How Stephen Fry lost Britain hundreds of man-hours of work

Around lunchtime today, Stephen Fry, national treasure and Twitter celeb, announced that to celebrate having 50,000 followers, he would hold a challenge:

stephen_fry_challenge

He adds “There’s the competition in a nutshell below. Star it for reference. The prize will be good and sent anywhere in the world.”

Now I’m not quite sure what makes Stephen’s challenge more viral than any other Twitter-led idea but it’s been spreading like wildfire. It could be:

  • Wanting to be recognised as clever by such a high profile personality
  • The lure of the prize (as of yet unknown)
  • The sheer madness of the challenge (Have YOU tried fitting 50 L’s in 140 characters?!)

It’s fair to say that many man-hours were lost today whilst tweeters attempted to make up their own sentences. See for yourself on Twitter Search for the volume of inbound tweets to Stephen today.

This challenge is particularly sweet because there are no strings attached, just a bit of fun with the potential for a fun prize picked by a discerning geek. However, if a brand were to use this format for a campaign, you know what… I probably wouldn’t be too adverse to it! What about you?

And my attempt? I’m still failing because it’s far too long, but here’s what I’ve got so far: “Llewellyn’s llama lulled lamentably ill Lola’s lily & Lloyd lol’ed @ little Lola’s silly ballet flailing. Filling Lilly’s yellow lilo, he spells llastically: Billy tells & yells loyally”

Blurgh!

Where creativity comes from

It’s Friday, you’ve been giving it the beans all week, working that little brain of yours to the bone (figuratively, let’s hope). You need a boost for that last mile before this evening’s G&T while watching mindless TV (or maybe your evening is more exciting than mine…)

Don’t tell everyone, but I’ve found one of the best sources of creative juices out there…

Alright, fine, it’s a campaign for the South West Regional Development Agency, created by Rubber Republic. It arrived in my inbox last week, with a subject line containing “Viral Campaign”*, so it was within an inch of getting deleted without a second look. Being the end of the day, I was looking for distraction, so I had a look at the video, to find myself delighted by how silly it turned out to be. I love organisations with a sense of humour, and this one’s just wonderfully twisted.

I wonder what would happen if you squeezed Silicon Fen/Cambridge creatives? You’d probably get a CAMRA-approved fermented beverage that knocks your socks off. 😉

[* On the “Viral Campaign” note, I hope agencies will realise that, while it’s fine to call it a viral campaign on your marketing strategy plan internally, a video doesn’t go viral until the viewers make it so. Create something fantastic, give people the tools to share it easily, but don’t tell us it’s a viral. That’s for us to decide.]

Ask.com Information Revolution campaign

Since Ask.com’s good old Jeeves was fired a few months ago, it’s been clear that something was brewing behind closed doors and that a great relaunch was bound to happen soon.

It’s now happened. A viral, out-of-the-box, really groundbreaking campaign about an information revolution. At least, that’s how it sounded back in the boardroom where the ideas took shape.

Ask.com Information Revolution campaignIn reality, it’s one of the most blatant cases of astroturfing I’ve seen in the past few years. It presents itself as some sort of underground social movement, shrouded in mystery. [Disclaimer: Keeping in mind that I don’t live in London and my exposure to the campaign is limited to the banners on blogs I read, and these pictures snapped on the street and on the tube by some Londoners.]

The Wall Street Journal weighs in:

The online discussion has been dominated by people complaining they’ve been misled. “I thought this may be an informative Web site about how information is used on the Internet,” said one posting last week. “Instead I discover it’s just a cheap ploy for an inferior search engine.” The six-week campaign is designed to lift Ask.com’s profile in the U.K., where it trails Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. The Ask.com network, a unit of New York’s IAC/InterActiveCorp, was used for 4.3% of all Internet searches in the U.K. in January, according to comScore Networks Inc.

Fallon says it expected some criticism but felt there was little to lose, because Google is so much bigger. [via Search Engine Land]

Support for the campaign has been scarce so far. The campaign has been called a “load of drivel” and the agency producing it “cynical, manipulative hacks”. Some go as far as saying that Ask.com expected things to turn sour, figuring that bad publicity is better than no publicity at all.

Not so sure about that. If all it leads to is a couple of attempts at using Ask.com, when the user is already in a mindframe where they feel betrayed and bullsh***ed by the company in question, the likelihood of this user leaving with a positive, “yes, I think I’ll use them again” attitude is somewhere between unlikely and simply laughable.

Time will tell whether this campaign yields any positive visibility for Ask.com, but at the moment, it’s a bit on the ugly side… A bit of a shame, but really, if Ask.com felt that the right way to spark new interest in its search engine was to be deceitful and lie to its users, then it’s getting what it deserves!

[Cross posted from Focus on Them]