This is so inverted or reflexive or something that it’s making my mind implode when trying to describe it! The people from “Reality TV” shows (which everyone knows isn’t real at all) Big Brother and Survivor have been placed inside a giant Yellow Pages billboard (which thus is now not really a billboard anymore) and are being pitted against one another. They’ll apparently be assigned tasks to complete via Yellow Pages interfaces on smartphones, YP websites, Facebook pages, Twitter, etc. (Reported on The Ads of the World)
So, let me try to boil this down to the basic concept if I can: this Yellow Pages company — you know, one of those companies working hard to prove they are still relevant in the modern world — therefore, a company trying to survive — is trying to do so by taking “reality” TV stars from shows which involve survival competition games — and having them play their survival-style games inside a billboard — games which apparently will involve challenging them to try to figure out how to use the Yellow Pages products to complete their tasks — all this to prove to real people in the really-real world that YP/IYP products are not only cool, but still useful to use and worthwhile to advertise in. Whew!
This smacks somehow of irony, although I can’t parse if that’s the technically correct term to use in this case.
In any event it’s still funny.
It’s obviously a very, very clever concept, and there’s absolutely no doubt that it will attract a lot of attention from people all over, such as yours truly. From that angle, the promotional value of this is quite effective.
However, I’m really wondering if they truly thought it all the way through — it would seem to be sending the wrong messages nine ways from Sunday.
I mean, it’s “postmodern” as hell, which seems nearly cool enough to qualify as conceptual art. But, it may be sending all sorts of negative subconscious suggestions that would work against the promotional intentions.
First, using such dramatically forced and unreal people to try to convince people in the real world to use yellow pages search interfaces seems misguided. If you have to go to such arcane lengths to convince people to use your product, something’s already wrong.
Second, it could result in making it appear difficult to use the interfaces — if the challenges are constructed badly, it could convince fans that it’s hard to use the yellow pages.
Third, if you were the yellow pages, wouldn’t you want to avoid association with something called “Survivor”? The traditional print yellow pages companies are fighting a very real-world conflict at this time, just to survive the transition from shrinking print market to the cheaper online market.
(I suppose it’s a good thing that Ma Bell, the giant phone company monopoly, was broken up years ago or else I’d say something about how people are suspicious of how phone companies could monitor them, and how it might be a good idea to avoid association with a show called “big brother” as a result!)
The campaign reminds me a lot of the Yellow Pages Hidden Pizza guerrilla marketing idea which I’ve also written about before. I think Hidden Pizza was actually a better idea, though, because it engaged with people a bit more strongly, and actually drove some consumer behavior more — the concept of using the promotional draw to train people for using your product beyond the life of the ad.
However, I think both “Hidden Pizza” and “Reality Billboard” are unlikely to really work as desired over the longterm. They’re highly entertaining, though.