A little less than a year ago, Miracle Whip came out with new ads, targeted at consumers my age (somewhere around 18-24, I would guess). The ad campaign proclaimed “Don’t be so Mayo,” that Miracle Whip was as rebellious as we were, that it somehow could tap into our generation and provide us with kickass mayo-substitute that wasn’t so bland. The ad was lampooned on the Colbert Report, which gave it a great amount of earned media, and even ran advertisements calling Stephen Colbert out (the ads were placed during his broadcast). While they’ve since gone on to place their new product in a Lady Gaga video, “Telephone” (which I think is a much better way to reach our generation), I think Miracle Whip missed the message.
Gen Y grew up being bombarded with advertising. We know that we’re often being lied to, and we’re getting a little pissed off about it. We’re jaded and cynical about advertising, and irony is a second-language to us (if there aren’t enough ironic mustaches and three-wolf-moon shirts in your neighborhood, there soon will be).
Kotex has a campaign that I think is more effective at reaching us than Miracle Whip was, all because it understands Gen Y. I have no idea what women expect out of ads for feminine hygiene products, and I don’t know whether its sales are going to increase or decrease. I could care less about what product Kotex is selling, but their UbyKotex campaign is, in my opinion, done very well and tailored perfectly to our generation.
The ads (other one here) make fun of every tampon commercial. The imagery, the dancing girls, the white pants….they’re all lampooned here. Instead of reinforcing these old clichés, these ads make fun of them. Kotex as a brand admits to its own previous lack of authenticity. This straight-talk transparency is something our disillusioned generation respects.
Domino’s also understands this desire for authenticity and, most of all, transparency. The brand did something that shocked most people; it said it’s pizza sucked. Ads showed real footage of focus groups where the participants were unhappy with the pizza, and then listed the reasons why (taste, etc). Then, Domino’s said it would redesign its recipe to make its pizzas better. That’s about as transparent as a brand can get. Until this summer, that is.
Most recently, Domino’s decided to admit that its pizza advertisements were false. That their pizzas pretty much went through a “makeup” process in order to look pretty for the ads. They claim that they’ll start advertising pizza the way it is, straight out of the oven. That’s transparent, and according to sources Domino’s sales are skyrocketing because of it. Other brands might want to take note.
Companies that want to sell something to us are going to have to begin talking like us. This does NOT mean using our slang; there’s nothing worse than a brand that throws in a “shizzle” or “LOL” into a message just because they want to appear authentic. Use our tone. We’re a generation that grew up on the Simpsons, Conan, and Seinfeld. We’re used to sardonic humor, satire, and meta-comedy. We know how to make fun of ourselves, and we expect that a brand should be able to do the same. So, the takeaway for brands here is that if you want to sell something to us, don’t dumb the message down, and don’t forget who you’re communicating to. We’ll listen, but only if you get the tone right. Either give us the straight facts or make it funny, but do not assume we’re dumb one-way recipients of your message.
Mark Zuckerberg is watching you. Facebook has been getting a lot of negative buzz lately because of its privacy settings and how intrusive they seem. Facebook also added the ability to “Like” things all over the internet, meaning it can see and aggregate all of your likes together and hopefully derive some meaningful insights from them (like the Black Keys? Here’s an Ad!). If this seems a little Orwellian, you’re probably right. Zuckerberg thinks that privacy is dead, that it’s something we no longer really desire. I think there’s a little bit of truth to that.
Think about your life online. You probably have a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn account if you’re my age (or at least one of them). You’ve probably shared most of your public contact information (email, phone number, Skype/AIM name) with something on the internet, and you probably also skipped over the legal mumbo jumbo that tells you how they are able to use it. Anytime you send an email, researchers can scour them for keywords and use that data. Here we are, in the age of rabid transparency.
In this strange new world of transparency, how you interact on the internet will be remembered forever. The pages you view, the comments you make on youtube, the tweets you send out. It just makes me happy that I barely missed the age of putting your baby doing stupid stuff on Youtube (I’ll take 5 sets of eyeballs over 13 Million, thank you very much). These things are all being archived (if they aren’t, somebody is missing an opportunity). Eventually, this archive will be a time capsule, a small look into our lives in the new millennium (BEFORE everyone had hover cars and jetpacks and sentient housemaid robots). But now, it can be used for research and meaningful insights, delivering you targeted advertising based upon your internet habits. What we’re seeing now is a rise in accountability. Your 15 minutes of fame have been extended indefinitely (Andy Warhol would have loved the internet). You can’t burn your online diary, shred your emails, or hide the video tapes Watergate-style. Once it’s on the internet, it’s there for good.
So, what do you do to hide from Big Brother Facebook? You could just avoid the internet completely (Brother Jebediah), but that doesn’t seem realistic these days. The key to surviving this new world is to manage your online presence. Make sure that nothing too inflammatory comes out of your keyboard, keep the dirty pictures out, and watch where you visit. Make sure everything you do online is really just an extension of who you are. If everyone’s watching, at least wave your flag.
All this being said, I think this transparency is a good thing; it makes us look more human when some of our failures are up on the internet. It’s also nice to know that most of the time when you’re giving out information, you’re not really your name. You’re just an 18-34 year old male from Wisconsin. None of the personal information is collected; your likes, dislikes, and visits are aggregated to form a larger data set. This data is then used to figure out what advertisements to send you, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just an internet experience catered to you. So, the key to surviving the brave new world of internet transparency is the same advice your mother has been telling you all of your life: be yourself.
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