I have a complicated relationship with social media.
On the one hand, I think it is singlehandedly ruining this country by proving the imperfections and dangers of free speech, while empowering a group of asshole idiots to band together.
At the same time, like most millennials my age, I’m addicted to it.
The first thing I do in the morning, before I even say react to my girlfriend next to me, is fire up the old Instagram. I love skateboarding and food and Insta has kind of become a beautiful place for both of these to flourish. Every second a new clip of one of my favorite skaters pops up in my feed seemingly sandwiched between a delicious pizza and a crazy fast food contraption. It is constant instant gratification.
Who would want to look at anything else?
I’ve deleted the Twitter app off my phone, but that doesn’t stop me from stalking a handful of writers and celebrities, some out of love and others out hate. It’s pretty obvious why I had to get rid of it.
Social media just makes you petty.
Look no further than our president’s tweets. A man who has to run a country won’t let that slow him down from finding hours every week to throw shade at someone or something or some country.
That said, I get the power in it. The instant communication and messaging, it is hard to go back to a world without it, despite my constant unheard claims to abolish it.
Perhaps the way social media has manifested itself the most potently is in its marketing and promotion. It is less of a social networking tool and more of an advertising platform. Whether that be for the personal or the corporate.
Look what I ate, look at my accomplishments, are the same as look at our product, look at our brand and how we engage with you the consumer directly.
One of my first internships in college was launching and running Massachusetts’ Department of Fish and Game’s social media accounts. At the time, social media was newer and I hadn’t even gotten a handle on it fully. It was actually a cool opportunity in working in a place at the very start of something as big as social media. I think a few months prior the Tunisian revolt had occurred via Twitter and there was a lot of positivity surrounding the app and its possibilities.
I remember creating Powerpoint presentations and researching the best tools to incorporate this new world into government life. Of course, if I had to do it again, I would have just said, skip Twitter, focus solely on Instagram. Take pictures of the beautiful nature and landscapes of Massachusetts and the wildlife that inhabits it. A nature account. I would follow them right now.
Part of my hesitation and overall frustration with Twitter is that it is so fast. It is hard to get a handle. It was hard to run a simple tweet up the chain there, and so most of the ideas would end up being lost causes. That’s not their fault. I don’t know how to keep up with trending topics and hashtags. I think if you really want to win at Twitter, you have to be on there 24/7, which is exhausting.
Instagram you put your picture up, tag your people, write a caption and keep it moving. It is less conversation based and more personal.
That doesn’t mean all companies and persons are doomed to fail at Twitter. Quite the opposite, I think there are a crop of people, businesses, teams, and organizations that continually “win” at Twitter. So much so, that it makes it harder for the less dedicated user to succeed.
One of those companies is the fast food company, Wendy’s, of all places.
Prior to probably 2015, if you asked me what I first thought of Wendy’s it would have been square hamburgers (where do you buy those on the open market?), a wonderful scene from the Adam Sandler movie Mr. Deeds, and third fiddle to Burger King and McDonald’s.
Since, Wendy’s has been active with social media, particularly with their Twitter fingers, and it has changed my perception of the company and the somewhat uptight image they used to have.
Wendy’s is hip, it is fresh, and most importantly it is winning Twitter on a nightly basis.
Whether it be fire burning the competition (see how I avoided the easy pun of roasting other internet writers) in McDonald’s and BK, playfully engaging in the pop culture sphere, honoring promises for free nuggets based on retweets, or retweeting fan made Wendy’s centric GIF’s and Meme’s, from the outside, their timeline is general chaos.
On further inspection though, it is full of Wendy’s products. It is all Wendy’s everything, without being in your face. Gone are the days of Don Draper and Mad Men, the true currency of advertising lives in being able to engage with the dorm rooms across America.
They say that the below is the first paid advertisement in America’s history, published in 1704 in the Boston News Letter, a piece for a property:
In 1906, Ivy Lee, the man who built the public image and celebrity of Babe Ruth, worked with the Pennsylvania Railroad after a tragic accident, which I can only imagine happened all the fucking time because it was the 1900’s:
In 1941, we got the first TV ad for a watch company Bulova:
I could keep going with all the firsts, first billboard, first website ad, and so on and so on, but TV is where I wanted to stop because I think it is where the ad space changed the most.
What started as simple spots, transformed into hosts and stars from TV shows interacting and introducing products from their shows, like this clip from “Burns and Allen,” in 1950.
They would even incorporate the product, in this case, Carnation’s Evaporated Milk, into the scene’s of the show, product placement, clunky but there nonetheless:
These would transform into TV spots, here is one from the 60’s clearly aimed at kids:
And print ads like this classic one:
The thing about these ads, and about genuinely every ad from the history of man-kind is that they have a purpose. Their job is to promote and sell their product again and again to new and old customers by appearing in and on our favorite media entities.
Nowadays, with most people ad-blocking and streaming content, our advertisers flock to Podcasts, the industry is currently booming with ad revenue. They even offer promo codes with discounts to entice their listeners to try to the product for free or at a bargain rate.
But regardless of the medium or the way it has been presented, the point of all commercials and advertisements is that this product or service is the best and only one you should be using. Your life is better, more efficient, safer, and everything else positive because of this thing. In short, if you wat to be happy, spend your money on this thing.
It’s simple, and probably doesn’t need so much history analysis, but I wanted to highlight just how revolutionary what Wendy’s and other businesses on Twitter are doing.
People don’t follow Wendy’s for pictures of burgers. They follow for the chaos and joy that the company brings.
They no longer are advertising. They are creating to sell their product. We are in the early stages of what I believe will end up being creative marketing, meaning content that entertains the masses, but is full of messages or imagery promoting the product. Social media is changing the way we interact with our advertisers and what we expect from them.
Look at Taco Bell’s Snapchat filters from 2016:
Burberry’s short film:
Kodak’s Collaboration with Girl Skateboards on the Below Edit:
What we are getting is art designed to engage you, not just sponsored by the company, but actively involving and promoting the company. A marketing department might as well be a screenwriter and director nowadays.
Wendy’s, because they are at the forefront of this, recently just pushed the envelope even further and released a 5 track hip hop mixtape on all of the major streaming sites entitled “We Beefin’.” Seems appropriate.
The tape while not much to write home about, imagine a crack rap album but sub in burger paraphernalia instead of baking soda and Pyrex and you’ll catch the drift, is one-of-a-kind. Literally. Aside from the jingle I don’t think I can count any instances where a company has invested so heavily in music. For five tracks, they hired a rapper and writer, paid for beats, and paid for mixing and mastering. Normally this money is used for something like this:
At least it was that way in the past.
Now, content is king. We DVR past commercials on TV, demand free products and discounts for listening to ads on podcasts, and pay premiums for streaming services that do not have advertisements on them.
So they come to us with content designed for the consumer.
This tape and these tweets aren’t designed to have a long shelf life. The purpose is not to rerun for weeks and weeks or to be reprinted in various publications.
Novelty is what stays in the zeitgeist. And just like social media, some companies are better than others. More creative, able to push the conversation. And in social media, owning the conversation is everything.
But with shrinking growth, more competition, and raising prices to increase sales, the fundamental question at the end of the day is what is the gain? Can these short end victories really lead to long term gains?
Perhaps it is fitting to turn this last question to a meme circulating on the internet.
Do Twitter Fingers turn to Chicken Fingers?
Trigger fingers turn to chicken fingers. pic.twitter.com/Th9yqPozV5
— Funny Or Die (@funnyordie) October 2, 2015