Q. I'm head of marketing for an insurance brand and my marketing director boss wants our next campaign to 'do a Yeo Valley'. I've explained that few campaigns intended to 'go viral' make it, but this seems only to have egged him on. How do I manage his expectations?
A. Your boss sounds like he needs some fame. What started as a throwaway request has turned into a mild obsession. Have you checked his LinkedIn? Has he been polishing his CV? Has he ticked that little 'career opportunities' box in the interests section? Establish his motives before you consider the best course of action.
Your first option is to make the campaign a 'success'. This is a relative term. Start off by examining your previous (ideally miserable) attempts to create an online brouhaha, and then draw a line up from them. That will allow you to use the word 'exponential', which always plays well.
The data is of your choosing, and the scale should be in percentage terms (moving from 10 to 20 page views is, after all, a 100% increase).
Steer clear of meaningful metrics (completed video views, registrations, Facebook 'likes'), and focus on the debased coinage of page views and searches. That way you can stack the deck.
The second option is to make a real success of it. Get hold of a half-decent idea, and make sure you are working with competent agencies. There are even a few specialist agencies that can make the sterile into the viral, and have a network of happy online helpers who will spin your creation. If you pursue this course, be sure to tie some of your bonus to the results - it's easy money.
Your final option is to try to shock him down from the ledge of insanity. Draw a graph with all the inappropriate or outlawed campaigns you can think of at one end. Be sure to detail the fate of the marketing directors in each case.
At the other end, have the 'industry norm' for financial services, a nice, cosy territory, with steady growth and long careers. Hand him a sticker with his name on it and ask him to place it on the line where he wants the campaign to sit. Then, do as he suggests, but insist on keeping the piece of paper.
Will Harris is a former marketing director for Nokia in the UK and Asia region. He was the first marketing director of the Conservative Party and launch marketing director of the O2 brand.