Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Can't fool all the people all the time

There is great jubilation and great consternation in the media community over the prospect that 70% of Americans will have broadband Internet connections in their homes by the end of this year, if the present trend continues.

Internet slowpokes became a minority in 2004, as competitive pricing and easy-to-use technology encouraged 55% of the population to step up to DSL or cable modems. If you extrapolate the adoption curve, then it is fair to conclude that 70% of households will be hooked to fast pipes by the end of this year and 90% of homes will be broadbanding by the end of 2006, if "broadbanding" indeed is a verb.

Media people are happy about this, because broadband provides a fatter pipe to deliver:

Advertising. Valuable new things to read. Advertising. Valuable new things to view. Advertising. Valuable new things to hear. And advertising.

Did I mention advertising?

Some media visionaries are worried that not enough stuff is being produced to satisfy the growing appetite of the increasingly wired public. "More than one in four consumers surveyed already watch online video each week," says Michael Zimbalist, president of the Online Publishers Association. "Our research suggests that they have an appetite for more."

But other media visionaries are worried about overdoing it. "Rich media is becoming the standard ad vehicle on the Internet," says consultant Neil Perry, whose remarks were quoted by Ad Age. "Too much of a good thing can kill a golden goose."

Neil didn't mention the silly Lincoln Fry promo from his alma mater, McDonald's. But if it isn't a goose killer, then I don't know what is.

The Lincoln Fry campaign, kicked off with the obligatory Super Bowl ad, is based on a mythical couple who come across a french fry shaped like the head of Abraham Lincoln. Viewers were directed to a web site featuring an extended video in which the spud-struck couple becomes increasingly protective of the prized fry. The excruciatingly thin plot is elaborately and expensively executed with a fake blog, downloadable wallpaper and other nonsense.

Apart from reminding people in a deeply subliminal fashion that McDonald's sells french fries, I am not sure of the point of this offbeat promotion. Mercifully, the campaign will end when the Lincoln Fry is auctioned off on on Feb. 12, Lincoln's birthday.

Given that proceeds will go to charity, it's nice to know bids now surpass $30,000. It's also frightening to know that bids now surpass $30,000.

The real test of an online campaign is whether it draws eyeballs to a web site, where consumers can be encouraged to part with their money at the sponsor's place of business. By that measure, this promotion appears to have flopped, ranking in the mid-400,000s of web site popularity on Alexa.Com.

In so doing, this Small Fry promotion proves that Honest Abe got it right when he said: You can't fool all the people all the time.


Blogger Mike said...

The Lincoln Fry campaign is nothing compared its most bizarre predecessor: the Burger King S&M chicken experiment. Either way, it's nice to see innovative advertising that doesn't try to deceive consumers outright (like the guerrilla marketing that goes on in trendy coffee shops and crowded bars).

9:25 AM  

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