Brand Own Goal or Brand-as-Troll?

The fallout for a brand can be huge when its intentions are unclear, according to Bravo Romeo’s Communications Manager, Katie Rose. 

As I’m sure most of you have seen by now, the Radisson Blu Dubai Deira Creek stirred controversy last week with the release of their (rather excruciating) new marketing campaign #LaraIs30.

Where to start? The awkward script that doesn’t flow? The stilted way the actors read their lines? The awkward tone of voice and forced Radisson Blu mentions? It’s like they were playing a game of “how many people can we offend and how fast?”. Let’s take a look at a few of the most cringe-worthy moments:

“You’re well fit and you’re Lebanese, which means you can cook.”

Would you like a dash of misogyny with your xenophobic starter, sir? A slice of objectification on the side? Certainly, we will arrange that here for you, at the Radisson Blu.

The  idea that women should be married by 30.

This nurtures this unhealthy idea that women who are not married have somehow failed. Believe it or not guys, we’re not all waiting around for our Prince Charming so we can stop what we’re doing and focus on becoming “wifey”.

The male actor’s verbal violence.

If a man acted that verbally aggressively toward me in a restaurant, I would leave immediately – wouldn’t you, ladies? I would also hope that the staff might step in and check on what’s up at our table. That the Radisson scripts the girl sitting there just taking that abuse hardly sets a positive example.

“Let’s close this deal” and “jog on”.

Do people actually speak like this in real life?! OK maybe some “geezers” do… But nevertheless the script is forced and jarring.

“Have you ever had Emirati food before”, “yeah, I’ve had a donner kebab”. 

The stereotype that the English don’t speak any other languages, and are generally quite ignorant of other cultures when they travel is already alive and well. Again, it’s just another iteration of a xenophobic stereotype.

I could go on. And on. And on.

Radison Blu - Lara
Image Credit: Radisson Blu Dubai Deira Creek Facebook Page

 

It got me thinking though. How can a brand get it so spectacularly wrong in 2017? Is this an outstanding example of content marketing gone wrong…

….Or, is this an example of “brand-as-troll”?

Are we playing directly into the Radisson’s hands? This content is so bad, it surely cannot be sincere. Is the Radisson trolling us all and have we given them the exact reaction they were looking for? We at Bravo Romeo think so, however there are some important lessons here:

  1. If you’re going to troll your audience; go hard or go home. You need to come out of the traps hard and not leave your audience in any doubt over your intentions. Radisson’s intentions remain opaque.
  2. See it through and strike while the iron is hot. Radisson promised us the next installment two days ago. We are still waiting. Therefore the Radisson looks like it buckled under pressure, admitted defeat. It makes us think that the other episodes must have unfit to be shared publicly. I would love some insight into the creative process here. Did the creative team back down? If so, here’s that message again – stand behind your work, see it through, be brave, be prepared to cause a stir and run with it. (For a refresher, see point two in our post on how to create and destroy a masterpiece.
  3. From a scripting and direction POV it should have either been “so bad it’s funny”; or a humorous in-joke which the audience gets; or something so absurdly ridiculous, the audience is shocked, then gets it. Radisson, however, failed to coherently execute across any of these approaches.
  4. What may have started out as a decent concept, drowned in the execution. The narrative falls to bits by trying to do too much. Are we focussing on the fact she’s 30, are we focusing on the stereotypes? Are we focusing on the aggressive male loser? Are we focusing on the dishes being awkwardly presented? Are we focussing on the fact that it’s a trusted hotel for young ladies? The narrative is all over the place, there are too many messages and at times mixed messages at that.

 

trolling image
Image Credit: Quickmeme

 

So, should brands troll?

With all these potential pitfalls, brands have to ask themselves “is it worth the risk?” This is explored further in this great piece by Campaign that weighs up the benefits to the cost of such initiatives. As with all disruptive marketing – our answer is yes but only if it’s genius both in terms of concept and execution.

As wonderful as it is that brands have the bravery to try out alternative marketing communications, ultimately this is a rather unfortunate example of a) how important it is to have your intention and narrative straight from the beginning and b) to stick to your guns. I would be fascinated to know what the initial concept and treatment was, to see whether this was a face palm from the get-go, or whether it was a case of creative compromise gone wrong.

