Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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When you try to emulate teen trends you end up looking foolish

July 22nd, 2006 by Seb Chan

Some reporting from Advertising Age on the new Wal-Mart ‘social networking’ and viral marketing campaign.

No doubt leery of all the problems with MySpace.com, Wal-Mart’s site disqualifies any video with “materials that are profane, disruptive, unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, vulgar, obscene, hateful, or racially or ethnically-motivated, or otherwise objectionable.” That’s why “pending approval” notes dominate pages already created and content is limited to a headline, a fashion quiz and a favorite song. Wal-Mart also plans to e-mail the parents of every registered teen, giving them the discretion to pull a submission.

Moreover, the retailer reserves the right to edit the commercial created with the winning video, obviously hoping to avoid the fate of Chevrolet’s Tahoe, which allowed consumers to create their own video spots unchecked and ended up with some unflattering results.

So a subversive, ironic ad by a savvy teen on how her dad’s hardware shop closed down after the retail goliath rolled into town would likely be “otherwise objectionable” to Wal-Mart.

The tight controls will work against Wal-Mart’s goal to make the site more edgy and will instead cement the retailer’s image as a conformist brand, said Tim Stock, a researcher with New York-based Scenario DNA, a research firm devoted to studying Gen Y.

“The second you try to create boundaries and draw a line around content and put a box around content, it becomes something else. Teens aren’t searching for what a company deems relevant, but what they deem relevant,” Mr. Stock said. “You can’t own it. When anyone tries to own it too much, then it becomes a problem. That’s the impression I get on this site.”

The ‘necessary’ lockdown/controls reminds me of the equally ‘necessary’ lockdown in ACMI’s ACMIparks priject as discussed earlier.

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