One of the most perceptive TV commercials I ever saw was for a television manufacturer. “Here’s the demo,” the announcer said, “but remember: You’re watching it on YOUR TV.”
That was a long time ago, but it illustrates the futility of using the wrong medium to carry your message. Even Jesus warned against putting new wine in old wineskins, though hardly anybody knows why. (Hint: It’s about fermentation and CO2 emissions.)
About four hours into a delightful morning of judging entries in a national social media competition, I had an “Aha!” moment when I realized that we were judging social media efforts (all of which were designed to be seen online) by looking at paper printouts stuffed into three-ring binders.
It’s bad enough to have to fool with paper under any circumstances, now that we’re all addicted to digital media. Sitting around a conference table without a computer in sight, I found myself frustrated with entries that included 200-character URLs leading to YouTube videos and web sites. (As an aside, this was one of the few times I’ve ever actually wished somebody had thought to use QR codes, so I could have at least looked at the links on my phone. But not a single entrant thought to do that.)
In retrospect, it would have a made a lot more sense (and been a lot less expensive) to have the entries submitted to a secured web site, where judges could see the materials in their native ecosystem. But we’ve always used paper-stuffed binders for contest entries, so naturally that’s what we used.
Because of the confidentiality of the judging process, I can’t say much about the entries themselves, except that they ranged from the truly awful to the startlingly creative.
We saw a ton of contests and giveaways to generate online buzz. A lot of these are already starting to feel like trendy tactics that will fade quickly. (Some things that looked really clever in early 2011 just look like spam today.) It also seemed everybody and his/her mom was targeting the “mommy bloggers” who write about things like food, sneakers, coupons, diapers and snotty noses.
Oddly, there wasn’t a single Kleenex campaign. Oh well.