In these days of brand-led social media engagement and consumers-led conversations with brands, there seems to be a glut in the thought process of the kind of situations where brands really need to start talking online.
No, I’m not from the school which advocates brands to keep chattering away with all kinds of people online just because the tools are available.
The latest example is that of British Airways which has a fairly interesting ‘Don’t Fly’ campaign to coincide with the London Olympics.
Strangely enough, there are a few comments that indicate that some haven’t liked the ad.
So, what does British Airways do? They start responding to people. On YouTube comments.
After a few comments, it all starts looking like stock responses even if the sentences seem to be tweaked mildly – the crux remains exactly the same.
I personally don’t see the point of this YouTube comments engagement.
The negative sentiment around the ad seems more like opinions (and a bit of conspiracy theory which is plain bizarre) and not factual points. No brand can ever expect its ads to be universally liked. And, the comments in the British Airways ads are not even the kind of groundswell that usually forces brands to go online and defend themselves or start engaging. They seem more like nitpicking, random comments.
The more British Airways tries to explain the ad, the more it seems pointless and lame. See this interaction, for instance.
A comment: Creative but a victim of ‘WestOneitis’ or ‘Charlotte st syndrome’ as it is known 1)Shareholders expect you to promote flying 2)How is home advantage delivered by sitting on a sofa watching the telly (only option for most if us) 3) Great song,one of my all time faves, but have you lot listened to the lyrics?As you have such a deepï»¿ understanding of London, presumably you will understand when I say that it appears the Marekting dept and its agency have gone for a collective creative ‘Barclays’
Response, from British Airways: Thanks for your comments. The ad is a tongue-in-cheek way of encouraging people to get behind our athletes for London 2012. We understand people will still need to fly during this time and we will be happy to welcome them on board. However, we will be equally happy to fly people after the Games if they decide to stay home and be part of the #HomeAdvantage. We think the song makes a great soundtrack to the ad and the Games and we hope it is a rallyingï»¿ cry everyone can get behind.
The same commenter, again: Thanks but that’s only a standard reply andï»¿ doesn’t address the issues raised. Have you asked what your shareholders and employees think. I doubt it
British Airways: Hi – everyone here is behind the campaign. We are proud to be supporting our athletes and believe this is a great way of doing it. You’ll find in our YouTube channel a video that goes into greater detail about the ad and why we did it (‘Behind the idea ofï»¿ our London 2012 ad’), and we hope that will get across the level of support we all have for the ad and the Games. Thanks.
That commenter, yet again: Sorry. You’re an airline. And since when did tongue in cheek advertising achieve anyone’s commercial objectives? I’ve been in Marketing for 30 years and often giggle at the latest ‘Marketing bollocks’, but I think you guys have raised the bar in this category. I expect theï»¿ ad will win some creative awards just to underpin the nature of the strategy. Why is it an airline’s responsibility to get athlete to perform better even if it is Louis Smith who went to school with my son?
See the futility of this exercise? It’s almost like someone who was walking past British Airways’ corporate headquarters decided to stop by and giving a piece of his mind about the new ad. And like someone from British Airways bothering to argue, explain and defend the ad, right there, outside their office while the world’s watching.
It’s an ad, for heaven’s sake! It’s supposed to communicate something – not please or convince all humans in this planet. Let’s make the assumption explicit that there would be vast groups of people who may not like the damn piece of communication.
As long as British Airways and its advertising agency are clear about the target group they are trying to address and the very purpose behind this ad, it really doesn’t matter if a few people don’t see it the way British Airways sees it.
If British Airways intended to engage with people using the message in the communication, then merely uploading it on YouTube and responding to comments is not the way to go about it. If engagement was thought of as an integral part of this communication, there needs to be a better place (owned by British Airways) online to do so, with a better thought-out tool or mode of communication.
For instance, a making of the ad capsule with the creative team explaining their point of view (not defending) on why they chose the song – The Clash’s London Calling, which focuses on The Three Mile Island partial nuclear meltdown, Thames’ flooding and the band’s own high debt situation, among others! And then ask fans about the songs they thought would be most appropriate for the Don’t Fly spot.
That’s just an example. There are so many ways to consider making mainstream media ad spots into social media engagement hooks if only brands and agencies sit and think of ways to translate the main piece of communication for different media.
In this case, I felt that there was absolutely no need for British Airways to force-drop itself into the opinions of people on YouTube. As we have seen in many cases, many of the negative comments are being addressed by many fans themselves. As long as British Airways is on top of the overall sentiment of the comments and looking at ways to incorporate them into its future communication, that would have been more than adequate.