As the president of the Social & Influencer jury at the 2019 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, PJ Pereira had to judge more than 1,500 entries and so has a pretty good idea of what standout social media engagement looks like. We caught up with the chairman and co-founder of US agency Pereira O’Dell to discuss the key principles that make for the most culturally fluent social campaigns: pace, personality and purpose.
A rapid pace, Pereira says, is critical to making great social media work but it should not come at the expense of quality. The National Roast Day tweets from US fast food chain Wendy’s are a great example of getting pace right. Every 4 January, Wendy’s dishes out insults to anyone who wants to be dissed.
Being mean has served Wendy’s well. The 2018 Roast earned 100 million media impressions and resulted in a 737% increase in brand mentions. According to Pereira, the success of the campaign is due to the ‘simplicity of responding quickly’.
Pereira says that the most successful social campaigns exhibit a strong voice for the brand. This is by no means easy to do. But, he argues, now that people have better training in social media and are better at writing for brands, building a great online personality should come more naturally.
This is not about people wanting brands to ‘act human’, he explains. ‘I don’t think there is necessarily a great desire from people to interact with brands. People do not hate advertising. They don’t love it either. They couldn’t care less. That makes us have to work harder to be interesting, to be worth their time and their attention.’
Here, Pereira means an authentic sense of mission that speaks to a brand’s values. He argues that not every brand needs to pick a side or be a social justice warrior.
Marketers should think of social media as an environment where people are connecting to each other, he says, like a party: ‘If you go to a party and say, “Hey, have you heard about my new brand of tampons?” you would never be invited again.'
‘Embracing a purpose allows you to do your pitch without annoying everyone. If you say, ‘Hey, did you see that Kaepernick ad about believing in something, even if it risks everything? It’s okay to have that conversation at a party.’ But brands should not feel like they need to talk about hard-hitting causes, as Nike did with its Dream Crazy ad. Pereira notes such conversations can be based around very silly propositions.
He cites a 2018 Assassin’s Creed Odyssey campaign, by DDB Paris, which is based around the ludicrous suggestion that NPCs (non-playable characters that are basically in the Ubisoft game just to be killed, knocked around or cheated) deserve our pity. For the global My Life as a NPC campaign, these characters took over Ubisoft's official social media channels, resulting in the best reach ever for the brand on social media, with an all-time high engagement rate of 138%, according to the agency.
Likewise, Wendy’s campaign to rid the world of frozen beef is not the most important thing, says Pereira. ‘But it’s okay to be sarcastic, to tell jokes at a party. That purpose, whether it's real or a fake, sarcastic one, creates a reason for you to be there, to bond with people that either believe in that same thing, or want in on the same joke.’
The world is a divided place at the moment and many brands are tapping into that, says Pereira. Going the other way and doing something lighthearted can get brands like Wendy’s noticed. ‘When everyone zigs, you zag,’ says Pereira. ‘It doesn’t matter that zigging is changing the world, zagging still stands out.’
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