Secret Cinema drove at 88mph… and stalled

24 Jul

Thousands of angry Back to the Future fans took to social media to express their frustration at the late cancellation of Secret Cinema‘s launch event this evening – and who can blame them?

It’s a serious PR fail which was always going to end badly. Yes, the organisers have said sorry and used social media to disseminate the message to attendees quickly. But, unlike Sainsbury’s, Coca-Cola and Costco (brands which made epic mistakes but used social media to their advantage to make amends), Secret Cinema just let the cat drop out of the bag.

Here’s how:

What’s your problem?
Secret Cinema apologised, but I think it should’ve given a little more information away as to why so many people’s nights were ruined.

*Technical difficulties?
*Health and safety issues?
*Missing DeLorean?

My point is if you’re not transparent about why you’re making these decisions, then people will just start speculating. And that speculation will be plastered across Twitter and Facebook. Oh, and in this case, the national news.

There’s no nice way to say this, but…
Secret Cinema’s news broke on social media and, after just a few moments, went viral. Although, I’m still questioning why 26 people opted to ‘like’ the Facebook post.

What I also don’t understand is why the organisers ran the risk of involving its 201,000 fans in an issue that only affected a small percentage?

Ok, I may be contradicting my point about transparency. But, in the first instance, if it affected me (and they’ve got a week to sort themselves out before I get down there) I would’ve appreciated a personalised e-newsletter or text message breaking the news, rather than running the risk of finding out through my friends.

Ok, if negative press is going to get out, a brand can do little to stop it. But, this could’ve ring-fenced the problem for a short while – if Secret Cinema had the resources to pop down contact details encouraging people to call them with questions (rather than posting on social media.)

Actions speak louder than words
One thing’s for sure, Secret Cinema cannot afford for this problem to continue looming this time tomorrow. With a second round of ticket holders already panicking that they might not even make it to Hill Valley, my recommendation would be for organisers to shift from apologies to olive branches and start making amends sooner rather than later.

I was always expecting big things, but I’m expecting professionalism from Secret Cinema more than ever now.

Watch this space.

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CLIC Sargent’s fundraising campaign is a joke

21 Jul

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I’ll keep my intro short and sweet. Non-profit PR is a lot like this summer – hot.

From Macmillan’s social media quick-win to Grassroots’ #StayAlive app, charities are proving that there’s lots of opportunities to raise awareness.

But, when I first read about CLIC Sargent’s campaign, I thought it was having a laugh… and I was right.

Let me explain:

Working with Havas, (a highly-creative media agency which turns brainstorm ideas into a brand reality. I did some work with them for my old client Unilever Food Solutions) CLIC has created a Joke Appeal micro-site encouraging people to submit their best jokes.

Here comes the science:

People then look around the site, find their favourite gag and ‘buy it’ – donating to the cancer charity.

It’s a ‘novel’ concept, not only because it means that everyone can contribute to the charity – financially or not – but it instantly gives CLIC the opportunity to not take itself too seriously. Using well-known comedians to get the ball rolling, the Joke Appeal can literally laugh in the face of cancer – different to Cancer Research‘s ‘aggressive’ approach.

It’s early days for the campaign, but it’s already generated over 240 jokes (Note that the charity is promoting how many jokes it’s received, not money – so it’s not necessarily measuring success against fundraising targets). What’s more, CLIC’s made the most of its existing social media channels to make some noise.

So, as funny as this appeal may seem, this campaign is very serious about engaging the public online.

Instagram won’t be the same again after reading this blog

13 Jul

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Then, what’s the value of an Instagram? I guess it depends on what filter you choose.

One thing’s for sure – brands are boosting their presence on the photo-sharing site and I don’t just mean using hashtags. Clever companies are now using it to build entire campaigns.

Ikea
To launch its new PS 2014 collection, Ikea used Instagram to create a mini website by creating a profile for each piece of furniture in the range, and linking them together using the tagging functions.

This allowed users to scroll through the different items on the site, just like flicking through a catalogue, because every page was linked. It also encouraged people to add to the website by snapping their own pieces and tagging them – to show they were associated with the brand.

Sky Rainforest Rescue
A partnership between Sky and the World Wildlife Fund, the charity has launched an Instagram account and uploaded a blend of 60 images and videos – each tile representing part of a design created by an artist – giving users a unique interactive tour of the Amazon.

From unique illustrations to exclusive blogger content, every time a user follows the account and clicks on one of the tiles, they’re automatically entered into a competition to win a pair of sustainable VEJA trainers, designed by ‘eco-warrior’ model Lily Cole.

