While Web 2.0 may be of limited value, marketers who ignore it do so at their own risk. They just need to be aware of its limitations.
To begin with, it’s not going to replace television. Theater has been around for thousands of years. That means sitting back and letting someone else tell you a story. It’s a wonderful feeling to enjoy what John Gardner called a “vivid and continuous dream.” It’s something people in just about every culture on earth have created. Television is just the latest incarnation of theater, one that allows you to watch a show without leaving home. DVRs and other devices just take that one step farther and let you watch it when you want rather than at a set time.
Now “television” will no doubt change (has already changed) from the days of 3 networks and rabbit ears. But the ultimate experience—of watching actors perform some sort of show—isn’t going away. It may be delivered on the internet to your computer, you may get it via some sort of universal “on demand” system, but it will still be television. And it will be passive, rather than interactive. Because most people don’t want to be able to buy the wristwatch the hero is wearing online while they’re watching TV or chat online with the 20 million other people watching The Office about Pam’s new hairstyle. Because, among other reasons, most people are not watching TV alone.
YouTube isn’t replacing television either (a surprisingly common misperception) – it’s something people watch in addition to television. There aren’t that many things on YouTube worth watching. And spending 5 minutes a day on there doesn’t mean you’ve suddenly decided to drop Entourage.
Which brings me to another point, something that’s overlooked by the Web 2.0 types, most of whom tend to come from a media, rather than creative, background: Quality. Or the lack thereof.
You see, not many people actually want to “create content” – whether that content is a blog comment in response to something they’ve read, or a funny video on YouTube. And within that tiny subset of “content creators” there are precious few who can actually create “compelling content”—things that people actually want to watch or read. It’s a fact that the Web 2.0 gurus need to learn and it’s proving to be their Achille’s heel: A poorly written corporate blog is a lot worse than no blog at all. And the odds of having a poorly written corporate blog are astonishingly high, unless you happen to be GE or IBM and have the wherewithal to pay for a talented writer.
Lack of quality is also a big problem in so-called “viral marketing.” Why “so-called?” Because something only becomes viral when other people say it is. When other people determine that it’s clever enough or relevant enough to be passed on. Just calling it “viral” doesn’t make it so. And with so many people creating things that are supposed to be “viral” it stands to reason that most of them will suck.
Look at the Smirnoff “Tea-Partay” video that won all sorts of awards at Cannes. It’s probably one of the best “viral” videos out there, but if you pit it against sketch comedy television, it’s luster begins to fade. Because let’s be real- if “Tea-Partay” was on Saturday Night Live it would be cited as further proof that the show isn’t what it used to be. It would be somewhere in the middle of the pack of this season’s skits. Compare it to “Lazy Sunday,” one of the better recent SNL videos and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Okay, looks like this is a three or even four -parter. Since today we covered the problems of Web 2.0, tomorrow we’ll go over the solutions. And probably even get to why you shouldn’t write off TV commercials.
June 2008 Update (via Adweek)