Crisis control for Australian social media

The furore around Saatchi & Saatchi’s campaign for Toyota’s 5 agency pitch has been picked up by international trade publications and in 48 hours it has done a lot of damage. Not just to Toyota’s brand, but to the social media brand.

In a previous post I rambled on about how “as we struggle to present social media as a viable and relevant marketing channel, our collective voice can falter if we don’t consistently present a reasonable and justified case.” Gavin Heaton went on to discuss this in  “Social Media Experts Run Over By The Cluetrain“, saying businesses will decide whether or not to get behind social media based on reason. Saatchi & Saatchi’s decision to choose a $60,000 production laden with creepy innuendo as a winner of a UGC competition and the reactionary widespread outcry has given cautious businesses another reason to steer clear of social media.

It will be extremely disappointing, albeit understandable, if Toyota decide not to pursue social media with any of the agencies involved in the creative pitch. So what can we do to minimise this impact on our industry?

UPDATED: Here are the other short films created for the Saatchi & Saatchi campaign. Any firm favourites? Let’s crowdsource a worthy winner!

UPDATED: Promising words from Toyota’s Mike Breen “We are aware of the calculated risks and we have to manage them. We have to learn for the future. This absolutely won’t de-rail the (social media) pitch. We’ll live and we’ll learn.” (quote from B&T)

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~ by mandi bateson on December 15, 2009.

7 Responses to “Crisis control for Australian social media”

  1. I agree – the Toyota Yaris SM campaign is ruining SM marketing credibility. Its not very nice to ask 15 agencies to pitch. And out of the 4 that were shortlisted, it was a guarantee that it would buzz/hype for Yaris because of they would be fiercely competing against each other to win the long term social business.
    So the result is that Saatchi chose the most “controversial” piece of content to generate the most “column inches” in a traditional PR sense. Only because they are old school ad wankers firstly they chose sexist and tasteless content, and secondly, they didn’t figure the power of the collective social voice of women who are cashed up and annoyed at being treated like a piece of meat. Yes it serves them right. Yes it damages the credibility of social media marketing – stunt and controversy driven. The SM impact on brand sentiment has also probably damaged the other agencies campaign attempts (if they are still running at the same time). The true impact for Toyota can only be measured in sales, we can only wait and see.

  2. It’s a huge problem. Folk like you, Mandi, and Tip, who are trying their hardest to produce top notch social media marketing campaigns for their clients will now have to try even harder to convince them of the value of your ideas. After so many bad social media marketing campaigns in 2009, you’d think some of these people would learn…

    For folk like me whose work is about trying to get organisations to understand the value of social tools to them directly – for their staff, in interaction with their customers and stakeholders, and in general for collaboration – it’s marginally better, but not much.

    We all need to work extra hard now to make our tarnished work (thanks to these idiots) look like it’s worth spending money on. I’ve got better things to bring to clients, but this is now going to need to be the first.

  3. Again we are seeing a failure in decision making. Sure it will make brands think twice about social media – but like the iSnack fiasco, this really shows a lack of understanding of the way social media works (from a client and agency POV), the capacity of stories (good and bad) to travel quickly and the need to make sure that due process, creative review and accountability must be in place before projects are launched in the social space.

    What do we learn from this? We need to impress upon clients that they need to apply the same disciplines and approval processes on social media as they do for any marketing program. And we can’t delegate those decisions to people who don’t consider social media a part of brand management or good business practice. If you do, you’re asking for trouble.

  4. No doubt this will dampen the enthusiasm of corporates to participate in social media. That will be a shame as this incident is not a failing of social medium. It is purely a massive error of judgement on the part of poorly informed or advised people, making a decision motivated by old-school notions of reach and impact rather than engagement, transparency and authenticity.

  5. Thanks for the comments! You know I’d actually love to see a cross-agency collaborative effort to dig Toyota out of this mess; it could help social media regain credibility and prove that the strength is in agencies working together not pitted against each other. But obviously that’d never happen.

  6. As they say in great Australian film, The Castle, “you’re dreaming” ;)

  7. Nice take, though I’m not too sure if it’ll harm marketing’s role in social media, and if it does then that lies with the short-sightedness of the people involved.

    Bad decisions are made all the time in advertising, marketing, PR – it doesn’t often harm the industry but it sure as hell keeps the main players in mind ;-)

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