Sometimes it takes a few dozen cats to step on a land mine, before the rest of us decide to take a different route.
It seems we’re still not clear on one of the most basic rules of social media and advertising. Transparency when it comes to advertising via social media. Let’s officially mark this field as dangerous.
Example. This clever rap video by advertising agency Crispin Porter interns (courtesy of AdFreak). Certainly worthy of more than the 2 stars it got, even if I’m not likely to forward it or watch it again. Actually, it’s a page out of 2006’s Smirnoff Tea Partay playbook (a popular video that hit its 3-year birthday over the weekend). Yeah, only this one feels a bit more like stealth promotion for Enertia, and it’s less self depricating and funny.
But here’s the lesson the Crisper folks are learning today. Based on the very defensive text in the description, the folks made a common, but non-trivial mistake (and they’re allowed this because they’re interns). Did I mention, parenthetically, that out of college I interned at Earle Palmer Brown and it was enough to have me change my career goals, as soul-drained senior executives gave me their best advice for a career in advertising: find another profession.
Says the video’s description: “Just a video us interns put together in the last couple of weeks here at Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Brammo was our designated client for the summer. So if you’re complaining about blatant references to the Enertia Bike and Brammo, well, so what? For two months it was our job to reference our client, CP+B is an advertising agency after all. This video doesn’t reflect even a small portion of the work we’ve been producing. In fact, it’s basically unrelated. It was just something fun we wanted to do.”
Interestingly, any comments related to the Enertia product placement in visuals and lyrics seemed to have magically vanished (only old nice ones, and new mean ones), but let’s put that aside for now (although Nalts did use the word Enertia in a comment- let’s see if it sticks).
When I first saw the Enertia product (behind the scenes of photo shoot), my first thought was, “the poor kids probably shot this a month ago, and have been waiting for Enertia’s approval since.” Then the lyrics blatantly guilting me for my polution-generating SUV, I’m thinking, “Ouch- I hope someone got paid well for this.”
Solution: It’s either a promotion or it’s not. And that needs to be posted in the description (and video) at launch. For example, “thanks to Enertia for permission to use photo shoot, and for giving us our first chance on a major campaign.” That would have preempted most criticism! And would have made it forgivable that it looks less like interns creatively venting, and more like Crispin attempting to give a client a “viral” cherry on top the cake. Since white rappers is nearly the viral chiche of cats pooping (SNL Shorts have beaten this genre to death), I’d have loved toinstead see a comedy showing the interns in their work.
Bottom line: The kids get an A for effort, but an F for considering how this might look in agency circles (and for regular viewers of videos that may or may not go viral). Even if this idea was genuinely something the interns conceived and created, there’s no way I’m buying it that Crispin and Enertia didn’t review this first (else the interns would all be fired). So whether dollars changed hands for this specific video, it’s still basically a promotion. So disclaim it. Promotional videos are okay as long as there’s transparency! Then the criticism could roll off the backs
P.S. Please agencies- don’t toss out the baby with the bathwater. Let your interns roam free. But just ask yourself… if this was your competitor’s tactic, how might you criticize it? Can’t think of a legitimate criticism other than “that wasted 3 minutes of my life,” then go for it! Just be launchin’ with a disclaimer that addresses any legitimate transparency or conflict-of-interest issues. Don’t stop driving, just do it sober. 🙂