My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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my role in a marketer’s dream

This morning, I spoke on a panel at the Retail Industry Leaders Association. The day before, a guy from Unilever gave a presentation on what happens when users take up your content and spread it all across the web. He was invited to be on the panel at the last moment because of a cancellation and because his presentation was so well received wrt Web 2.0. Right before we go on, I’m informed that the guy from Unilever was talking about the Dove Evolution campaign that was spread all over YouTube.

This is the moment where I went white.

Y’see… I played a role in that. I saw the Dove Evolution ad and wanted it to be spread around, especially to the anti-violence against women folks that I was connected to through V-Day and the teens who I was talking with. I was pissed off that it wasn’t on YouTube or in any embeddable format (at the time it wasn’t findable, but since, it appears as though people did post it before me). I knew it needed to be embeddable to be spreadable. So, with the help of some tech-savvy friends, I scraped the Flash video from the Unilever site and uploaded it to YouTube. And then I posted it to MySpace. And then I posted it to other video sharing sites. And then I sent it to a bunch of friends. And then I blogged about it. I knew it was interesting and spreadable and wanted it to reach certain audiences. So I scraped and uploaded and blogged. And I gave copies of the scraped version to others to upload in case someone tried to take it down.

I wasn’t the sole contributor to its proliferation on the web. Other versions had more views and bigger blogs posted links to various versions. Every few months, I would get a letter from someone asking if they could use the video for this that or the other. Lately, people had been writing to me as though I was the producer of that commercial and I always responded that I was not. Collectively, this ad was viewed as important and because of this, various folks got involved in spreading it. Myself included. Beyond that, I didn’t think about it.

It seems as though this “phenomenon” was a big deal to Unilever, an event that made them realize the power of Web2.0 and spreadable content. While I had been worrying about C&Ds as a result of reposting it, they were struck speechless by the spread and were all in favor of it. In other words, they were doing exactly what a company should be doing when something they put out there becomes a user phenomenon. And, somehow, I was doing exactly what a good “fan” should do, even though I had never thought of it that way. I tend not to analyze my own habits, but sure enough, I was helping fulfill a marketer’s dream. Only it never dawned on me cuz I was busy observing others’ activities. Oh, the irony.

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14 comments to my role in a marketer’s dream

  • Sometimes your dreams just happen to converge with those of someone in marketing, because every now and then marketers actually have good dreams. Don’t worry – it doesn’t mean you’re about to sprout whiskers and turn into a weasel. ; )

  • Yeah though I’ve been increasingly annoyed at the marketing folks’ use of viral video, blogs, and such.

    This one, and anything you’d spread has a good message, and probably took to task the Photoshop revolution in regards to beauty standards. This one doesn’t bug be because its for a non-profit sector programming of a for-profit company.

    But there’s been so much abuse of this lately, that I expect to be watching a cool video, and it turns out to be a commercial. Its rude. and a trick. I think I’m going to boycott any company that uses viral marketing for its own profit.

  • When I see something I like, I share it. Period. I am a strong believer in Capitalism and I love seeing symbiotic relationships. I do hate anything that is trying to be subliminal or corrosive. However, what on this planet isn’t? Everyone has their own motives. Just try and read between the lines get the real message, and keep a mental note what the other stuff was. It’s hard to see the truth in anything. When I try and break all the other stuff down, all I see is religions.

    Anywho.

    Danah, I want to chat about the social graph. 🙂

    Do you think facebook apps are just kids play? Will they evolve?

    Thanks.

    –Scott Thorpe

  • So, I’m wondering (and have been wondering) if it would have won all the awards it did without it having been virally spread? (An interesting, recursive analysis that I do with my media students.)

    But good on Unilever to have a clue that this was a good thing. And, of course, it brings us to the sequel, Onslaught.

  • Encourage a powerful person to do good, and blame him abruptly when he is wrong. Marketers are not bad person: they are too powerful for they own good, that’s all.

  • “Encourage a powerful person to do good, and blame him abruptly when he is wrong. Marketers are not bad person: they are too powerful for they own good, that’s all.”

    Especially in this age. Perception is reality, what caused that? Competition. Example: “Hey, I can jump higher than you. No you can’t, I can jump higher than you!” When we advance past this flashy picture box and into a age of idea = action(talk, move). We will finally be free from this picture box that doesn’t hear us.

