Scattered Brilliance

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Media for the people, by the people

More on the revolution:

H&R Block YouTube campaign gone bad.

When the marketing team at H&R Block put this campaign together, I don’t think they envisioned having to leave a comment like this in the comments of that same campaign;

“Hey there YouTubers. I’m the director of online marketing for H&R Block’s digital tax solutions. I appreciate your comments about transparency and I want to let you know that I couldn’t agree more. I thought we were pretty overt about making it clear that Truman was our creation and not a real person. The thought that anyone might think we were trying to pull one over on you makes me ill. Not the intention at all. So if you feel we led you astray, I sincerely apologize.
Truman is just our way of acknowledging that no one really wants to think about taxes and that we really have to go out on a limb to get anyone to pay attention to a (not very sexy) subject that could actually have a big impact on your pocket book.
Thanks for your Comments!
-A”

Wow, reading that again three thoughts cross my mind.

(1) The campaign missed the mark. The more you watch the fictional Truman, the more you actually like him. But the first impression I got was confusion over who Truman was and why he was talking to me on YouTube. I figured it out pretty quickly, but I immediately wrote him off.

(2) I feel terrible for “A” over at H&R Block. They clearly put creative effort, thought, and resources against this campaign. This response clearly wasn’t what they expected. Talk about having to eat crow.

(3) I give “A” a tremendous amount of credit for stepping up and joining the conversation around this campaign. I would encourage them to post a video response and to find a way to capitalize on the humor that lies underneath their character Truman.

New “conversational marketing” is a tricky space. I think the lines of content and advertising is often close to being crossed. I also think that the audience within many of the new media and social networking worlds are much more fickle and cynical towards advertising. If it doesn’t add value or if it’s “lame”, you run into situations like this.

It’s interesting. If this campaign ran on TV, would H&R Block have ever known if their character was resonating or not? If “Dude, your getting a Dell Steven” was a YouTube creation would he have been similarly dismissed as a “gay capitalist creation?

We are in a new world of marketing. One that is transparent both ways. Marketers must be transparent to consumers, because consumers won’t pull any punches with their views back.