[Please note: none of the brands mentioned here have ever done anything like this (as far as I know), it's a purely fictional story of an imagined future from my slightly fuddled brain]
Imagine if last night everyone who worked in the wider world of marketing all drank from the 2.0 Kool-Aid. We’d all be fucked and the world would be more rubbish…
What we used to call ‘ad breaks’ would become a bunch of signposts driving us to somewhere where we can ‘get involved’, ‘have our say’, ‘tell someone what new chocco-weety-bix should be shaped like’, ‘find out how to get to NappyStock this Saturday’ or ‘create a new ad’ (or being as ads don’t exist any more the call to action would have to be something like: ‘create our next participatory engagement experience’).
Then after the ‘call to participation break’ we’d get to watch lots of (interactively enabled) branded content. Perhaps an episode of NotLost (TomTom’s never ending drama about a bunch of people who are going somewhere).
Or ‘My House Is Cleaner Than Yours’ a new self-help/gameshow hybrid where people compete to make their house the most sanitary, this week the Cillit Bangers from Dagenham vs the Mr Sheenies from Wakefield.
Alternatively ditch the TV as literally hundreds of other people have done over the last year or two.
TV off, what now? Xbox game? Tomb Raider VI – Lara in search of cheaper car insurance (well the game was only £4.99, what do you expect!). It’s a quest that’s jam packed with ‘real world stuff’. Billboards full of user generated content (Tomb Raider V had advertising billboards, but that’s just not ‘realistic’ anymore). And products are neatly integrated into the gameplay (use Pantene’s 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner to get Lara in-and-out of the shower and back to her mission in double quick time). But unfortunately you get stuck at the first doorway, Sheilas’ Wheels have trapped Lara in a conversation about some new no-claims bonus for adventurous chicks. You’ve got no time to get into this now it’s bedtime, and besides you’re a man playing a woman in the game, so unless you want in-game car insurance for your female character… Oh hell, it’s all a bit confusing.
You shut down the Xbox, vowing not to visit the gate of Sheila ever again.
It’s not the first time today that you’ve been tricked into a ‘dialogue’, in the good old days you used to have to deal with thousands of marketing messages a day. But that was fine. You’d learned how to filter those out: iPod + staring into the middle distance seemed to do the job. But now everyone wants to have a bloody conversation. You haven’t even got time to talk to your friends let alone your toothpaste (which you didn’t really choose anyway, you only bought it because it was on 3-for-2 at Boots).
You manage to brush your teeth without getting into a discussion with aforementioned toothpaste and climb into bed. But not before setting your ‘Alpen wakey-wakey-yodel alarm’ on your mobile.
Sorry I got a bit carried away with my little 2.0 world, and I could go on (for far too long). I just wanted to hint at a vision of a Marketing 2.0 future that’s more depressing and more worrying than what we’re living right now. I often think about it when I see brands out there doing wholly inappropriate things like trying to engage in conversations that no-one wants to be part of, creating nuggets of branded utility that solve fictional non-problems, and so on…
The problem is that all of this can be justified using one of the most compelling of 2.0isms – the ‘always in beta’ mantra. Not only is it massively compelling (and commendable) as a principle it’s also incredibly dangerous when put in the hands of evil.
Used in the wrong way:
- It basically means that you can never really be wrong.
- It means that you can get away with nothing ever being properly finished. In the olden days people would just ‘fess up and admit that they’d not had time to do the work, deadlines would get pushed and the work would get done and go out a bit later.
- It means that you can trick clients into doing bad stuff. “Oh go on… We’ll just do it as a test, if it works we can build on it. If not we can always sweep it under the carpet…”. I’ve alredy sat in some meetings where it feels like people are practically calling each other ‘chicken’ for not doing something preposterous in the name of beta.
I can just imagine smart kids all around the world telling their teachers: “No miss, I really have done my homework, it’s in beta…”
Of course I really love most of the principles of Marketing 2.0, I just wanted to make the point that with much power comes much responsibility. Oh, and it might not be the solution for everything.