Did I just see a Purple Cow Panel?

By Victor Chew Wong

Victor, a member of the BCAMA Marketline Committee, reviews the Purple Cow Campaigns panel at the May 22nd VISION Conference. Mike Rodenburgh (Vice-President, Ipsos) was the panel moderator, and Tim Hassed (Director of Online Customer Experience, TELUS), Richard Seres (VP Marketing, Vancity) and Adrian Scott (President of Go2 Productions) were the three panel members.

Let’s face it, panels are a challenging format to program. On the one hand, you have to find three insightful and entertaining characters to put on stage. Then they’re all fighting for the mike. When someone does say something interesting, there’s usually no opportunity to probe further. And usually there is someone who is very smart and you want to hear more from him (or her – but, in this case, all hims), but nope, time to move on. Well, the Purple Cow Campaign panel at the 2013 VISION Conference had all of that, and more.

The task for moderator Mike Rodenburgh was to describe a series of well-known local and international advertising campaigns to the panel and have them dissect the ads.

The panellists all expanded the conversation and in some way helped deepen my understanding of the marketing game. But for my money, Vancity’s Richard Seres elevated himself with depth, humour and the courage to challenge the consensus. (Who’d have thunk that from a banker?)

The first ad campaign under scrutiny was GoPro Camera. All three panellists thought that this was the marriage of a great product to great creative. The genius was the ability to create a community and to have their customers do the marketing for them. A virtuous circle, if ever there was one.

Seres thought that this was by far the best of the four campaigns in the discussion. And I would agree. “I think it’s GoPro (that has the best ROI),” Seres said. “It always starts with the product that has to deliver. If you have that great core, you can build out. If you’re starting with a crappy product that doesn’t fill a need, then you’re schlocking. Once you create an ad that people like and they come to your business, what do you do with that?”

Then the panel focused their attention on the Oreo with the rainbow filling. I must admit that I had never seen the creative on this. If you missed it too, I’ll give you the gist: the ad is an Oreo cookie with a rainbow filling – a photo was posted on their Facebook page in support of Gay Pride Week.

Despite the buzz and the earned media that the concept drew, Seres took Oreo to task for it. “They blew it,” he said. “They didn’t even really have a rainbow-coloured Oreo. They weren’t authentic. They didn’t win on the authenticity and then they isolated themselves from their conservative customers. This seemed a little contrived. And not thought through enough.”

Next up was GoDaddy’s infamous Super Bowl commercial in which super-model Bar Rafaeli is smooching a nerd (for a loooooonnng time, if you haven’t seen the ad).

Again, I think Seres – though he didn’t particularly care for the commercial – hit the donkey with a horseshoe with his observation. “They’re a web domain company,” he said. “The professional IT department is not their target. They’re looking at the owner of a small business who wants to use their services. From that perspective, it’s probably a good ad. They’re staying true to who they’re trying to speak to. It’s every guy’s fantasy is to be with a woman like that – they’re tapping into that insight. They knew they were going to get attention.”

And finally there was the latest experiential Playland campaign produced by Rethink. It involved a scavenger hunt for cameras hidden around Vancouver. On the memory card are videos of the camera flying off the roller coaster and landing…somewhere.

All of the panellists liked this one. But honestly, for me there were too many moving parts. The success was contingent upon seeing the commercial, then finding the camera, then uploading our images, then redeeming the camera for tickets. In grammatical terms, there were too many verbs between the subject and the object.

That may be a sign of my aging brain, or my inability to objectively analyze an ad – but more than likely, a frayed attention span just before lunch.

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