Let’s do the naughty ones first!

This time of year everyone is making lists: Who’s in and out? What’s hot and not? Winning and losing streaks. Brett Favre. Pop culture is a Petri dish of lists. Given that it’s December, let’s start with the penultimate list: who’s naughty or nice? Forget Santa, it is we who gush over this list. That most of us want to be on the nice list is a given. But yet we are obsessed by the naughty list, aren’t we? For without the naughty there is no line for which to measure the nice.

Judging from all the visitors and comments on my last post I should be making lists 24/7. There I chose my top advertising campaign for 2010: Leo Burnett’s “Mayhem” campaign for Allstate. Many of you liked the choice. Some of you didn’t. It’s terrific work and I stand by it. The point I’d like to make here is that by making a choice I was being provocative. And provocation is part of a writer’s job, is it not?

I’m pretty sure some aspect of list-mania is thriving in most ad copy. If it isn’t the ad probably sucks. I’m damn sure the dynamic is driving social media. Brands covet “followers” and “fans.” They want “likes” and as many as they can get. What is crowd sourcing if it’s not a compilation of choices? And is not Groupon the quintessential aggregator? Mom’s shopping list has been conceptualized and monetized. What about dad’s to-do list? Or junior’s wish list? Herein lies the opportunity.

Entities like Twitter and Groupon do it with aplomb. Advertisers are getting there. Crispin’s “Whopper Sacrifice” for Burger King is a great example: List ten friends you would ding from your Facebook and get a sandwich. There’s no coupon. Nor were they trying to build the brand. “Whopper Sacrifice” provoked people by allowing them to make a naughty list. That’s it.

Bubbling beneath the surface of their infamous Dominoes “Oh yes we did” campaign is a provocation to consumers to list what they hated about bad pizza. That drama is what fires the campaign. Without it the company would just be defending its crappy pizza.

Maybe that’s the big truth about SO-ME. Lists, for lack of a better word, fire us up. Therefore, the big question for all of us in marketing communications is how do we harness this human desire to ‘list’ in order to provoke consumers on behalf of our clients?


For all its awesomeness, the advent of social media has ruined at least one thing (albeit minor) I used to love: the end-of-the-year list.

There was always something highly addictive about reading my favorite columnist’s top (and especially bottom!) ten choices in music, movies, books and the like. Not anymore. Mostly because I don’t have a favorite newspaper or magazine columnist. And that’s mostly because I don’t have a favorite magazine or newspaper. Not anymore. Now I rip through websites, blogs and magazines like some sort of content zombie. I still get off on lists but not nearly as much as BTI (Before The Internet).

Besides, now I tend to aggregate the results. I look for patterns and tendencies as opposed to details and specifics. I learned this behavior from the web. Take the website Rotten Tomatoes, for example. Here you can peruse countless reviews for any given movie as well as get the cumulative score on its greatness or lacking there of. Big deal you say. Actually it is. Not only has social media diminished the power and value of any one critic it has also made critics out of us all. Reread that last sentence. I’ve emboldened it for you! It is no doubt the most important one in this essay. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, WordPress, Blogspot and countless other entities everyone, and I mean everyone, is now a critic. Therefore, I don’t think end-of-the-year lists are all that interesting, unless, of course, one analyses them for patterns and tendencies!

Reflect for a moment…Remember when you actually gave a shit what Roger Ebert thought about a movie? Or Richard Corliss? Or Rolling Stone? Who? What?

Exactly. Which brings me to my final point and it is not a little one: We have all become a focus group. God help us.

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