March 24, 2011

Social Media Hysterics

We ad people tend to be tough old birds. We're kinda used to getting the crap kicked out of us and don't get all huffy when we read about our chronic stupidity.

The social media crowd is -- as they say --  a whole nother story. Based on my experience at this blog, they tend to be a bunch of bedwetters who go all vaporous every time someone calls them a doodyhead.

A lovely example occurred earlier this week when I published a post called Social Media's Massive Failure. The subject was the failure of one social media initiative -- the Pepsi Refresh Project.

Hysteria ensued.

I got a flood of mail accusing me of having claimed that social media was "dead" and "worthless." I was accused of being "narrow-minded"and "shooting the messenger." I am also apparently an "absolutist" and a "naysayer." Read the comments.

The funny thing is, the strongest words about the failure of the Refresh Project didn't come from me, they came from the ceo of Pepsi who said he should have spent his money on television and was going to blow the place up.

It's nice to see that at least someone at Pepsi has some functioning cerebral matter.

Since I don't have the time or inclination to answer each comment and accusation individually, and since they tended to fall into categories, I thought I'd publish bulk answers to the social media apologists.

Their comments tended to fall into a few categories:

1. There isn't really enough information to make a judgment about Refresh. This is the argument of people who have never had to stand naked before a client and face the music. Once you've had to do this, you never again try to pull out a lame argument about "not enough information." In the real world of advertising and marketing there is never enough information. One is always having to make judgments with incomplete information. However, when the ceo of a company says they're going to "...blow up the place" I think it's pretty safe to assume that he feels he has enough information to make a judgment.

2. Yeah, well advertising fails, too. Certainly true. The difference, however, is that advertising people don't go around making outrageous claims about the power of advertising and don't go all weepy every time someone points out the shortcomings of the ad business or the failure of an ad campaign.

3. It was really meant to be charity, not marketing. This is just utter bullshit. Go back and look at the statements that were made when the thing was launched. The social media lobby was drooling all over itself.

Furthermore, when you and I donate money to the Red Cross, that's charity. When a corporation creates contests, puts up websites, Facebook pages and YouTube channels rubbing our noses in their largesse, and runs self-congratulatory tv spots promoting their concern for the community, that's marketing, baby.

4. Social media can't carry the whole ball, and is meant to be part of a media mix. This is the lamest excuse of all. First of all, social media was part of a media mix for Pepsi. They didn't suspend all other marketing activities. But they did shift the emphasis from traditional media to social media. Second, I've never heard anyone make this pathetic excuse for television. And finally, this excuse is just code meaning "social media isn't strong enough to be counted on to do the heavy lifting and the only way to mask its inadequacies is to surround it with other media that are actually effective in selling stuff."

By the way, if I was a social media apologist arguing against my post, I would have asked this question: What role did the insane Pepsi "re-branding" (i.e., package re-design) play in their loss of market share? Now this is a legitimate question which the social media crowd was apparently not astute enough to ask.

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