I was interviewed by Marketing magazine this afternoon and I’m not sure how I feel about that.
This doesn’t have anything to do with the Hypercube contest, really, it has more to do with the Canadian ad industry as a whole and Marketing magazine in particular.
As most of you are aware, I went to college to be a copywriter and have been flirting with a career in advertising for damn near the past decade, even writing two articles ABOUT advertising and the internet for Marketing magazine. I was even offered my own column, as I’ve relayed before, but that fell apart amongst a regime change and budget cuts. I also subscribed to said publication for about 4 years and as such, I have very mixed feelings about it and how this article on the Hypercube contest is probably going to go.
Marketing magazine, for those who don’t know, is Canada’s largest (only?) trade publication for our ad industry and it’s kind of known for being one big circle jerk when it comes to things ad agencies have actually done. When they talk about hypotheticals and what agencies should do and things like that, they’re actually pretty brazen and often open-minded, but when it comes to agencies, everyone seems to be touching everyone else’s dick.
I don’t know for certain what kind of article is going to be written about the Hypercube contest, but I do know the author contacted Capital C, Nissan and the Competition Bureau before talking to me and a lady I know from the contest named Lori (at my suggestion). Of course, it was also my understanding that the now infamous Encyclopedia Dramatica article about the contest (which is still ongoing, it appears) was the catalyst for writing an article at all, so I guess that’s something, but by the questions that were asked and what was focused on, I’m not very optimistic at reading a truthful, in-depth piece on what really went down and I’m afraid that Lori and I are just going to come across as butthurt sore losers as we’ve both been accused of being for not sitting here like nice little ladies and allowing ourselves to be spoon-fed bullshit.
For me, this whole thing, this whole “Hypercube Aftermath” as ED calls it on their second page on the topic, is muddled and confusing. There are so many issues to address and questions left unanswered and where to go from here – and just so many directions this could go, I literally have a hard time trying to keep up. And I’m usually pretty good at keeping up.
Some people want to focus on the fact that Blake and I didn’t win. Well, Blake and I are long over that, that’s not even an issue anymore. What is an issue, however, is the fact that from the very beginning there was no way Blake or I could have won, yet they made us believe we could and they used us. In order to win, at least according to the game we were presented with, we had to use every bit of social persuasion we had and we had to maintain a momentum that had me glued to Twitter from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed. It had me spamming forums, placing fake car ads, getting people to make fansigns – creatively using social media to spread their message. And Tony Chapman himself said that they were looking to reward social creativity. Yet most of the people who won (I won’t say all) didn’t participate in any meaningful way, if at all, or signed up for Twitter just to be a part of the contest, or signed up for Twitter to just be part of the contest but only tweeted a few times here and there and only to the “voice” of the contest, @thehypercube. And they certainly weren’t being socially creative.
And as I said to Matt Semansky, the guy writing the article, Capital C, namely Tony “Douchebag” Chapman, was talking about the “net generation” a whole lot, yet they didn’t seem to know who or what the “net generation” is and in the process of choosing people who are not the “net generation”, they alienated and even angered the actual “net generation” (which doesn’t actually exist, it’s a stupid marketing term, but those who are in it, know they’re in it). The people I hang with, the power users of the internet who were lulled to sleep at night by the sound of a dial-up modem connecting and who are literally online or connected to the internet in some way every breathing moment and have been since they were children, they are not buying this car. But that’s who Nissan wanted to buy this car, I think anyway. At least that’s what the tech package and branding it a “mobile device” seems to imply. But they threw out the latest marketing buzz term “creative class” too, so I’m not sure if they knew WHO the hell they wanted to buy this car. Obviously there’s going to be some overlap between groups and maybe those who fall into the overlap are what they desired, but that’s not what they got, so to me, this entire contest just ended up being one giant clusterfuck of epic proportions. Some are already calling it “the most botched contest Canada’s ever seen”. On the internet. Where this whole contest took place. Where they were hoping to reach their target and build brand awareness and loyalty through community…except in their choices, they decimated the community that had formed during the contest and created full-on brand hatred that has only grown as the dirty truth about what went on behind the scenes has begun to surface. Um. I don’t think that’s a win, people.