It’s pretty obvious that these innovative campaigns are changing the way we use social media. So, what can we do to give our own profiles a makeover?

1) What’s your strategy?
I don’t mean to offend anyone with my patronising nugget of advice, but if you don’t know what you want to gain from Instagram, you won’t achieve anything.

- Want more followers?
- Want to network?
- Want user-generated content?

Create a tick list and prioritise in terms of importance. Then, look at what content you have and create a plan to either drip feed it over the coming weeks, building momentum, or sync it onto the page in full as part of a bigger campaign.

Right, lecture over. Back to the quick wins.

2) Chill out
Don’t go for the tough sell. Instagram is the perfect platform for brands to show off their talent and personalities.

If you wouldn’t read your own updates, chances are no one else will.

Worried that no one will really ‘get’ what you do? Then stream Instagram on your website. Problem solved.

3) Press record
In reference to my opening line, surely videos are worth a million words.

Quality is important, but don’t make a meal out of creating a video. As long as the content is clear and engaging, with a relevant call-to-action, it’ll work.

Then PR your post by shouting about it on your other social media channels.

Not enough? If you’re a bit more creative, you could always explore capitalising on the filter craze by creating your own branded option and pitching it into Instagram. That should get you noticed pretty quickly.

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What’s love got to do with it? Match.com partners with Mensa

30 Jun

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There comes a time when you have to admit that your blog life is better, and far more interesting, than your love life.

On Prime Time we’ve had a range of heart-shaped posts in the past. From wanting to break up with clients and top Valentine’s Day campaigns to Christian dating advertising slogans and kinky classifieds, there’s been lots to say and sadly it’s not got me anywhere.

But, now that Match.com has partnered with Mensa to connect geniuses (never underestimate yourself), perhaps my time has come.

Profile users can now add a Mensa badge to their profile to let prospective partners know that they’re looking for someone smart.

It’s a simple idea but it works – adding a fresh talking point to both brands’ bows, particularly Match.com.

I imagine that the dating service’s press releases and case studies are normally filed in journalists’ features folders, only allowed out for air in mid February when the media force feeds us with love stories.

But, this partnership provides the dating service and high-IQ society with an interesting news angle. It also complements our society’s increasing need to ‘pick and mix’ the type of people we want to get to know. Sticking a Mensa badge on your profile is as much a blockade as it is an invitation.

To add value to the partnership, Match.com is also offering users the chance to take a Mensa test for $1. Bargain.

So, while singletons are rushing to find out how smart they really are, I’d argue that Match.com actually has the highest IQ.

For a brand that’s synonymous with online dating (I dare you to ask the people around you what dating websites come into their head and I bet Match.com is first every time. If it isn’t, it’s because it didn’t work for them), its challenge is to continue pushing traditional marketing to one side and prioritising innovation.

Has this PR partnership got you head over heels?

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#StayAlive: life-saving technology

24 Jun

When it comes to PR, charities are pushing themselves harder than ever to get noticed – and it’s paying off.

From WaterAid’s social media waterfall to Macmillan’s tube strike tweet, charities aren’t just sticking to their marketing strategy, they’re also going after ‘quick wins’, which is putting pressure on press teams to generate more column inches.

Having said this, I was surprised to see that Grassroots, a Brighton-based suicide prevention charity, is launching a new app next month called #StayAlive.

The app, not to be confused with the British Heart Foundation’s Bee Gees‘ inspired Staying Alive campaign, will offer support to people who feel suicidal.

Up to 4,400 people in England end their own lives each year, and 10 times this number attempt suicide, so why am I so shocked?

It’s one thing for a charity to empower you to save a life – whether that’s through a quick dose of CPR, donation or volunteering opportunity – but it’s another story to encourage people to keep living. It’s brave and the reality is that it’s a partial solution to a growing problem.

How will the app provide support?
1) Using location data to identify local services
2) Encouraging users to upload positive images to remind them of happier times
3) Advising on what those thoughts might mean and how to overcome them

My issue is that the apps on my very old iPhone are split into various categories: social, news, entertainment, lifestyle, shopping and utilities. So, I’m not entirely sure where #StayAlive would sit on my desktop. And, if I did need to refer to it, how often I’d revisit. And, if I was experiencing mental health issues, would I seek comfort in an app?

But, for a digital generation that’s logged on 24/7, there is some logic in the fact that our phones – a simple photo or a quick call – could mean the difference between life and death.

