Thursday, July 8, 2010

Camp in campaigns

So have you seen those Chipotle billboards? Or well... have you noticed the new Chipotle billboards? You may have seen, but had a rough time really noticing the message. Rather than an over-sized foiled burrito with a short, clever phrase, the new creative is a very lengthy description (in regards to standards on content in billboard campaigns) in gray text with a few words in darker letter and the Chipotle logo in color in the corner. On a quick glance it may read as something like, "We make big burritos." 

Was I more attuned to this only because about the time these popped up I was in the middle of trying to convince people involved in a billboard campaign that less is more? Most likely; the irony (on many levels) had me laughing on my commute to and from work. Regardless, it got me thinking about the success of these "meta" campaigns and also what agency would take on this project only to take a beating. 

This article in the New York Times informs that it really wasn't an ad agency willing to let Chipotle bash them in this campaign. The campaign was built in-house... but they were making light of all the advice given by former ad agencies. Hmm... maybe Chipotle just didn't look hard enough for an agency to fit their culture. Looking into other meta campaigns like the Donato's yes-we-sucked-but-now-we-don't, we find Crispin Porter and Bogusky behind that brainchild--an agency known for its quirky ads like the Whopper Freakout when consumers were told they couldn't get a Whopper on a hidden camera.

But thinking on Chipotle and Donato's "meta" campaigns it takes me back to my Movie Musicals courses and discussing self-reflective musicals (a musical that portrays others putting on a musical). It was suggested by Jane Feuer that these type of musicals hold a myth of the audience which when we see the audience in the musical reacting in a certain manner, we as the actual audience react in the same manner. So, as we watch these "Domino's hold outs" give in to trying the new Donato's pizza and loving it, we are wanting to give in and love it as well. Plus for many, as they heard the feedback in the focus groups in the first run of commercials for the campaign regarding the lacking old pizza, it was reinforcement of an opinion you held and forced you to listen as you felt a personal connection as to how those shared concerns would be addressed. As for Chipotle's meta campaign not having an audience to connect with, in my humble, yet somewhat biased towards the advertising (agency) industry, opinion, I think it makes them sound pretentious.  In saying that, these campaigns reflect another musical trait, camp, which many define as being ostentatious... I suppose the route on which Chipotle was headed.

Whether or not Chipotle's meta campaign is being viewed as they would hope or as I see it, it is important to note that most any brand properly involved in social media is in some ways involved in a meta campaign. Having your consumers have a very public place to address their concerns with your product/service and needing to provide a quick response to them requires some self-reference and an ability to give a voice to your brand. Social media is the meta-campaign without all the parody... although depending on whom you have managing the content for your social media, could still be quite campy.

Other References
Feuer, Jane. "The Self-Reflective Musical and the Myth of Entertainment." Hollywood Musicals: The Film Reader.
"Like Cardboard." - Seth Stevenson