treating it as a living thing. Buber described how I-it and I-you relationships can both be identified via adjectives. 

With this new insight in hand, we went back to the owner created web sites and were able to identify an I-you relationship, e.g. the cars were treated as if they were LIVING, BREATHING BEINGS. A he or a she.

When we reviewed the manufacturer web sites, EVERY SINGLE SITE had an I-it relationship with the vehicles, meaning they spoke about the vehicles they created, as if they were DEAD THINGS. An it.

The video below is a target audience brief that I decided to "bring to life" with the help of one of my favourite creatives, Ken Pappanduros.  Much of the "living language" used by the passionate owners is quoted in the voice over, also done by the Papps! :) 

We learned that this vehicle is not a mid-life crisis car, but rather a reminder that they are and have always been different than societies norm. A little braver, a little bolder.

Some explained how they enjoyed getting tattoos, because most only talked about it.
Some surfed, because most only talked about it. Some lived on the beach, because most only talked about it

Consistently, they enjoyed DOING what others only talked about, and that included getting a powerful 2 seater sports car.

I believe agencies need to start treating focus groups as learning groups. Not building discussion guides, but actually having discussions...guide. 

We need to learn from Hollywoods methodologies and understand how to become method actors. Learn how to look, walk and find the voice of our most passionate consumer, rather than the voice of a passionate salesman. 


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