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The Net Takeaway: Online, did you see Innovative? He was around here somewhere...

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Danny Flamberg's Blog
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Eric Peterson the Demystifier
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Geeking with Greg
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Online, did you see Innovative? He was around here somewhere... · 04/12/2004 10:12 AM, Marketing

There have been 3 recent attempts at being clever online, most of which I think will backfire. I’ll tell you about them first, and see if we can figure out at the end why some work better than others.

The first is the Amex Seinfeld and Superman ad (requires Flash). Overall work by Ogilvy, web work by Digitas, it is a vanity project by Jerry Seinfeld to finally live his dream of being part of a Superman project. (Background info in the NY Times)

It includes a dreary set room where you can look at the short film, the making of the film, and a few other little widgets (and no easter eggs that I’m aware of, but there must be one somewhere). The movie itself? A snarky version of Superman hangs out with Jerry, arbitrarily forgetting some superpowers while using others for silliness. Oh, and a minor plug for Amex, so badly slipped in that it seems more sarcastic than earnest.

After watching it, I felt disappointed. My version of Superman has him more as a hero and less as a whiner. The Amex plug was just silly (though, to be fair, there are subtle Amex visuals throughout). And at the end, I didn’t find myself feeling better about Seinfeld, Superman, or Amex. I don’t think lowering my perception of the brand was the goal of this campaign.

Ok, then came news of the Burger King Chicken. Following the “have it your way” campaign revival, the desperate BK is trying anything to get people back into their restaurants. Besides lots of changes at the corporate level, they have hired Crispin Porter + Bogusky to fix things on a marketing level. The result? The Subservient Chicken with more info at BoingBoing here and here

In this Shockwave/Flash thingy, you see a man dressed in a chicken suit. You type phrases, and one of 300 or so clips is chosen based on your words. Some earnest web-folks have figured out the full list of phrases and clips here (Note the Crispin easter eggs)

This has all the hallmarks of being viral, except that its just… not. That is, all the links I see to it are less than complimentary. Most of them get the BK connection, and aren’t overly negative about that, as much as they all seem to feel that its a much ado about not much done (yes, Mr. Shakespeare would not have said it this way).

It also stinks of the men who dress as their favorite Anime (As an aside, if you dig this, known as kigurumi, more info about this here).

Like so many Crispin projects, it has all the hallmarks of being cool without actually pulling it off. They did a similar thing with the Mini Cooper campaigns. Part one included paper-fold versions of the car in major magazines and that was fun. But then they got stuck on the Big Daddy Roth style of stickers, and these were less attractive to the audience buying the car. If anyone really cared about them, they would be on eBay… only, of course, they aren’t. The stickers were not virally placed on binders, they didn’t hallmark a resurgence in Big Daddy Roth clothing, and though Mini spokespeople say that they are popular “collector items”, a bit of Google hunting shows that no one seems very desperate to have them.

CP+B have also helped work on Ikea, and so Ikea has gone from being the cheap modern furniture store to… well, I can’t tell you, they’ve dropped off the face of the marketing planet except for having their owner crowned owner of the world. Their ads before won awards, but nowadays, they’ve gone dark. Maybe their next campaign is launching soon; I hope its better than the recent work.

Ok, a third one. Atari Games has made a new one called Driv3r. (Already, the 3l33t speak is a problem) But as a promotion, they hired Ridley Scott Associates (yes, that Ridley Scott) to make a movie for them. So, another BMW thing.

But think of this… it could have been done in the game itself! The engine (no pun intended) is great for graphics, and it would have been incredible to see the work that RS+A could do… in a virtual studio. Halo and Red Vs. Blue showed just how much fun this could be, and there are tons of 3D shooter movies (machinima), but Driv3r could have been special.

Instead, they focus on taking a mainstream media, and “linking” it to the game.

And now we see why all of these will fail. They have the common failing of most online advertising. They are trying to slap traditional forms of media onto the computer screen, instead of making something new and interactive. “But wait”, you cry, “the chicken is interactive!”. Yes, but its not innovative. There are lots of hip cool flash artworks out there which have a twist, something news, something clever. The Handwriting Clock is simple, but clever on many levels (use of the traditional form of writing on a screen, etc.). The chicken is just… dumb.

Kids will enjoy it for a short time. It may win an award. But if this is the best we can do, then its no wonder advertising is losing.

“Ok, big mouth, what would you do differently?” I would put my money where my mouth is. If I were BK and I was trying to be innovative online, I would appeal to the primary online segments.

Anyway, don’t just listen to me. Kill a few minutes, play with all three. But I don’t see any innovative here, I just see more of the same. And that’s so disappointing.

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