Campaign: 42 good things
'If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people they'd punch you in the face.' When I first read this line on a gapingvoid.com cartoon, I smiled to myself. It was one of those knowing smiles: yep, a 'there's more than a little truth in that there line' smile. It's one of those lines that I wished I'd thought of myself, and one I'm ashamed to say I have - as I'm sure we all have - been guilty of proving true on occasion.
But thankfully things are changing. Communication is not about brands talking down to consumers any more. Technology has opened up paths for an infinite number of concurrent conversations - person to person; brand to person; even brand to brand - to happen simultaneously.
It's like one massive party where people are happily gravitating into groups with which they identify and enjoy engaging. Of course, it's not all beer and skittles: there's always one guy who only wants to talk about himself. And that's the guy I'm interacting with through this piece of work, '42 good things' (42goodthings.com), by Swedish agency Projector.
Designed to promote the Omnia, a touchscreen phone from Samsung intended to stand up to the dominance of the iPhone, this site has the objective of educating the customer about the many - 42 by all accounts - features of the phone.
So what's the solution? 'A room. A man. A mobile phone that has it all.' And a barely disguised set of instructional videos largely without charm (yet reminiscent of The Brady Bunch) demonstrating every individual feature of said phone.
Perhaps it's just me, but being walked through each feature by someone who's clearly going stir-crazy in a cell-like room just isn't my idea of a fun lunchtime surf. It's like going into a high-street phone shop to have a handset demonstrated to you, but with none of the charm. And that's saying something.
Credit where credit's due, though: there are some very good things about this site, although in my humble opinion, naming 42 might be a stretch. It is, by anyone's standards, beautifully crafted. The 3D images and the way they build and change are simply gorgeous, as are the interfaces that enable you to interact with the copious amount of professionally shot video spread throughout the site.
The website is expertly constructed and generally oozes high production values. Users are invited to share, vote and blog on the clips, and the content is helpfully filtered to the top 10 videos (so you can avoid the really yawny ones).
But what I can't get away from is the feeling that this site was created to talk at me. I'm another faceless user who the brand has specified must learn every last feature of this phone. There's no sense of it being an equal partnership, that I can interact or contribute to the conversation, or that I can do anything but be broadcast at. It feels to me more like an on-demand TV channel that's dedicated to running mobile phone infomercials than a live, engaging site - and that leaves me feeling a little cold.
Of course it's always easier to wield the red pen than the blue; and I'd be the first to admit that continually producing work that engages in conversations with consumers is stretching. But I feel it's time we dropped this focus on propaganda in advertising, before a consumer really does punch us in the face.
Aaron Martin is executive creative director of Syzygy London, whose clients include HSBC Private Bank, Mazda, Forevermark and Orange Business Services. "The changing relationship between brands and consumers, facilitated by technology, is providing some exciting opportunities to challenge conventional marketing paradigms," says Martin.
Project manager: Anna Nissen
Production manager: Henrik Agnehall
Writer: Clara Laurent
Art director: Lars Steiner
AD assistant: Michaela Arnklint
Motion director/lead flash developer: David Andersson
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