Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The Du Fail

Listening PostImage by Fenchurch! via Flickr

A wee while ago I posted a grumpy response to the campaign being run by the UAE’s second favourite telco, Du, which targeted ‘smart people’ using social media tools, including Twitter and Facebook.

As I said at the time, and yes I do know that quoting myself is dangerously close to bloganism, “The first problem with this whole thing is that you need to be UPFRONT if you're a company using Twitter and other social media. There's no point in being coy - and you're just going to annoy people if you hide your identity and purpose.”

There was quite a lot of negative comment generally about the campaign, particularly on Twitter.

The campaign didn’t actually last very long. In fact, it looked like this:

Smartpeople follower stats

31 March - FB 46 members (13 admins), Twitter 81 followers (following 192)

6 April FB 116 members (13 admins), Twitter 127 followers (following 226)

13 April FB 184 (15 admins), Twitter 138 (226)

14 May - Twitter 152 Facebook 250

18 May - Twitter 152 Facebook 252

Last Tweet from @smartpeople was 19 April

Last post on Facebook page by 'Albert Edison' was 12 April

One can only assume that at some stage, someone smart pulled the plug. But then if there were actually smart people at Du, you’d have thought they wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.

You’d be wrong.

Du’s new campaign, Be Heard, is similar to the last effort in that its ‘social media’ platforms are being heavily supported by traditional advertising spend. The drive to get you along to the beheard.ae website included emailers as well as muppies (the street advertising thingies).

When you get to beheard.ae you get asked to answer a load of questions of the ‘empowering’ nature: you know, ‘Do you want better value?’ ‘Do you want to save your time?’ ‘Do you want fries with that?’

The website is basically a ‘bait and switch’ advertising-led concept, getting you to visit a website ostensibly to ‘be heard’ when the objective is actually to position Du as cool and ‘with the kids’, to collect email addies and ‘profiles’ of people.

The site tells you how many people voted yes or no to each of the questions. With an attempt to build a Twitter following and an add to Facebook button, the whole thing could be termed an attempt at building ‘social media’ in that it fakes the egalitarianism of asking people’s opinions and letting them share the feedback.

You get the option of adding your own question for people to answer. Someone I know added ‘Don’t you think this whole dumb campaign is a waste of time?’ but I haven’t seen that one displayed on the site yet. So much for the democratisation of being heard.

The feeling of mildly frustrated emptiness that is the end result of going through this process is a little like going out for evening drinks with friends except you have to mime drinking instead of having real drinks and you have to bray like donkeys instead of actually talking.

There’s an ‘about’ button on the site. Once again, as with the failed Smartpeople campaign, that button doesn’t actually say that the campaign’s being run by Du.

The conversation about this campaign on Twitter has either been breathless endorsement (by the people behind it) or irritated commentary. Few managed to voice their irritation as well as advertising website AdNation:

“This one actually manages to be worse than Smart People – at least that had some kind of gimmick. Beheard.ae seems to just be a rather fatuous series of questions, which offer no real insight into anything.”

So again, we have an anonymous site that pretends to be social media and simply isn’t – it’s a company behaving dishonestly and completely misreading the sentiment of the target audience it’s addressing. It’s a company trying to use ‘social media’ but from an old school advertising standpoint, informed by the belief that the job of an advertiser is to shout slogans at people and the role of the consumer is to be the helpless victim of the sloganeering.

The site asks a range of questions, but that’s as far as it goes. They’re not discussed, they’re not part of a serious feedback scheme or the basis for a conversation. I can’t wait for the press release which I am sure, with a crushing sense of inevitability, will be sent out with the ‘results of the survey’.

The result of all this money and effort is that consumers (particularly the Twittering ones) have been actively sniping at the campaign, mildly irritated by it or simply untouched by it.

I believe passionately that we should all make mistakes. Like some geezer said, ‘If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not innovating’. But repeating dumb mistakes, particularly when people actually explained the mistake and why it was a mistake, is a worry.

These two campaigns have arguably done more damage than good to the Du brand.

What's next? Will it be strike three?

Be honest with consumers.

Talk with people, not at them.

Stop shouting and start listening.

Get the message, Du?

(Thanks to
CJ for obsessive monitoring & input)

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Maustyn said...

I just posted the question, "Is Du better than Etisalat?" Chances of that making the list?

KJ said...

I believe that du is trying to break away from etisalat's "I am the monarch" approach, but being with the people as you said.

Still, their biggest selling point is that they charge by the second, and since everyone agrees that's a good thing, they should focus on what really matters next - coverage!

alexander... said...

Kinan, would you by any chance work for a well known telco?

Just wondering...

Media Junkie said...

hence why i never added them on twitter and FB.