But, the one thing Grassroots lacks is maximising its social media presence. It took me a while to find the charity on Twitter – not ideal when the app name is actually a hashtag!

However, the charity’s already got the backing from regional newspaper The Argus and works closely with key stakeholders. But, I predict that it’ll get a lot of questions from the media on launch day about its innovation. So, it’s a prime opportunity to boost followers and starting conversations by setting the agenda.

After all, how often does a regional charity get to do that? This is definitely a campaign to keep an eye on.
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A perfect World Cup tweet gone wrong

18 Jun

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I’ve decided that when Taylor Swift first sang the words ‘I knew you were trouble when you walked in’ she was talking about one of two things: 1D’s Harry Styles or the perils of social media.

Social media is a bear trap for brands and the latest honey to lure them in is the World Cup. Put simply, if a tweet misses the net the person behind the shot will end up paying the price.

Playing the hand you’re Delta
On Monday night Delta Airlines decided to keep its 690,000+ followers updated on the final score of the USA (2) vs Ghana (1) match with this tweet.

20140618-103129.jpgAn ignorant stereotype
On the outside this looks like a great tweet. It’s factual, engaging and makes the most of iconic photography.

Look a little closer and you’ll see that it was all going so well until the company decided that the photo that best defined Ghana was a giraffe.

Moments later, experts quickly pointed out that giraffes don’t live in Ghana (If you didn’t already know this go straight to jail. Do not pass go and do not collect £200.)

In fact, with a bit of digging the experts discovered that this stock image had Kenya written all over it. (Well, you know what I mean.) So, there’s no reason, or excuse, for the Delta team to have got this one wrong.

Not only does it make the brand look a little unworldly – believe me for a travel company that’s not the adjective you want to be associated with – but also a little uncaring.

Cue the apology
To right its wrong, Delta did the only thing it could do in this situation: issue a public apology.

But, I can only imagine that its community manager was trembling with fear because it added an unnecessary step to its sorry note. It made a typo by referring to its ‘precious’ tweet (opposed to previous).

20140618-114716.jpgI’ve previously said that if a link between a brand and an event isn’t obvious then they shouldn’t be wading into the conversation at all.

Global events, like the World Cup, are not only notoriously difficult to generate cut-through, but when brands do get noticed it’s often because a mistake’s been made.

Destroying the evidence
Not that you’d ever know Delta had been issued a yellow card. The offending image has disappeared from the timeline and the airline has spent the last day ‘doing a Sainsbury’s‘ by directly apologising to its critics.

Perhaps I’m not giving Delta enough credit. It may have been completely in control of this risky stunt. But, it’s not one that I’d ever recommend.

Royal Mail fails as brands attempt to cash in on World Cup buzz

12 Jun

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Call me naive (although I’d prefer it if you called me Donna*), but I didn’t even realise until this week that postal officers could refuse to deliver mail that they deemed offensive. But they can, and they did, when they were handed the latest issue of marketing magazine The Drum.

The front cover included the F-bomb, in large font, as part of a creative design tying in with the World Cup which kicks off today. (Go Belgium, thanks to my sweep stake pick). But, context aside, according to the Royal Mail, the subscription-only trade publication failed to comply with the company’s T&Cs of avoiding ‘offensive, obscene or threatening language’.

So, knowing what I know now, I’m not sure why I was surprised to read again today that there are reports of postal staff – possibly Royal Mail, possibly not – refusing to deliver a special edition of The Sun in the North West. A blow to the UK’s largest newspaper after it invested in creating a one-off paper celebrating ‘Englishness’ to celebrate the launch of that football tournament. There’s a pattern emerging here, don’t you think?

Reaching 22 million people across the UK and not a Page 3 model in sight, The Sun had already pre-empted a negative reaction from Liverpool, so decided against distributing there, as a result of the newspaper’s Hillsborough football disaster coverage. But, reports are circulating that elsewhere in the North of England – including Runcorn, St Helens, Skelmersdale and Ellesmere Port – that postal staff wouldn’t agree to deliver in these areas if asked.

At a time when the print journalism industry is struggling to stay alive, because consumers are choosing to eat their news and views in more convenient digital bites, I’m surprised that delivery companies like the Royal Mail are turning their back on print partners. Surely, these corporate contracts – whether they’re one-off projects on long-term – are their bread and butter. And, without them they’ll just go hungry! Particularly if their hunger pangs come down to language preference, like in The Drum’s case.

