Stay Tuned/Participative Paper and Perspiration

From Eccentric Flower


stay tuned

Participative Paper and Perspiration
9 April 2007

The brain is dead tonight, and as usual for a holiday, there was utterly no advertising of note this weekend. So this will be a quickie.

I sort things I find into two broad categories: food and non-food. The non-food category accumulates things more slowly than the food category, but usually the weirdness level there is higher. However, putting aside some URLs I have designated for future checking, and other such projects, I find that I have a number of items I don't feel inclined to say much about, except to observe they exist. In some cases, the fact that they exist is the entire point.

For example, what exactly is there to be said about the new Kleenex (Kimberly-Clark) URL, The joke is in the URL; the humor is that it's there at all. But let's take a closer look, eh?

Okay, granted, it's a weird campaign, especially when you get to the copy which reads

And when tons of STUFF stuffs up your nose, BLOW it out loud and blow it out proud.

On the other hand, you try coming up with a novel way to sell a product people blow their noses on.

It also has an area for users to apparently submit ... um ... pictures or text that express things they want to "let out." And there's a weblog. So it's kind of a participative experience, I guess. And the Hip and Trendy Playbook says that's a good idea, to get the users involved in your ad campaign. Who am I to disagree with the Hip and Trendy Playbook?

No, no, although it made me snicker inappropriately when I first saw the URL, I don't have a serious gripe with the campaign.

(However, there is one thing I do object to: The world does not need personalized tissue boxes. I cannot think of a worse way to memorialize something important to you than to put it on a box containing things you cover with snot. But I digress.)

Anyway, it's the participative thing that bears watching. Mark my words: This is the next big nasty trick. In the old days, it was a known and proven principle that if you gave the consumer something to do - a ridiculously easy puzzle to solve, something to scratch off with a coin - it would involve them in the advertising and - hopefully - make them more likely to buy whatever you were touting. No one falls for that any more, but the concept has evolved into a more dangerous form. Online, you can make all sorts of meaningless surveys and other toys to suck people in ... and then, of course, we have the ultimate tool of temptation: The weblog.

A lot of my peers have gone to a fair bit of trouble and pain to keep product plugs out of their weblogs. What happens when the product owns the weblog, when the weblog is a wholly subsidized creation by and for a product? Can any content actually happen there? Does anyone try?

The Let It Out weblog, to save you the trouble of looking, appears to be absolutely useless - a sequence of meaningless posts by a Kleenex stooge. Each entry follows the same format: Two paragraphs of intro attempting to sound like observations of the world, followed by one paragraph containing the sort of obvious discussion-fuel questions that never, never actually generate any discussion.

(Example: "What is your favorite sign of spring? Is it the birds industriously building their nests? Is it the arrival of daffodils and tulips? Or perhaps the sudden infusion of college kids in swimsuits if you live near the beach signals the arrival of spring for you?")

Sometimes, just to vary the pace, she asks the paragraph of useless questions first and then does the two paragraphs of empty copy.

But do not dismiss this so casually, for this is merely a harbinger of direr things. It's easy to laugh at the commercial weblog written by one lone shill. But what happens when you are co-opted into being the shill? Will you even know it has happened?

We now come to the site, which will immediately redirect you to a page deep within Colgate-Palmolive (and begin playing bad music at you). This site informs you that "America wants to read your day diary" and says "Submit your day diary, and read about other 24/7 women like you!"

Putting aside the fact that the phrase "day diary," which is redundant, bothers me every time I read it, this is a truly nasty and insidious project. It speaks to women who are attempting to juggle too many responsibilities and stresses - which, let's face it, is most of them - and tells them in no uncertain terms that despite their drab, wretched lives, there are lots and lots of other people willing, nay, eager, to read about that drabness and wretchedness. Why, your anecdotes of your daily grind could even be published! Your life is important! Honest! (And don't you want to buy our product because we are nice sweet people who told you so?)

Of course your drab, wretched life is important - to your family, your friends, and the other people you touch directly. The rest of the world could not possibly care less. And they don't really want to read your sloppy, poorly spelled, badly punctuated writing about it. I'm sorry to be so nasty, but someone's gotta tell the truth here, and it will not be Colgate-Palmolive.

C-P is taking an emotion that most women, especially the ones who are trying to run the career/motherhood double-play, often feel - hell, any number of men feel it too - the feeling that one is toiling in vain, never appreciated, work that never ends and no one notices your sacrifices - and they are deliberately playing to this vulnerability in you. To sell deodorant. It's one of the meanest and most calculating stunts I've seen in years, and I've seen a lot.

They know you want to tell the world your sorrows - that in this modern age Everyone Believes They Should Have a Weblog - and by both bolstering your ego and assuring you that everyone wants to read your words, they are exploiting emotions which really should be off-limits.

You'd do better to go to the Kleenex site and let it out there. The Kleenex site is more honest.

Unfortunately, the writing is on the wall. This dirty trick from the C-P people will work. Judging from the material on the site, it's already working. You want to draw people in? Give them a space to blab about themselves. It's genius. Diabolical genius.

I would be very surprised if others didn't try variations on this theme, and the idea will build upon itself and multiply ... and then one day we'll wake up to find a weblog dedicated to documenting people's experiences with Jif peanut butter, or some similar horror. Or "communities" that have in common only a pattern of consumption, of purchasing, and yet revel in their commonality while remaining unaware what a bad bargain they have made.

I didn't mind this so much back in the days of the Tampax teen sites and so forth because those seemed to actually allow people to share genuine experiences (i.e. questions and confusions about adolescent sexuality, etc), and I could overlook the obvious corporate interest because some real purpose was being accomplished. But there is nothing like that on the my247life site. Nothing is actually being shared. It's just a bunch of people venting all their identical problems to the world and allowing themselves to believe that they are a collective, when what they are is dupes.

In other words, the project is completely devoid of real content or purpose - which, I dare say, is exactly how Colgate-Palmolive likes it.

and now back to our program

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