Tao of Twitter (2)

I don’t like to make authoritative, unproven statements about social media. It is safe to say, however, that there’s a social media etiquette. It has the same function as interpersonal etiquette. Both are unwritten rules governing how to conduct communication without offending or missing the opportunity to please. In the previous example of Auto DMs somebody polluted a personal communication channel with an impersonal and probably solicitous message. It was annoying. This example highlights something unique in the nature of social media, in this case Twitter, as a communication medium. Twitter mashes business and personal communication together more tightly than other media.

Some cribbed Eastern philosophy: centuries ago Lao Tzu said doing things in accordance with Nature brings better results. Rather than forcing outcomes, it may be possible to step back and see how circumstances can align naturally to support your end. In other words act natural. >>> Keep Going


Tao of Twitter (3)

Perhaps acting naturally in the social media landscape creates personal connections that may also be good for business. You talk to people the same way you would talk to people. You don’t irritate them, and now they might buy something from you. The hierarchy of personal over propagandistic in these new media make us expect real instead of canned communication. Unless you are annoying in real life, then basic etiquette, being real with people, could easily be applied on Twitter and other social utilities.

Looking back on the wisdom of pre-social media days, there’s always been this word, “networking,” which was a very polite way of saying, “We’re talking about business. We may be trying to sell each other something, but we’re not going to be sleazy about it.” Hopefully “social networking,” a term that’s getting obscured by “social media” (we get hung up on the technology), will take a more active position. The wisdom of traditional networking says: Don’t be a [insert your own insult; mine is bad etiquette]. This can also be applied in social media networking. >>> More

Tao of Twitter (4)

Back to DMs. In keeping with the spirit of social media, which suggests we should (get ready for a major cliché) “create an authentic dialogue,” I won’t close with my Top Ten Tips for Achieving DM Success. I won’t do it because it’s gross. I will instead ask for your input, possibly non-existent reader. Do you use DMs? Do they help you achieve whatever your personal or professional goals are on Twitter? Are there other forms of etiquette you’ve seen evolve in the last 15 years in response to new technologies?

If you comment or send me some thoughts I promise to write back an actual response. With genuine sincerity, Eric.

-Eric Hayward

No Sympathy: Gillette Children’s Unflinching Campaign Against Pity

One of the most common reactions to someone else’s bad news is not knowing what to say. The first instinct is to give comfort, to be positive, to offer advice. Without thinking, we take full responsibility for taking away someone’s pain, someone we perceive as helpless. With only two words Gillette Children’s brand campaign cuts through those assumptions decisively: “Cure Pity.”

Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare is a world-renowned, non-profit hospital in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. The integrated campaign, which uses local broadcast, web, and out-of-home advertising to feature stories like Noah’s, inspires a new way of thinking—going from great to greater; from achievement to lasting achievement—as an alternative to our habitual response, which is to go from what we think of as “bad” to slightly better. From disabled to merely able. As a message, Cure Pity is powerful enough to help people start looking at their fellow humans a little differently.

The campaign is as smart and strategic as it is inspired.

Campaigns that cultivate pity induce a feeling of hopelessness that your one, meager contribution can make any difference. Perhaps you make one donation, one time, to shake off the uncomfortable feeling. Instead of pity, a more positive message invites compassion, which is an invitation to a deeper experience of shared humanity. Cure Pity asserts a call to action based on admiration instead of despair. It also subtly positions Gillette Children’s over an unnamed alternative: other hospitals that focus less on fostering quality of life and more on symptoms.

From a visual perspective, the campaign has one unrealized opportunity. It could do much more to pair up the copy with better design. Without both you wonder if an organization is fully committed to its message.

The strength of Cure Pity is storytelling. As a creative achievement, it asserts a social message that also helps a mission-driven organization continue to do great work. Advertising becomes culturally relevant when it can do either one of those things; curing pity does both.

– Eric Hayward

The government says you’re a bad dad.

This ad is from a campaign sponsored by the Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Thanks for the help, but...

Couple of interesting assumptions in there.  One, that African American men aren’t good fathers.  Two, that anybody — especially a government agency — has the right to judge someone else’s parenting.  Helping families succeed and looking after kids are noble intentions.  This tactic smacks of the Moynihan era.

Fatherhood dot gov indeed.

The visual storytelling of James Cameron’s Avatar

Todd Cherniawsky, supervising art director, could be considered the real storyteller behind Avatar, which opened in 3D this weekend. You could almost turn off the dialogue and not only still understand what’ s happening, but understand it better.

