logo.pngA response from the Agency.com camp regarding the Subway video. It’s basically saying: “we did it, we got people talking, that’s the whole point”.

I’m sure the debate will rage on around whether this is just a good piece of post-rationalisation and speedy ass-covering. Or a cunning master-plan that was in place from the start. (As an aside, if it’s the latter I think there’s a much better way of presenting this, a making of the behind the scenes video perhaps? Showing the point at which the decision was made to target the advertising community maybe?).

On their site ‘Jeff’ is quoted as saying:

“They made this for ad people to watch, think about, talk about, and spread. And that’s what we’re doing”.

But did they? I thought the whole point was that it was a video for a Subway client. Or is that all part of the subterfuge as well? Maybe they made a 5 minute boring ‘meet the team video’ and sent that to the client too? Along with a pitch based around:

“See how much noise we can generate with one video clip within the (online) advertising community, imagine how much noise we could make with 5 clips and a decent budget within the food eating community…”

If that’s the case then maybe they come out of this looking like genii…

But, based on the original premise (as we, the audience, were shown it): “we need to create a video for a client” (a private piece of communication), “let’s put it on youtube” (a very public communication channel). I think the naysayers were right to pound this tactic for it’s apparent naivety. (An interesting conversation starting tactic maybe?).

Whether they’re very right, or incredibly wrong I don’t regret being part of the spreading this meme. I called it as I saw it. I made the t-shirt, and I’ve either helped them look smart (or not). If I’ve been ‘duped’ into being part of this whole thing I’m glad, I’ve been a part of an ‘evolving, collaborative, dialogue driven online experiment’ – and that’s the kind of thing that we should all be doing. Whether I have or not, I guess is still the question.

The great thing about the web is that at some point the full story will come out. There will be winners, there will be losers, but as my P.E. teacher used to say “it’s the taking part that counts”.

In case it matters (and it probably doesn’t), the fact that the domain name ‘whenwerollwerollbig.com’ was bought yesterday doesn’t indicate all that much forward planning in terms of the meme ‘going viral’. But that might just all be part of the plot…

Oh, and I’m pretty sure that the line in the video (as pointed out to me by others) is ‘if we roll, we roll big’. So I corrected my t-shirt yesterday. On the site they feature the old shirt, with the erroneous line on the front. But their domain is “when we roll, we roll big”, so maybe my old t-shirt was right after all. Or maybe we’re all as confused as each other?!?

Ultimately whether this works or not depends on how you measure the value of conversations and noise. I’ve seen a few comments where people have said things like “it’s better that people are talking about you than not”, but I don’t buy that. And I can think of a few examples where brands would probably agree. Coke with their Desai water launch ‘conversations’ in the UK. The noise around Hoover and their Free Flights offer. The awareness driven by Mercedes and their rolling cars. These are much more serious examples than a pitch video on YouTube. But you get my point.
I’m going to stop now. This is way too meta for me.

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10 thoughts on “WhenWeRollWeRollBig.com”

  1. Yeah well done Agency.com, you are now the star wars kid of the ad world. NIce one.

  2. Sigh.

    Again, I wanted to like that site, but I get there and the first thing I see is “What exactly IS viral marketing?”. Jesus Christ, I thought we were over that arguement.

    (They’ll probably win the pitch. You should send in an invoice).

  3. Opinion is still delightfully divided, then?

    The best comment I’ve seen so far is somebody suggesting that Agency.com will win Subway but lose all of their current clients.

    But isn’t that precisely the point? We’ve had the gentile versios of ‘behind-the-scenes of an ad’ courtesy of Honda Choir and Sony Bravia, yet these still seem rather awkward and sanitised for an iTunes podcasted audience. There’s a faint whiff of Radio 4 about them.

    Although cringe worthy in the extreme, the Subway spot is completely appropriate for the media they’ve used: YouTube, where shooting something before having any idea of what you want to say is both the style and the content.

    Just look at the success of Emmalina for example: http://youtube.com/profile?user=Emmalina

    Does she need a gig on Reality TV to get her fame fix? I think not. She’s a fascinating case study for brand-building on the web2.0. and there are plenty more mini-brands like her, stealing attention away from brands1.0.

    Indeed, the fact that much so-called user-generated content has no idea at its heart only encourages more people to pick it up and make a remix or parody version, thus adding yet more layers of meaning.

    Agency.com have recognised that advertising is dead as a technique and have promptly buried themselves along with it.

    Perhaps they’re just the first agency to recognise that spending time developing just ONE idea and communicating it until the budget runs out just won’t cut it anymore; that so-called interactive digital advertising is just more of the same but with more metrics to wow clients with.

    I for one applaud them for having the balls to be the first to challenge the status quo: to throw away the rule book and make it up as they go along.

    And you can be sure Part 2 will be an fascinating experiment in user-generated content, the users in this case being the ad industry itself. Suckers!

  4. I agree with everything you’ve said here – to be honest, when I first saw the vid I thought “This isn’t a real pitch, obviously Subway have appointed Agency.com to create a ‘viral’ video and they’ve come up with this ‘fake pitch’ idea…But this is looking like it is actually a pitch! It’s an interesting experiment – but a very risky one and I can’t imagine that it’s done them any favours?! But I’m going to reserve judgement and see where this goes, as you say – at some point the full story will come out…

  5. I would like to point out that this is definately a move to cover their ass. Take a look at when they registered the domain name:
    Updated Date: 02-aug-2006
    Creation Date: 02-aug-2006
    Expiration Date: 02-aug-2008

    Pretty clear evidence of a reactionary move, rather than pre-planned action.

  6. Re: Pre-planned action…

    What is wrong with that, exactly?

    Why can’t strategy evolve?

    Why must the campaign be planned to the nth degree beforehand and then just rolled out?

    Is this a new way of looking at interactive marketing, ie, interreactive marketing? (PR has been doing this for ages.)

    Will Subway ever stop advertising? No. So why can’t it have a continuous evolving campaign, even if, in it’s current stage, only based around who gets to execute that campaign? And does such a campaign need executing at all?

    Could it be that execution, in it’s build-and-broadcast conception, is just too slow? Is it dead?

    Getting dangerously meta here :)

  7. Agree totally with Adam on evolution of campaigns. I’d love clients to buy into longer term visions. Where budgets and structures allow campaigns to morph in web-time (not corporate time).

  8. I refuse to watch the video.

    the puck stops here, i will not be infected with the meme.

    the virus, whatever.. just thought i’d let you know;p

  9. Re: evolution…

    Agree with Adam and Iain. I’m starting to think that how they’ve evolved and responded may in fact be their saving grace.

    My biggest problem with the video was that they seemed to not have really thought through what they were doing – they misjudged the target audience (the ad industry instead of Subway), misjudged their objectives (proving a point about viral instead of looking to a potential client like someone smart to work with), and most of all made some really awful creative.

    But their follow-through has been pretty good, from the blog to the flickr set to the wikipedia page, and more importantly has demonstrated what the video didn’t – an ability to think smartly about a web campaign in real time and using multiple solutions.

    I’ve posted more thoughts on http://lbtoronto.typepad.com

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