Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Brand Bravery

Sorry it’s been quiet for a while on here, it’s been manic at work and I havnt had time to blog.

I watched Panorama’s documentary last week on the “phenomena” of kids filming real street fighting between other kids on their mobile phone and uploading the fights to “specialist” fighting sites like and video sharing sites like You Tube. Admittedly the footage was shockingly brutal and graphic but most of all, the scary part was knowing that this was all real.

Then came the interesting dilemma that “Blue Chip” advertisers such as Orange and BT were seen to be advertising on the very sites that were hosting these fight scenes. These advertisers obviously do not want to be associated with content like this and it’s understandable that they have taken their respective Media Buying Agencies to task about their appearance on these sites.

Since this documentary was screened last week, Vodafone (and many other brands) have announced that they were going to pull all advertising on Facebook due to the fact they were serving ads on the BNP’s Facebook group pages. Again, this is understandable that huge brands like Vodafone do not wish to be seen anywhere near right-wing neanderthals like the BNP, they have far too much to lose.

However, im starting to wonder how much brands will now start pulling back and feeling nervous about communicating within these powerful new sites.
For years now, clients, agencies and publishers alike have been extolling the values of “Web 2.0” and how we must all embrace this movement towards the “Democratisation of Communication” and how significant the empowerment is that these types of sites have handed to consumers.

With this in mind, im starting to feel like what’s the use in moving forward with brands to embrace this cultural change if at any point there is a whiff of controversy clients demand to be removed form these amazingly powerful platforms and run back to their “safe and warm places”? I don’t really understand why the likes of Bebo have created “Brand Safe Areas” within their community? I think this takes away the entire meaning of brands integrating within real communities and building a real relationship with its users based on transparency and truth. To me it reeks of half hearted communications and a poor way of using a very complex online environment as just another media “touchpoint”.

I think what im trying to say is that, of course Vodafone don’t want to align themselves with the BNP but if a brand wants to enter the brave new world of Web 2.0 they may just have to actually be brave and come to terms with the fact that consumer empowerment means that not all areas of the web can be totally controlled or sanitized at all times.

PS – Does anyone else find the Panaroma tone of voice excruciatingly painful and very Brass Eye!?? “Hi! I’m Jeremy Vine and this is controversial…”

PPS – 3 days to go until the start of the new Season Woooo Hooooo!!!


whitechapel wanderer said...

i agree with your thought that 'bravery' is needed. But think about how large organisations work. They are rarely brave. Instead they are calculated - risks, costs, profit, time etc. So unregulated, 'real', non-calculated arenas such as social sites goes against the way they operate (at their core). Do you ever see the CEO of Vodafone hanging out in a mall or a square trying to chat about what he does for a living? Its the online equivalent but with scary reach.

My suggestion is that social media owners spend their time trying to work really closely with brands that are part of the new, more open and mostly online system (eg. Howies, Google, ASOS etc) rather than worrying about the corporate laggards still trying to buy their way into people's lives.

Wouldn't it be cool if Facebook banned the brands that simply don't get it rather than worrying about how to win their money? Their growth may be a bit slower, but is that such a bad thing? Working closer with few brands may well reap unforeseen benefits.

dead insect said...

I love sites like

I teach self-defence, and some of my colleagues work in law enforcement, and they find watching footage like this invaluable.

Can I be perhaps a little bit controversial and say I don't really think there anything too wrong with 11-18 yr olds getting into "5pm, bike sheds" disputes of honour every now and then. If it ends up on cameraphone, so be it.

Obviously bullying and victimisation of any form, e.g. happy slapping or verbal abuse, are wrong.

martin - I would like to see you start your own blog - a mixture of brands, restaurant reviews and fashion. Every article should be a "one pager".

gen said...

yeah to be fair watching some of the street brawls on there can be pretty engrossing! but the stuff i felt a bit uncomfortable about was the scenes where it was almost like playground bullying to the extreme...