Thursday, February 16, 2006

Dude! My marketing campaign is sooo, like, you know, rad!

For those of you wondering why Jay and I have been a bit quiet of late, blame Byron Bay. With Jay crunching numbers in Melbourne and me juggling bricks in Sydney, we decided it was time to catch up, soak in some Vitamin D and possibly even bump into Rex Hunt. But after a few weeks off we've returned with healthy glows and complaining livers to mop up the mess that is Coke's Zero Movement and take this baby into the home strech.

Hi my name’s Zed, your Australian media floosie

So it seems that during our little Queensland sojourn the Zero Movement backlash hit the Australian media big time. Tim Longhurst over at TheZeroMovement.org has a neat wrap up of these, but some choice cuts include:
  • Advertising industry rag B&T ran a very defensive interview with the Marketing Director of Coca Cola South Pacific.
  • Our traffic skyrocketed when The Sydney Morning Herald ran a story headlined 'Coke gets a zero for effort' which was syndicated by The Age and a few international sites.
  • Another ad-rag, AdNews, published an editorial, which hopes that "the irony of being burned by a grass-roots movement for creating a false grass roots movement is not lost on Coke"
  • Seven’s Sunrise news program ran a story about public disquiet over the Coke Zero ‘Bus-rider’ TVC, which viewers thought might encourage the sort of bus / train surfing that has resulted in quite a few teen deaths in Australia (thanks for the heads up, Russell).
Coke, you just don't get it, do you?

We've been approached by a few publications, both in Australia and overseas for interviews about why Jay and I launched this site. The only we've agreed to so far is for the Packer-mouthpiece and all-round loveable nice guy of Australian news weeklies, The Bulletin. They recently ran an incisive story on The Zero Movement, perhaps made especially incisive by the numerous quotes from Jay sprinkled through it:
"What really struck us was just how cynical it was. Everything about the campaign, from the teaser ads to the hijacking of counter-culture credibility and even the characterisation of its target market, is contrived and insulting,” says Jay, a 27- year-old financial systems analyst who started a counterblog called The Zero Movement Sucks. Jay didn’t want his surname used, for fear his boss would read it. He also insisted on conducting the interview via instant messenger.

“The whole point of grassroots campaigns is that they’re driven by passionate people who spread the message. Coke simply launched a website, created backdated content and even hired PR hacks to fill their site with supportive comments. In essence, they’re attempting to buy credibility and buzz.”
But what amazes me most of all is that despite all the criticism that's been levelled at Coke for attempting to manufacture cool by checking things off from a "Connecting with the Kids" 101 textbook--Blogs? Check. Graffiti? Check. Podcasts? Check.--a statement issued in response to this site and others shows that Coke just doesn't get the point. As The Bulletin reports:
Coke told The Bulletin in a written response that in its pre-campaign polling the strategy was given the thumbs up by its target market. “In the early stages of the campaign we contacted 1000 ‘influentials’ – people who are within the target audience for the product and are influential within their social groups. We gave them an opportunity to taste the product and shared some of our marketing plans, to ensure the campaign creative would resonate with this group. They had an overwhelmingly positive response to the product.”
Focus groups? Marketing plan preview sessions? Pre-campaign polling? 'Influentials'? For the love of God, Coke, that's exactly our point! As long as you let the guy with the silver pony tail dream up and test your marketing strategies according to formulae, focus groups and a complete dearth of creativity, sincerity or passion you are going to end up with lame campaigns like The Zero Movement. According to Coca Cola's Managing Director Gareth Edgecome:
We wanted to connect with the target audience in a novel way … to create ‘talkability’ before the product started hitting the shelves. To do that we had to deliver an irreverent and highly engaging campaign to drive word of mouth.
This man uses the words "novel", "talkability" and "irreverant" in conversation, without the slightest hint of irony, and thinks he can speak my language? That's bodaciously gnarly, dude!