    –Scott

  • As I commented in my last web post, the folks in one division of Unilever probably don’t talk to those in another division. Still, the contrast between the Dove and the Axe commercials is pretty amusing:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3u6Qh099AK0

  • As I commented in a recent blog post, the folks in one division of Unilever probably don’t talk to those in another division. Still, the contrast between the Dove and the Axe commercials is pretty amusing:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3u6Qh099AK0

  • Dana
    I often try to trace the buzz around the blogsphere.
    I had a similar feeling during another (smaller size) event in which I followed a buzz word (“bacn”) from its early start (I wrote about it on my facebook wall a day after it evolved).
    (see: Bacn: four days to tipping point at: http://www.trendsspotting.com/blog/?p=206))

    We are all part of a great machine.
    As to Dove -I was sure that Unilever was the one to place it on the web. You sure taught marketers a great lesson.
    As to me – I’m worried – marketers will eventually learn the “how”, “what”, & “where” and we will have to start it all from the beginning.
    Don’t you think?

  • Dana
    I often try to trace the buzz around the blogsphere.
    I had a similar feeling during another (smaller size) event in which I followed a buzz word (bacn) from its early start (I wrote about it on my facebook wall a day after it evolved).
    (see: Bacn: four days to tipping point at
    )http://www.trendsspotting.com/blog/?p=206

    Yes, we are all part of a great machine.
    As to Dove -I was sure that Unilever was the one to place it on the web. You sure taught marketers a great lesson.
    As to me -I’m worried – marketers will eventually learn the “how”, “what”, & “where” and we will have to start it all from the beginning.
    Don’t you think?

  • cj maupin

    hi danah

    cj maupin here. i was part of the team — along with liz g — that brought you in to speak at that hp conference in february this year.

    i am now working at ogilvy & mather, the agency that produced and placed the dove “evolution” video.

    i can say definitively that — while many people scraped and spread the evolution film as you did — it was first posted on youtube by two fantastic women creative directors from ogilvy toronto who conceived and produced the film on the shoestring. with no media budget and this catalyst for a conversation they believed was important, they — along with a fantastic unilever brand manager — got it out there into the blogosphere. and it inspired a global conversation like no one expected, and created a movement.

    this wasn’t a crass commercial ploy and it wasn’t all altruism either. it has sold a bit of soap. but it was grounded in something bigger and more important — the belief that the world would be a better place if women were allowed to feel good about themselves — and based on research that showed that …

    * Only 2 percent of women think they are beautiful.

    * 85% of women say they feel worse about themselves after paging through a fashion magazine.

    * That bulimia and anorexia were unknown in the Fiji Islands until the advent of television.

    … and more.

    the fact that many people choose to spread the word and encourage the conversation, demonstrates that this was an idea that was much bigger and more meaningful than any ad campaign could hope to be. and influential and vocal people such as yourself may be having the happy effect of keeping marketers honest and authentic … or blogging them to death.

    cheers,
    cj

  • cj maupin

    hi danah

    cj maupin here. i was part of the team — along with liz g — that brought you in to speak at that hp conference in february this year.

    i am now working at ogilvy & mather, the agency that produced and placed the dove “evolution” video.

    i can say definitively that — while many people scraped and spread the evolution film as you did — it was first posted on youtube by two fantastic women creative directors from ogilvy toronto who conceived and produced the film on the shoestring. with no media budget and this catalyst for a conversation they believed was important, they — along with a fantastic unilever brand manager — got it out there into the blogosphere. and it inspired a global conversation like no one expected, and created a movement.

    this wasn’t a crass commercial ploy and it wasn’t all altruism either. it has sold a bit of soap. but it was grounded in something bigger and more important — the belief that the world would be a better place if women were allowed to feel good about themselves — and based on research that showed that …

    * Only 2 percent of women think they are beautiful.

    * 85% of women say they feel worse about themselves after paging through a fashion magazine.

    * That bulimia and anorexia were unknown in the Fiji Islands until the advent of television.

    … and more.

    the fact that many people choose to spread the word and encourage the conversation, demonstrates that this was an idea that was much bigger and more meaningful than any ad campaign could hope to be. and influential and vocal people such as yourself may be having the happy effect of keeping marketers honest and authentic … or blogging them to death.

    cheers,
    cj

  • Ged

    Personally I feel really uncomfortable that Unilever are wrapping themselves in the clothing of respecting women when they still put out messages that reinforce the stereotypes that lead them to think (as CJ Maupin pointed out):

    * Only 2 percent of women think they are beautiful.

    * 85% of women say they feel worse about themselves after paging through a fashion magazine.

    * That bulimia and anorexia were unknown in the Fiji Islands until the advent of television.

    If Unilever and their shareholders really believe it they’d put their money where their mouth is and stop degrading women in their communications about all their products.

    Don’t feel bad about being co-opted, the campaign is designed to manipulate and deceive, even if some of those involved manage to deceive themselves along the way.

    Your kind of adoption of the communication will hopefully do more good than the corporate cynicism that spawned it.

  • Thought you should see this….
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwDEF-w4rJk

    Love your work! Thanks for blogging 🙂

    Heidi