The quickest possible synopsis: wheelchair-bound ex-Marine Jake Scully signs up for a tour on the moon Pandora to run an Avatar—a host body fusing the pilot’s DNA with a native Na’vi body—for a research project bound to the rapacious agenda of a mining company protected by a Marine contingent.

Much of the plotted tension, between the Na’vi, who live completely in harmony with nature in a mysterious biological link, and the forces that would uproot them in search of the valuable mineral “Unobtanium,” happens visually. To work, the film needs you to connect with the Na’vi, but rather than courting your brain with narrative, it courts your eyes, cutting from green, blue, and phosphorescent forests of the moon surface to the dusty green and gray of the mining base. (It’s like stepping out into the lobby after having been inside a really good aquarium).

Whatever your intellectual or moral reaction might be to real-world stories of environmental destruction, your senses revolt in response to any threat to the Na’vi’s forest home.

The art directors deserve a lot of credit, Oscars really, but what they’ve done is directly translate the contents of film director James Cameron’s imagination. As a London Globe and Mail interview reveals, Cameron, whose past films include Terminator, The Abyss, and Titanic, has a historical ambivalence for technology going back to his first screenplay, as well as a personal passion for diving and the sea. You don’t have to look to hard for those influences in the imagery of Avatar. Cameron is himself an artist, if not a trained one. According to Globe and Mail he started his creative life sketching fantasy creatures in his school notebooks and later went on, after dropping his Physics education for English, to create special effects for director John Carpenter.

Cameron at work. James Cameron’s Avatar: A symphony in blue and green.

To express affection, the Na’vi say, “I see you.” This means a lot for them, a species who relies upon and values the wisdom of the senses. Advice to you, see this movie.
-Eric Hayward

Other pictures credited to Twentieth Century Fox Corporation, 2009.

Wendy’s – Now serving Canned Tweets.

Is this for real?

It’s a funny ad with a good song (not so much a jingle, but a “jindle,” that is, an understated indy pop riff, used as background to a concept, instead of the usual maddeningly catchy series of three or four notes) that takes good-natured shots at fast food competitors. There’s also some real intelligence behind the theme itself: “You know when it’s real.”

Authenticity is said to be in high demand, and what makes something seem real is not just the thing itself but the way that it’s packaged. “You know when it’s real” contains both, in a triple meaning (with bacon):

(1) Wendy’s uses real food

“We never freeze em like a hockey puck, or / keep em stuck / like some others may / in a warming tray.” It’s probably safe to take these claims at face value, given the popular understanding that advertisers are not allowed to lie outright. Wendy’s philosophy, the song says, is good old honesty. True or not, the claims are Wendy’s way of setting up the field in its favor, creating its own definition of “real” that it can’t fail to fulfill: real means serving food that’s been recently cooked, using “fresh,” and not frozen, beef. I doubt we take time much time to question what fresh means, either.

(2) And you know it

Including “you” is one of the most inspired strategies in Wendy’s campaign. The desire to find things out for ourselves instead of from authority is a distinctly American quality; intentionally or not, the close-up of a timeworn “Declaration of Real,” the actor dressed as a craggy Abe Lincoln, and the fake Statue of Liberty featured in the spot are echoes of this fierce independence. Social networking has given this quality a shot of steroids. People have banded together against crappy products and their promises. Smart advertising has become more like a petition and less like propaganda in response. By putting You in the picture, Wendy’s syncs itself up with this cultural shift. It also frees itself from the burden of proof, introducing a completely subjective definition for what’s real.

3) People really like Wendy’s

How to bring up the next point without trotting out the overwrought but ever true McLuhanism… it’s impossible. The medium is the message, and in the online arm of this integrated campaign, a Wendy’s Real Time microsite features what appear to be live Tweets popping up in little dialogue boxes. It’s a long time coming; somebody has invented a bot that mines Tweets for certain keywords and re-Tweets them. “Hungry” appears to be one of those words. Not necessarily hungry for Wendy’s, although the restaurant is occasionally mentioned.  Perhaps there are canned Tweets mixed in among the authentic ones.

Wendy's Real Time
Wendy’s retweets – real or canned?

Some of the Tweets have nothing to do with food or Wendy’s at all. They just reflect online chatter, a discussion Wendy’s wants you to believe it’s a part of. But are these actually authentic Twitter accounts?

You’re skeptical at first. The Tweets really do look engineered (some of them must be; stay long enough on the sight and you will see some repeats). But if you click on any one of them, you do end up on someone’s Twitter profile. I tried it. There was @baby_ge0rge, whose latest update said, “#whatsbetter Booty or Breasts???” It depends I guess. Are they real?

– Eric Hayward