Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

I'm here at SXSWi - South by Southwest Interactive - in Austin, TX and I just sat in on a panel called "The Suxorz - the Worst of the Worst in Social Media Marketing for 2007."

The panelists included Charlotte Selles (brand perspective), Jeff Jarvis, Rebecca Lieb, Steve Hall, and the moderator was Henry Copeland. While this may not seem like a who's-who of the social media industry, they did come at it with a pretty broad perspective of advertisers & marketers using common sense. You'll see a number of selections that were based on poor opinions of creative execution, as well as those that don't follow good social media practice.

Here's how the session worked: each panelist nominated a campaign; after three rounds, the "winner" was selected.

Round 1
  • Selles: Molson asked individuals to use Facebook to share pictures of themselves using the product; the winner would get a trip for 5 to Cancun.
  • Lieb: Carlton Beer "big ad" video - it's just a bad ad. This is the type of ad where you remember the activity within the ad, but not the product. So much so that people didn't even get the name of the product right in some YouTube videos.
  • Jarvis: HP PayPerPost - mom accepts $1000 to have her kids destroy a Fuji camera in favor of HP. Got moms to use their kids as shills to make a splog. Just. Plain. Evil.
  • Hall: Wal-Marting Across America used a real journalist and real photographer, but set them up as simply Wal-Mart fans, traveling across America, parking their RV at Wal-Mart parking lots.
Round 1 voting: HP wins

Round 2
  • Selles: Rahodeb - Whole Foods CEO John Mackey uses an alias to ding detractors on forums
  • Jarvis: Cisco's Human Network - wrote all Cisco-related Wikipedia entries; had vloggers try to write about the Human Network. Got themselves to #2 in Google organic search.
  • Hall: Mentos/Diet Coke - the extension campaign that Coke undertook after the original video was not nearly as authentic and spontaneous as the first
  • Lieb: Vespa's corporate advertising "blog"
Round 2 voting: Cisco's Human Powered Network wins

Round 3
  • Lieb: Agency.com going to work for Subway - "when we roll, we roll big". Made a laughingstock of.
  • Hall: Target Rounders on Facebook - shhh! Don't tell anyone you're a Rounder, but be a Target fan.
  • Selles: Sony PSP - all I want for Christmas is a PSP. 550+ negative posts on this blog that was created by their marketing agency, but professed to be a real fan blog.
  • Jarvis: Giuliani campaign - he wasn't afraid of terrorists, but his MySpace page was closed to friend adds.
Round 3 voting: Subway/Agency.com wins

The winners of the three rounds were put against each other and the final winner was selected:
Hewlett Packard.

According the the panelists, some of the criteria they used in judging what qualified as a "bad" social media campaign:
  • Advertisers acting like asses
  • Out and out lying to customers
  • Corrupting authentic voices
Steve Hall concluded with this statement, which I think more marketers should keep in mind: "It's not hard to tell the truth; if you don't, it's just a matter of time before the public finds out." Agencies typically take the fall for the client ("the client didn't know about this") because they don't want to lose the business.

The bottom line, according to the panelists is: treat people as people, not as a mass. You'll be forgiven if you're honest with people.

What do you think? Do these campaigns represent the worst of the worst? Are there others that you might nominate? Do you think there are other criteria to consider or other lessons to be learned? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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