Sentiment vs. Amplitude in Viral Advertising

By Andrew Frank | November 19, 2008 | 2 Comments

(Apologies to non-U.S. readers for the following)

Remember the episode of Cheers when Sam and Rebecca hire an ad agency to write a jingle for the bar, but they only have $200, so a hack shows up who keeps playing the tune to “Old MacDonald” on the piano, substituting the “E-I-E-I-O” part with the letters of “Cheers” (even though they don’t fit)? The punchline was, the tune was so annoying that it stuck in everyone’s head, and therefore made for very effective advertising. (I’m not going to embed it, but through the miracle of YouTube you can catch it here.)

Now Toyota has glommed on to this theory with their “Saved by Zero” spot, which flogs the message of zero-percent financing so irritatingly that they got coverage in Time magazine, along with a Facebook protest group. To illustrate the point that annoyance equates to free viral media exposure for Toyota, I will embed this here and warn you not to watch it.

 

From the Time article:

"Business stinks," says Toyota marketing spokesman Joe Tetherow. The company’s U.S. sales dropped 23% in October. "Our goal with the ad is to generate floor traffic, and it’s doing just that. The criticism keeps the deal out there, but even in a negative context, it can be a positive. I’m sorry that everybody didn’t like it."

There you have it, the old argument in the new media context.

Tying this back to our discussion about social media, the question becomes: when we measure sentiment, as so many social media monitors have invested so much in being able to do, and apply it to advertising, are we measuring the wrong thing? Traditional brand metrics often focus more on measures like aided and unaided recall, in the tacit assumption that remembering a message is more important than liking it.

The idealist in me would like to think that social media has made it more important to craft messages that resonate with audiences in positive way. Then there’s the cynical view.

2 Comments
  1. 19 November 2008 at 4:01 pm
    Brian Hellauer says:

    The Fixx have to be happy, if no one else…

  2. 24 November 2008 at 6:25 pm
    Martin Edic (Techrigy) says:

    Sentiment measurement in social media is a real double-edged sword (I know, we do it). Software doesn’t understand context, irony or humor. Measuring reactions to ads for sentiment is equally nebulous. So you write about the Toyota ad which is very annoying but is also fascinating for the animation thing they’re doing and…-wait a minute- that sentence I just wrote would come up as both negative and positive because it has negative words (annoying) and positive (fascinating). So you see the problem.
    We define our sentiment analysis as being an indicator, not an accurate measurement. Anyone who tells you they’re achieving anything close to accurate must be using humans to mark up results. It’s the only option for near 100% accuracy.
    I think where the real change is that in social media bad ads are not ignored, they’re vilified. And this has the perverse effect of extending their shelf life…

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