It’s for the end consumer to make the complaint and, if they’re offended, the issue (no pun intended) should be taken up with the company responsible: the publisher, not the carrier.

FIFA has enough PR problems to deal with around this global event, besides whether its ‘brand’ can even be delivered to the right people. It needs to focus on protecting its image against rumours that half-built stadiums will be half empty, as well as the news that the Brazilian army has been asked to drive lingering drug lords out of local favelas.

Let’s hope these latest Royal Mail fails don’t reflect too badly on the tournament.

*That bad joke proves I am my mother’s child, just in case anyone was wondering.

The Drum editor says 'F@£! It' to Royal Mail over F-bomb front cover

The Drum editor says ‘F@£! It’ to Royal Mail over F-bomb front cover

Fila gives Banksy a run for his money

5 Jun

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I was late to the party when the world-renowned ‘graff-art-i’ father Banksy first hit the scene. But, when I did, I went through the same stages we all did. From ‘is that legal?’ and ‘who is he?’ to ‘what’s he trying to teach us’ and ‘I wish he’d give my house a makeover’, love him or hate him, he’s making statements and hard cash.

So, it’s no surprise that people trying to get in on the action. Remember the masterpiece that was removed from a shop wall in North London? The point is, we’re used to people trying to remove Banksy’s to sell them on. And we know that brands, like Lego, will shamelessly piggyback off his success by making mock-ups. (For those of you new to Prime Time, I love to hate Lego. It’s stepped to its game in recent months and I just can’t keep up). But, we’re not necessarily used to brands adding to an existing piece of his artwork – cue Fila.

To me, Fila is an old school brand. Quite literally, the last time I wore a pair of its kicks was at school. So, I’ve already conjured up an idea that this vigilante brand has nothing to lose by slicing pairs of its trainers in half and strategically placing them at the foot of Banksy’s across London (as if to worship his approach).

But the story doesn’t end there. Here comes the science. Advertising agency GREYGermany used Google Ad Words to lead consumers, searching for answers to what this sporting statement actually meant, to shoe retailer Deichmann.
Nice touch, but I would’ve much preferred a link through to an ‘undercover’ (i.e. subtly branded Fila site) that encourages people to upload their Instagram pictures of the stunt for the chance to win a free pair of trainers.

The key is to convert your audience from interested consumers into brand ambassadors – and get them to tell you the next stage of the story. Who will they influence next? What do they want to see from the brand? What content do they need to share with their friends?

I just don’t believe a shoe shop can offer this because have to work twice as hard to a) assure people they’re involved in Fila’s PR stunt and b) keep people interested in the brand, rather than pushing them to buy.

But, I won’t be too hard on the Fila. It’s a great quick-win for the brand and, judging by the agency’s YouTube video, it has set the path open for others to hijack street art to create a new movement. But, I won’t get too excited until I hear that Banksy’s requested some more shoes for his next piece.

What do you think – is Fila running in the right direction?

Fila gives Banksy a run for his money.

Fila gives Banksy a run for his money.

Vittel vamps up water bottles to remind you to keep drinking

28 May

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Midweek question: should PRs and marketers attempt to create a campaign when an app already exists?

I woke up at about 3am this morning and killed some time checking Twitter (yes, I’m one of those people who reaches for their phone) and saw that Ogilvy – the agency behind the UN’s predictive Google search campaign to raise awareness of gender inequality – had posted some of its latest client work.

I took another look at the tweet, at a more appropriate hour, and found that the agency had created a ‘quick and dirty’ PR stunt off the back of consumer research.

A new survey has found that 80% of French adults aren’t drinking enough water, simply because they forget. So, Ogilvy has teamed up with Vittel to create a special bottle lid that reminds you to sippy sippy every hour.

Originally, I’d have thought this was great – especially after seeing that it’s secured coverage on Creativity Online, Design Taxi and has generated a social media buzz – if I hadn’t downloaded Water Balance recently, which takes a note of my weight and height before prompting me to drink at various times during the day.

Maybe I’m taking it too seriously. The video to accompany the stunt certainly doesn’t. It’s fast, fun and contains flags – what’s not to love?

But, don’t get too excited. At the moment, this is exactly what it says on the tin – a marketing opportunity for the company to study consumer behaviour, with no current plans to bring it to life.

So, I guess I’ve answered my own question. Although apps are convenient and cost-effective, stunts will always have that talkability factor – and Vittel is a great example of this.

What do you think – thirsty for more? Watch the video here:

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