Friday, 6 February 2009

Publicis' Failed Because it Missed its Mark: Teen-Appeal

Comment on AdAge to Bob Garfield's critique of Did Honeyshed Try Too Hard to Be Cool or Did It Not Try at All?

Well I got around to reading this spot-on review of Publicis' sad effort to try creating a new online 'destination' for teens AFTER reaction in the marketplace proved it to be a total and complete failure, so Bob has been proven prescient, once again. Not bad for a guy with some decidedly unfair critics. Indeed it is his job to have an opinion, not to pander to everyone or to be bland -- palatable to one and all. I must say I had exactly the same impression as Bob after spending some time on the site. None of this is about slagging the concept of the site, it was innovative and ambitious. Someone will get it right sometime soon, but I suspect that whoever does "get it" will turn out to be a team effort of 14 to 24 year olds working with a budget of $250 and a lot of heart and elbow grease, not $25 million.

What Bob very succinctly zeroed in on was the fact that Honeyshed looked and felt like it was created by exactly the type of creatives in their late 20's and early 30's we are all painfully familiar with. They play the latest games on a PlayStation 3 or an Xbox 360, know the names of all the teenage X Games stars and convince themselves this puts them in the same generation as teenagers today. Whoops! Not. 

In no way was Mr. Garfield going after innovative people across the board, nor was he straying from his expertise -- Honeyshed was one big advertisement, and ALL advertising today has to have an Internet component. (The WWW is just a new pipeline, like newsprint, radio or TV, but with the added value of interactivity. It is NOT a new 'discipline' and there's nothing other-worldly about it that excludes people older than the current batch of up-and-comers from critiquing marketing efforts attempted on it.)

From the start, this project (having read the near-god-like positioning that Maurice Levy took launching the project in a Fast Company article about it) had the malodorous whiff of a very expensive Publicis PR stunt, not a really serious, skunkworks project that they were intent on getting right. It's part of my job to track what's happening with marketing to all age demos and from the teens I know, they return to sites that truly capture their mindset -- Honeyshed had not a shred of 'stickiness' for this age group. It pandered and postured, as Bob quite rightly critiqued. Keep up the good work, Mr. Garfield!

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