When folks are clogging up (basically) your brand’s hashtag on Twitter by saying things like, they want to key every Cube they see or they’d like to vacation on the inside of a Cube with a blowtorch, or even that your product is ugly (check out the #nissan hashtag some time and watch it for a day) there was a problem along the way. But Nissan and Cap C? They refuse to acknowledge there was or is any problem and that in and of itself is the problem.
Matt Semansky asked me today what I thought Nissan could do to turn this around and while I forget my exact wording, I basically said that the best they could do is trash this whole campaign, kill CubeCommunity.ca, cut their losses and start over with a traditional media campaign aimed at the very people they didn’t want driving this car, because those are the only people who are going to buy it now. The fact of the matter is, their attempt at a social media campaign, their social media “experiment”, well, it failed. There’s no denying it, it failed in every way imaginable.
And in CubeCommunity.ca? With what little is on that domain right now? Even that is a complete fail and all they’re asking for is for you to join their mailing list. If the site is gone by the time you’re reading this, which is a possibility, there’s a photo of a Nissan Cube on the page with a speech bubble that says “oh hai!” They are ever so slightly co-opting the speech and memes of the same “net generation” they managed to alienate during the course of this campaign. That little “oh hai!” may seem like nothing on the surface, but it’s a rub for a lot of us. It reminds me of a Gap ad I saw in the 90’s with a guy wearing Gap jeans and a flannel shirt falling through the air and the tagline was “Plunge into grunge”. It was vile and completely offensive. I mean dammit, people, didn’t you watch Reality Bites? There was a reason why working at the Gap was considered the worst possible job there was and that poster pretty much summed it up.
For the record, I have never been in a Gap store in my life. And it’s all because of that ad.
But I digress…
I know it’s been pretty negative in the virtual world of Sunnyland the last couple of months because of this contest and that you’re all probably sick of hearing about it, but the thing is, I am of a breed, we’ll say, that doesn’t deal well with injustice and some say that’s a trait of my generation, whatever generation I may be. Whatever it is, it eats at me. Unfortunately, I’m also a person prone to extreme anxiety and it took 4, count ’em 4, Ativans to even function today because of Hypercube crap being brought up again and for my own sanity I hope that this article in Marketing magazine either ends this insanity or blows it wide open. I’m sick of all this whispering to each other behind the scenes and keeping secrets and flat out gossiping and people blocking people on Twitter and sock puppet accounts and all the rest of it. I’m sick of it, I want it to be done.
But as I said to Matt this afternoon, it probably won’t be the end. CubeCommunity.ca is going to launch (eventually) and it’s going to be a whole new thing. I’m no psychic or anything, but the future I see with this is not a positive one and it’s only going to be the final nails in the Hypercube campaign’s coffin. At one end of the spectrum, you’ll have people tweeting or blogging about what mouth-breathers the “winners” are and at the other end of the spectrum you’ve got the wrath of Anonymous and DDoS attacks. The reaction to CubeCommunity.ca is going to fall somewhere within that spectrum and for that reason, if I were Nissan, I wouldn’t even launch it. As I said earlier, I’d cut my losses and start over with a different demographic. They failed with this one. But that’s just me. And they’re not prone to listening to me, so I guess I’ll sit back and *facepalm* with the rest of my “generation” as they flounder some more.
So that’s, more or less, what I conveyed to Matt Semansky of Marketing magazine. Or at least tried to. As I said in my Live Journal post, I’m just not any good on the phone, especially with this muddled topic, so god only knows how I came across.
Anyway, it’s almost 5am, I’m starving and I’ve gotten absolutey no work done tonight so I have to go eat and accomplish something.