Monday, October 12, 2009

The Fun Theory Made Me Do It

I've been wrestling for weeks now about what my first blog should be about here on Social Deviants. However, before I dive into the post, let me tell you why it's taken me, a writer and a marketing, advertising and brand strategist, who's neck-deep in social media, ecommerce and the entertainment industry with over a decade of experience, this long to start a blog that is an extension of who I am and what I do.

Honestly, I'm not sure I really have a good reason. I'll tell you that I really felt, and still do sometimes, that blogs are a dime a dozen...especially ones that talk ad nauseum about advertising, marketing and social media. I've read The Tipping Point, Bowling Alone, Blink, Anderson's Long Tail theory and a library full of other books with titles I've forgotten, though whose teachings I hope I have retained to some degree or another. I still stalk Faith Popcorn, and I read Seth Godin's blog and follow Chris Brogan on Twitter and am part of many related groups on LinkedIn where I throw in my two cents now and again. I subscribe to countless newsletters from Springwise, The Cool Hunter, Trendwatching, and so on, but you don't need me to "name drop" my daily to-do list, for lack of a better phrase.

I think, ultimately, why I never started my own blog dealing with many of the same topics you'll likely read elsewhere was that I never really felt like I fit into "that" world. The last thing the world needs is another talking head who claims they're an expert on one topic or another, whether giving their opinion on CNN or in the blogosphere.

So why did I change my mind? Bottom line -- I have something to say from time to time that won't fit on my blog about my son. I've got enough miles under my feet, and more than enough food for the thought, that if anything, I need a place to sort out my feelings about what's taking place in the modern world of marketing and branding. Maybe you'll agree from time to time. Maybe you won't. Maybe I'm just writing this for an audience of one. But, there are no maybes about my need to do this now.

Social Deviants isn't just me either (thus the 's' in Deviants). You'll see posts from my partner-in-crime and co-worker, Taylor Vick. While I'm the Gen X cynic, she's the Gen Y hope. She is the social media maven with a passion for personal connections, transparency and results. She'll be introducing herself soon.

Back to what finally drove me (no pun intended) to write this first blog: Have you seen the new Volkswagen The Fun Theory campaign? When I got chills and misty-eyed from watching the two ad spots, I knew I couldn't keep my enthusiasm and passion bottled up any longer.

While I'd been in music writing, marketing and promotions for years, my first job with an ad agency came in 2001 with Michaelides & Bednash, an award-winning ad agency based in London (though I worked at the new satellite New York offices at the time).

I had come to New York in 1999 with four job offers on the table. The Internet boom was still, well, booming (from my viewpoint anyway), and so I took the one offering the most money. I couldn't believe my good fortune. I was in New York, making more money than I ever had in my life, and was on top of the world. And then I wasn't. Like so many others, I found myself on the receiving end of a pink slip and some severance by the end of 2000.

I was perilously close to the end of the Unemployment train when I did what lots of people do -- I reached out to every friend and friends of friends in hopes one of them had a line on something that would prevent me from having to move back in with Mom. That's when I found Michaelides & Bednash (Thanks, Moh!).

M&B taught me to get to the heart of the good idea (or The Big Idea as Donny Deutsch would say) and figure out how and why an idea was a good one. It was about making an impact, not on pop culture, but within it. It was unbearably frustrating for the me, the newbie, to toss out what I thought were great ideas one after the other because they "meant nothing to the brand's ethos and strategy," and were nothing more than "here today, gone tomorrow" because they didn't "cut through the clutter" and "resonate" with pop culture, and were simply "irrelevant." Oh my god, I wanted to scream, and did...often.

At some point, somewhere down the line of reading all those books and sitting at that long table of creative equality, it finally clicked. I finally understood why campaigns like Avis "We Try Harder," Nike's "Just Do It" and Volkswagen's 1958 "Think Small" campaigns were different, better. The list of adjectives is long, but I choose three: They were authentic, relevant and brilliant. They were able to get to the root of what was currently driving pop culture at that time; they were able to look inward at what their company not only was, but was going to be; and they were able to find a way for those things to matter and speak to consumers in creative and often genius ways.

When I read about and watched Volkswagen's The Fun Theory this morning, I got that same itch -- that passion for ideas that transcend ads and traditional marketing, that pioneer thought and change behavior. I encourage you to take a look at what Volkswagen has done. Anyone can make a clever car ad that says "Hey, look how fuel efficient and eco-friendly we are as a company!" But few can get you to change your behavior toward your health, the environment and social responsibility without having the brand shoved down your throat, much less by making it FUN.

I had to write this post. And I look forward to scratching that itch here often - sharing what I've gleaned, igniting debate on this and that or just learning something new along the way. And I promise that not all my posts will be as long as the M&B table.


  1. In a world of cynics and narccists the videos you shared reveal that when we set our minds to it, we can leave the world better than we found it. Thanks so much for reaching out!

  2. Update: AdAge reports the following about the Fun Theory - Volkswagen's "The Fun Theory," a spot from DDB Sweden that joined the list for the first time last week, continues to resonate with viewers, unseating Evian's roller-skating babies from the No. 1 spot. An ongoing testament to a feel-good stunt-slash-social experiment, the spot raked in 2.4 million views last week, an 83% increase from its debut week on the list. *The Visible Measures Top 10 Viral Video Ad Campaigns Chart focuses on brand-driven viral video ads that appear on online-video-sharing destinations.