25th June 2009

give them shirley temple
Seventy-five years after turning to the curly haired child actress for
comfort, people again need something to lift the gloom. Through
digital, brands can give them just what they are looking for.
                                                                                             documented as selling well in a
                                                                                             recession and Barb’s latest figures
                                                                                             show that viewing of commercial
                                                                                             television channels was up in Feb-
                                                                                             ruary by minutes a week on the
                                                                                             same month last year.

                                                                                             So what does this mean for digital and
                                                                                             for the brands digital practitioners

                                                                                             It won’t have escaped your attention
                                                                                             that we are now officially in rec-
                                                                                             ession, but brands still need to reach
                                                                                             people where they are and represent
                                                                                             themselves effectively.

                                                                                             Digital offers three key advantages
                                                                                             over other media that enable us
                                                                                             to capitalise on the Shirley Temple
Damian Ferrar – director of digital, Katie Streten – head of digital strategy Imagination    Effect and make it relevant to 2009.

                                                                                             First, it is based on content; second,
     n 1934, a cute little curly haired               experience that would take them        no one property is in control of the
     cherub bounced on to US film                     away from the world outside and let    platform and, third, it is a medium
     screens, singing On The Good                     them dream for a while.                that almost demands conversation.
     Ship Lollipop and single-handedly
saved Fox Films from bankruptcy.                      The impact of Bright Eyes and the      Advertising has always been about
Remember that 1934 was the height                     other films in which Temple starred    making an emotional connection
of the Great Depression, when                         was so great, so important, that a     one way or another, even if it’s purely
Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?                        phrase has been coined from it. The    giving you security in knowing that
was the most popular song around,                     Shirley Temple Effect describes how,   you are buying the best.
when labourers waited cap in hand                     during tough times, people have
in the soup kitchen for a handout.                    turned to affordable entertainment     But when we introduce sustained
                                                      to take their minds off the doom       storytelling, we can augment that
Yet those who did have disposable                     and gloom of their everyday exist-     emotional connection. Who goes
income were spending it on a media                    ence. Toys, for instance, have been    to the effort of understanding their
cont...                                                                                                        25th June 2009

customers more than brands? Chan-         It’s quite obvious that “In The Mother-   It is this conversational and personal
nelling that expert knowledge into        hood” could have been a television        element of digital that provides
the creation of genuinely entertaining    show in its own right, but then           the greatest opportunity. The myth
content creates the opportunity to        there would never have been the           of the Depression is that the films
embed brand values in people’s lives      opportunities for Suave and Sprint to     produced by the Hollywood studios
and loves.                                engage real mums in the creation of       were all glamour and escapism. But
                                          episodes through the submission of        that only represents half the story.
At one level, we’re not suggesting        their own experiences and storylines.     Many films spoke to the audiences
anything more revolutionary than          In the gift economy of the internet,      of the sadness outside, and gave
the old Procter & Gamble production       the more you give, the higher your        them the opportunity to imagine
unit soap operas. But add to that         currency is raised – and it’s far         their own struggles up there on
the ability to include the interactive    easier to devise truly entertaining       the screen.
and conversational elements that          gift experiences when you are in
the digital space both offers and         control of the platform they are          Digital does this more effectively
demands, and clients will quickly         given on.                                 than any broadcast medium. And
appreciate the unique opportunity to                                                that is the difference that will make it
develop lasting relationships of value    Put it this way: if you want to put       so valuable. Unlike broadcast media,
to the consumer and the brand.            an ad on a television channel, there      digital can turn us all into Shirley
                                          is no choice but for brands to buy        Temple, from those who simply
There are, of course, good and bad        space. That’s money that could go         engage in reviewing and critiquing
ways to deliver content, particularly     into making great content. If you         our digital experience, to those
for a UK-focused campaign. The more       are lucky or your client has allocated    who actively create and upload new
subtle and overarching the brand          enough within the budget, you             stories and assets.
involvement, the more effective the       may be invited to create a restricted
involvement will be. Early content        microsite on that channel’s web           If we can recognise this and devise
models such as “Where Are The             presence which will afford you more       entertaining experiences that reach
Joneses?” (www.wherearethejoneses.        opportunities to engage with your         audiences where they are and in
com) placed the commissioning             audience. But if you want to put your     modes acceptable to them, we will
brand, Ford in this case, in the          own film content on that microsite,       deliver far more value to brands
background and limited explicit           well, that might require a little more    than can ever be achieved through
mentions only to stings at the end of     time; and time, as we unfortunately       broadcast messaging alone. And we
content episodes. Yet Ford was one        know, is money.                           can mostly achieve this because of,
of the most talked-about brands in                                                  and not in spite of, the straightened
the blogosphere during the run of         On the other hand, if you want to         economic climate.
the comedy. Later models such as “In      engage your users in a multiplayer
The Motherhood” (http://itm. abc.go       online immersive drama, or invite
.com) in the US are slightly more overt   them to submit storylines for a soap
about the involvement of the telecoms     opera that you film and host on
company Sprint and Unilever’s Suave       your own platform, with a site and
shampoo brand, but, again, the            conversation unrestricted by any
content takes centre stage and has        other competing brand, well, that’s
been so successful that it has moved      a far more efficient and effective
from online only to become a              way to allow your brand into a very
primetime show on ABC.                    intimate space with them.
Where the conversation goes depends on how you ignite it

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