Saturday, February 4, 2017

From the United States to Uber: Is any advertising a good advertising?

Warhol- Baquiat "Poison"
Some advertisers or marketeers seem to think that the most important thing is to get people talking about your brand - something to which I agree, but only partially. Since, among other things, I handle reputation and crisis advertising to my clients (most of whom sign a confidentiality agreement so I cannot tell you who they are as no company wants to be seen in such dire straits), I can tell you that most of their problems stem for - ooops! - people actually talking about them. And not in a good way.
When such let-them-talk-about-me gimmicks are done without strategy, the client uses the agency once and that's it. He is left oddly, with little to talk about in the next campaign. Sometimes, surely, it works. At other times, the backlash and backfire is enormous and the client is left with a mess to clean up.
I am not against shock and awe tactics, let it be known.
What I am against is the idea that "any advertising is good advertising".
No it is not.
People (or rather clients - current and potential) might have a short memory, but they also have unconscious associations they make. They avoid a certain brand, not because they remember the scandal it was embroiled in but "just because". They stop purchasing a certain brand or frequenting a restaurant chain, or flying to a certain holiday destination, or choosing a certain school, or being the patrons of a certain apparel company - not because they remember something bad about the brand, but for some undefined reason which they cannot explain and which stuck to their minds upon hearing inadvertently about the brand from the media that covered it when there was some storm surrounding it because an advertiser ended up tarnishing the image of the brand just for wanting to "do a quickie" (pardon the pun).
In today's world, with people getting their information via social media, any tweet, status post, update - even if deleted subsequently - can get a major brand into hot water. #DeleteUber - which has enticed people (the estimated number is 200,000 according to unverified internet sources) started as a reply to one single tweet from the company. The customer retaliation was enormous.
Uber simply tweeted that they were eliminating "surge prices" for anyone hailing them from or to JFK International Airport. Even though this came way after the halt of pick up between 6-7 PM on the night of January 28-29 in solidarity with the demonstrators who were challenging the flight ban initiated by the Trump administration, Uber users saw this as a counterattack to the halt or a way profiting from the situation.
That Uber CEO Travis Kalanik eventually informed president Trump he could not be part of his advisory board - Klanik's being part of said advisory board was an element which had previously added fuel to the fire.
Did people talk about Uber? Yes. Did they talk well? No.
Who won from all of this? The direct competitor of Uber, Lyft.
All of this because of a single tweet, which ironically an Uber spokesperson said it went because they did not want to be seen as profiting from the situation.
Now, are people speaking of the United States? Yes. Are they speaking well?
Of course, this goes back to the "Why do they hate us?" question by former United States president George W. Bush after the 9/11 attack. Maybe because, unfortunately, they are given reasons to do just that.
President Obama was far from perfect, if you dig the surface of the internet - somewhere after what his wife wore to the state dinner and her "bangs" (seriously, search for this on Google) - he did leave a bloody legacy. What Donald Trump is doing is perhaps the same things that Obama did in hiding, under the radar, behind the Versace-Jason-Wu-Thakoon-Naeem-Khan headlines his wife was stirring - but doing them in his brash take-no-prisoners loud style.
Which is getting people to talk about the brand he is leading.
Does anyone, apart from me, see a vicious circle here?