Wednesday, August 02, 2006 pitches Subway; where's the meat?

In a bid to differentiate itself from competitors in a pitch for the Subway business, posted a "viral" video on YouTube. Plenty of blood has already been spilled on adfreaks and other blogs about the video itself... I can't help but thank for confirming something I had long suspected: agencies should never assume anyone is as interested as we are in stories, concepts, songs and now videos about what we do. (Full disclosure: I run the strategy function for an interactive agency, THINK interactive, and yes, the concept of making this kind of video comes up every six months or so at our place too. So far, we've killed the beast every time.)

Back in the 1980's, I worked in direct response marketing. Every six months or so, a team would come up with a concept parodying bad direct marketing creative. ("Buy now!") Every time, it was clear that what we were dealing with was actually arrogance -- the arrogance of assuming that anyone cares enough about the marketing to differentiate between the truth and the parody.

Recently this idea (or really, lack of an idea) manifested itself in the latest BMW tv spots, in which an entire campaign was seemingly constructed around the insight that creatives sometimes get their concepts killed by client executives who don't care enough about their ideas. has taken it to a new level (or new low?) here. The shocking thing about this tactic isn't the lack of understanding of the true nature of viral marketing, the blatant unreality of the video (uh, if it contains video of you uploading the video, than you actually faked an upload to shoot and then later actually uploaded it, in a sort of Escher-esque loop) or the attempts at humorously badgering a Hasidic man because, apparently, he isn't just like an agency employee. No, what's really bad about this idea is that there is no idea. There's a built in assumption here that there is inherent interest in watching agencies talk about coming up with ideas, and being all crazy, with our gumball machines, thrift-store blouses, facial hair and piercings. Hey, we all have that stuff -- but it's critical to differentiate between the things that help you feel OK about what you do, and whether they matter to your audience.

I've always been of the opinion that we care far more about any of this stuff than our audiences do -- be they marketers, or eventual consumers of marketing. In a bid to look cool and current, has gone ahead and confirmed that opinion with this overwrought, under-powered video tactic.