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Business - Written by on Wednesday, November 26, 2008 15:22 - 1 Comment

Two Rights Make a Wrong

Last month I posted a blog entitled “Meet the Beckers” about the Audi Internet video campaign. If you didn’t get a chance to read the blog it’s a discussion about how Audi portrayed the stereotypical driver of each of their competitors as a dysfunctional family member and the reasons that I thought this advertising model was more effective then the traditional car advertisement, the main argument being that you (the viewer) could relate to the characters. If “Meet the Beckers” can be considered a success, I would argue that AT&T’s “Lost in America” series is a viral disappointment. This is an 11-part Internet video campaign where YouTube star iJustine (Justine Ezarik) and popular blogger Karen Nguyen get lost in different cities around the United States and have to complete various challenges with the help of their AT&T phones. This article claims that “Lost in America” is an example of how YouTube fame tends not to translate to the outside world, but I think that is only one reason in a series of factors that led to the poor results from this campaign.

The following is my analysis on why “Lost in America” didn’t achieve the desired YouTube fanfare that AT&T was hoping for.

  1. These videos seemed too much like an infomercial. Within the first 90 seconds the cell phones are introduced in such a way that makes it appear like a blatant attempt at product placement. If people skip commercials on TV, why would they watch a 7 minute commercial on their computer? “Meet the Beckers” was intelligent because it let the story and the characters sell the brand, they didn’t include obnoxious scenes of the car driving down a country lane. Not only does the obvious use of product placement seem forced and out of context, but the premise of the story is as thin as floss; how many people do you know get lost in a major city with an entire camera crew following them?
  2. The characters are almost impossible to relate to, but even worse than that, you don’t even want to relate to them. Part of what made “Meet the Beckers” so successful was the fact that you wanted to be like the brother who drove the Audi. He was young, successful and respectable. These girls come across as ignorant and unintelligent at one point exclaiming “I don’t even know what a caribou is!” Aside from a small niche market of 15-year old girls, Justine and Karen don’t appeal to many demographics. Who wants to be associated with a girl yelling “Here moose-ey, moos-ey, moose-ey” into a bush located in urban Alaska?
  3. AT&T contradicts themselves. One of the challenges for Justine and Karen was to find a place in Anchorage, Alaska where they got “full-bar service.” Now, I’m not a geography major but I happen to know that Anchorage, Alaska is not exactly in the middle of nowhere. Shouldn’t AT&T be promoting the fact that they get full-bar service in any location?
  4. It’s not engaging. After watching Episode 1 “The Drop Off” I had no desire to tune into episodes 2-11. I wasn’t compelled to research for more information about the phone and I certainly wasn’t interested in buying one. Is it because I am not in AT&T’s target market? Perhaps, but after receiving a mere 31,000 views across YouTube, MySpace and four other websites I would be inclined to suggest that others may feel the same way. It is also important to note, that Justine posted six of the eleven episodes on her site (iJustine) which accounted for 20,000 of those views. I think one of the main problems for AT&T was that they tried to dress up a traditional telephone commercial (albeit a very long commercial) in viral clothing by incorporating two Internet stars. This differs from “Meet the Beckers” where Audi clearly deviated from the traditional car commercial, going as far as showing competitors vehicles for the same length of time as the Audi. A better idea might have been to give one girl the new AT&T phone and give the other girl a phone from a competing company and show which one has more accurate GPS service, easier keyboard to type on, takes better pictures, drops less calls etc.. Or even take a page from Audi’s book and use characters to represent competing brands and make the phone a secondary focus.

There are multiple avenues that companies can use to help create effective Internet campaigns but inserting two web-stars into a poorly written and executed Internet video series does not make for a successful viral campaign.

1 Comment

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Ryan Holiday
Nov 26, 2008 16:37

If Alaska isn’t the middle of nowhere, what is?

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