Featured Image Credit: Alex Proimos

The Cannes Lions Direct Jury ‘Elected A Trump’ by Awarding Burger King

Call it a stunt, call it a cheap thrill, call it what you will – just don’t call it good work.

I got into this industry because, even as a kid, bad adverts *really* annoy me. I therefore made it my business to create work that respects its audience. It’s a personal vendetta.

When I saw Burger King’s ‘Google Home Hack’ my stomach turned. It’s a gimmick, a 15-second video with a smarmy kid saying “OK Google, what is a Whopper?” which then triggers users’ Google Home devices to read aloud the Whopper’s Wikipedia page.

Honest to god, this work makes me see red. Essentially it’s malware dressed as an advert – a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Sure, on the surface of things it may appear “clever” but how commercially smart was it? Here we have a brand that thinks it’s worthwhile to invade your home technology, trigger it to blurt product info – literally a list of ingredients – at you whilst enabling the tech to listen to private conversations without your active consent. 

And it’s, well, boring. The brand could have at least created something worth hearing, a funny joke, an interesting story. But no. What a missed opportunity. Voice recognition technology is just coming of age – the creative opportunity was simply squandered!

You can imagine therefore my shock and dismay at seeing this work be awarded a Direct Grand Prix at Cannes. According to the website, “the Direct Lions celebrate response-driven and relationship-building creativity. Entries will need to demonstrate the pursuit and application of customer relationships, directly targeting a specific audience with a call-to-action which produces measurable and meaningful results.” 

Relationship-building creativity? No. Pursuit and application of customer relationships? No. It it was abusive and opens the door to create mistrust. The brand placed its own desires at the expense of its audience – it’s clear the brand saw more value in creating a media stunt and garnering buzz than providing content of value. And sure, there were results in terms of media value and buzz – but not meaningful results. Nothing in terms of actual bottom line customer action – you know, direct response – the category it was entered into. 

It’s rare that I get mad but when I do…  I hunted that jury down. I was taking names and I was taking numbers. I wanted the lowdown on what that jury was smoking. Lo and behold, we have one amongst us in Dubai! I reached out to Ogilvy’s Sascha Kuntze. He was on the jury that short-listed the work. I explained my issue with the work and I asked him to defend it. Here’s what he had to say:

“Your point about it being a wolf in sheep’s clothing is rather a compliment to the idea than a negative. Advertising is intrusive in its nature. It’s accessing your inner thoughts and changes them to make you want to buy stuff. Whether that’s morally good or not is to be discussed elsewhere. Being cheeky like the idea was fits the brand well. A brand that has discontinued their flagship product once to create outrage and a consumer reaction. A brand that sold a proud whopper in an environment that wasn’t necessarily open to it. A brand that made giant chicken talk. Essentially it’s an (effectively) intrusive way that’s fun rather than boring. Imagine an ad getting your dumb phone to do something because it thinks it’s you. It’s almost a satire of the mobile dependent times we live in. And (though I think not intended) a charming warning that maybe we should look at how much technology we allow into our lives and how much we should focus on the simpler things in life instead. Like a chargrilled burger for example.”

I appreciate and respect Sascha’s point of view. However if you ever wanted to know the difference between an advertising agency and a content marketing firm, it’s summed up by our respective philosophies here. What are your thoughts on the piece, dear reader?

Work like this is exactly the opposite of what we do at Bravo Romeo. We believe that to build brand equity in today’s market, brands need to focus on more audience-centric strategies, fusing the audience’s interests with the business’s goals and finding common ground from which to tell cool stories. Like Calvin Klein did just last week and like Mercedes did here in Dubai earlier this year. As Red Bull and GE have been doing for years. Check out that work. Nice huh? Cool, exciting, creative, effective. 

On a  final and funny note, the campaign did have one accidental highlight. The audience hacked back, corrupting the Whopper’s Wikipedia page, and altered the list of ingredients to say that the Whopper was made with “100% medium sized child”. Ha ha ha, BK, it’s true, you flame-grilled your audience – great to see they burnt you back.