On the other hand, I did add InterconDFC and the the other sister hotel. they have a pretty decent campaign and loads of competitions thru twitter. which is better.

who is said...

Some good points to be sure but whenever this topic comes up all I see is the mutually back-slappeing self proclaimed agency elite at work again.

Is there anybody actually doing better, proven-to-be-successful social/viral campaigns in the region who might actually claim some degree of credibility on the subject terms of having done a better campaign?

I'd love to know.

Anonymous said...

Choosing the "Smart People Choice" approach, always fails, people don't want to be tagged as stupid if they are not using the smart people tools.
Plus social networking marketing is not gonna work here for the time being, been tried and failed using youtube, facebook and twitter. I don't remember any good online campaigns lately, except maybe the Escada beach party if my memory serves me. But then again they had free champaign there :)

alexander... said...

WhoIs - how's life at Leo Burnett?

Look, you have to understand this. It's not about campaigns, or virals or finding new ways to subvert people's perceptions.

It's about engaging people, talking to them, respecting them. It's about finding new, refreshing ways of bringing consumers and brands together in a peer-peer dialogue.

The trouble you've got is that those people are smarter consumers than before - they're not an 'agency elite', they're consumers. People. You. Me. The guy next door with the BMW, barbecue, wife and two kids but an opinion, too.

If consumers don't like what you're doing, the approach isn't to shout 'well, can't you do better?' at them! It's to sit back and wonder where you've been going wrong to alienate them...

But please don't blame them for being smart consumers who've worked out what you're up to when you've been dishonest!

who is said...

Sadly (happily if I'm honest) I've nothing to do with Leo or the little agency that actually did these online pieces for du. That would have been a great barb if I were though. Shame.

And thank my lucky stars for said lack of association since I'd hate to be in their (Leo's, du's, whoever's responsible's) shoes right about now as they're rightfully taking a good whupping for their second lame attempt at "out of the box" thinking in the online marketing arena.

Yes, they've stubbornly broken the do-not-deceive rule twice now (surely bolts of lightning are bound to strike down from the heavens the third time around).

But apart from that are they really so much more inept (and deserving of wrath) than any of the other players trying to work the same digital media block?

Yes, du is amusingly neo-imbecilic in their latest tamperings with "online social media networking marketing viral campaigns with a twiter logo stuck on top for extra sure-cred" but at least they're trying to do something different (and providing lots of entertainment in the process).

No Cannes Lion for them then (or even a Lynx) but shouldn't we at least be giving then a C+ for their brave attempts to err from the utter stagnation that is the norm, espcially given their apparent lack of fear when it comes to running the risk of repeatedly looking stupid?

Fair enough though - mediocrity is often synonymous with par for the course in Dubai anyways if we're being honest so what's the harm of tossing a few barbs here and there when somebody dips a little too far below par?

Still, it strikes me as quite cheeky then when a few random cowpokes in the home town 'digistocracy' try to claim a level of authority on the subject of digital marketing sufficient to write snarky articles in Ad Nation and pose for photoshoots beside 'visionary' spots on digital marketing in Campaign magazine without actually possessing a proven record themselves of being somewhat competent in the ever-so-important area of delivering "web 2.0" goodness for their own big name clients.

Looking at the agencies in town I can count on one hand the number who actually have (bonus points for active) blogs, facebook pages or corporate twitter accounts, let alone use them effectively. Ergo - we're a little long on veneer and a little short on substance here if we're being perfectly straight.

It follows then that, given precious little documentary evidence of homegrown 'web 2.0 savviness', the industry leaders themselves don't really have a much better clue of how to engage consumers in the digital age any better than the unfortunate bruised egos at du do (no pun intended - honest).

Engaging people, talking to them and respecting them online is hard enough I suppose - it may actually keep a somewhat endowed mind occupied for a good few nights planning a half decent campaign - but there's nothing much to crow about in that safe, time tested and true world of slick microsites, banner ads and online games to chuck blindly at the "online component" box in the media plan.

When you speak of "finding new, refreshing ways of bringing consumers and brands together in a peer-peer dialogue" though, well, that's so romantic that the very words nearly bring a tear to my eye.

If you ever see such a thing, please do blog and twitter it to bits. It'd be great to have a reason to not smirk at every single article in the local ad-press with any of the words "online", "digital" or "web" in it.

Anonymous said...

See, I took this as a great opportunity to actually post some feedback to Du that might benefit us - the two questions I've submitted are 'Would you consider purchasing a mobile data package if it was priced as cheaply as anywhere else in the world' and 'Do you think broadband prices should be reduced in line with international pricing tariffs'. Maybe if everyone blitzed them for it, Du would work out they'd actually make more money by offering cheaper stuff.

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