Antic Advertising; You Know It When You See It
By Kathleen Vrona
The dictionary definition of “antic” is:
-a playful trick or prank: caper
-a grotesque, fantastic, or ludicrous gesture, act or posture
-fantastic, odd, grotesque
Does this sound familiar to you? Seen any advertising lately that fit the description above?
We coined the term “Antic Advertising” to describe an advertising campaign that is designed purely to attract the public’s attention and go viral. We were compelled to create a new term while researching “viral marketing” for our book, 100 Small Fires to Make Your Book Sales Blaze. After weeks of researching viral marketing strategies, we concluded that it was time viral marketing underwent some stratification. These days, not everything labeled “viral marketing” really fits the bill. In our opinion, viral marketing is a related but somewhat different strategy than Antic Advertising. Viral marketing should be used to denote a marketing strategy that encourages people to pass along a marketing message or to share a product. The campaign is still designed to go viral but involves a more thoughtful strategic approach with viral components seeded in the campaign. A classic example of a viral marketing strategy is Hotmail.
Hotmail was one of the first free web based email services. At the bottom of every free email message sent out was the tag line, “Get your private, free email at Hotmail.com.” So, every time a user of Hotmail sent an email, the marketing message was spread. Simple, but brilliant. And it wasn’t about getting attention or national media coverage with crazy stunts, it was about seeding the product with a viral component so it spread rapidly like a virus. In our humble opinion, that’s the difference between viral marketing and Antic Advertising.
Another example of an effective viral marketing strategy is what companies like LeadsLeap, Simply Measured and even Google are doing; these companies offer free yet valuable interactive tools as a way to increase brand awareness and sales. The tools often include marketing messages and carry links to the companies web site. Also, they may represent “lite” versions of a more robust tool so there is an opportunity to upsell the customer once they are hooked on the “free” version.
Interactive tools can be in the form of grading tools (see Hub Spots Web Site Grader), calculators, random word generators, surveys, assessments or tests. The sky is truly the limit. They can be the one thing that gets visitors to return to your web site again and again or refer their friends. In other words, interactive tools are sometimes the best viral marketing opportunities because they are often shared.
So what is Antic Advertising? Antic Advertising is about attracting attention–national media attention if you are really lucky–by doing or creating something incredibly random, hilarious, controversial, clever, interesting, dangerous, surreal, crazy, sexy, scary, cool (you get the idea). In other words, doing anything it takes to get the public’s attention. .
This type of advertising can be in the form of an event, video, text message, article or blog, or it can be a series or combination of these things. Antic Advertising campaigns are typically not designed to sell products meaning there is no strong “call to action” during the ad; in some cases, the ads don’t even mention a product or service. Many antic ads are actually one-off efforts and not part of a larger campaign or strategy.
Today, marketing antics have reached a new fever pitch. The stakes keep getting higher, the bar keeps getting raised. Take the recent Nike ads with NBA star Kobe Bryant as a perfect example; to advertise their new Hyperdunk shoes, the company launched a series of videos featuring Kobe jumping over a bunch of crazy things, including an Aston Martin and a pool of snakes.
The pace and overall feel of many antic ads is more maniacal, desperate and random than strategic. And while many times these campaigns miss the mark–becoming so hilarious or ridiculous that no one is paying attention to the company or product–they can also be incredibly successful. It can be the cheapest form of advertising if it works and writers are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this strategy because success can be enhanced by an innovative and creative approach.
An example of Antic Advertising done right– meaning less random or desperate and more strategic– is TNT’s “We Know Drama” campaign conducted on the streets of a small town in Belgium. The TV station put a red button on a pedestal in a quiet square with a sign above that read “Push to add drama”. When someone pushes the button, an elaborate scene is played out in the square: an ambulance pulls up, sirens blare, the patient falls out of the back of the ambulance, two men start to fight each other, a bikini clad girl drives by on a motorcycle (ok, there is a little “random” in this one), more cars screech into the square, a gun battle ensues…you get the picture. The subsequent video has become a viral success. Check it out for yourself here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=316AzLYfAzw
Antic Advertising can be incredibly powerful because if done right (and it works) awareness for you or your brand can spread faster than any paid advertising campaign could hope to achieve. And the beauty is, the public is doing the spreading, not a high cost agency, so this type of advertising can be the most affordable form of advertising available today.
Can Antic Advertising work for promoting a book? We think it can. For the author struggling to get awareness for their book in a crowded market, it’s a potentially powerful opportunity, and one you should seriously consider. Remember, however, that getting attention with a headline grabbing publicity stunt is only part of the battle, albeit arguably the hardest part. After you have their attention, you need to know how to channel it into book sales. In marketing terms, you need to have a plan to engage the customer after you have their attention.
Now for the disclaimers. Will it work every time? No. Is it a gamble? Yes. There are no guarantees with this strategy; it can be hard to predict what will go viral. Some Antic Advertising campaigns are wildly successful taking a company or product from relative obscurity to a household word overnight. Others miss the mark entirely and sit in a dark corner of the web never seeing the light of day. Is it worth a try? We believe so. But be prepared to experiment, and if you can afford it, try a few different concepts. Some will burn out but others may just start a blaze.
When thinking about creating an antic campaign, get creative. Here are some ideas to spark “out of the box” thinking.
1. Create a mock interview: write a script for an interview and have a friend or journalism major interview you on video and put the interview on You Tube. Make it funny, random, outrageous and poke fun at what your book isn’t while at the same time, getting across what it is.
2. Create a mockumentary about reading as entertainment. Compare it to other forms of entertainment (you could really go after reality television or the lack of narrative depth in other forms of entertainment) and make fun of the shortfalls while at the same time highlighting what’s great about reading as a past time.
3. Leverage or play off of famous campaigns that went viral like the “Will it Blend” Blendtec campaign. Blend your book on video and post to You Tube. Or play off the TNT campaign described above; hire drama students or members of your local community theatre to act out a scene from your book in a very public place. Make sure and create a video and distribute via your social media “outposts”.
4. Hold a contest for the best puppet skit of a scene from your book (ala the Potter Puppet Pals seen on You Tube), solicit input from the public and create a YouTube Channel just for these skits. Award a prize to the one that gets the most views.
5. Break a world record (if you are promoting a cookbook, bake the worlds’ largest pizza).
6. Organize a protest related to a theme in your book. Or flip that idea on its head. At a book signing event, pay people to stand in front of the book store and protest you. Give them signs that say “Down with (your name). His book made us think and it hurt our brains.” You will probably get noticed. You may even get coverage from the local media.
When you get antic ad block, check out web sites like BuzzFeed, and Viral Video Chart to see what’s hot on the web and what’s going viral at any given time to get ideas.
If you are wondering if Antic Advertising is for you, keep in mind that writers have been pulling antics to get attention for centuries. In the 2011 essay How Writers Build the Brand, author Tony Perrottet recounted several examples of how writers throughout history have conducted crazy stunts to promote their books including the following:
“Perhaps the most astonishing P.R. stunt — one that must inspire awe among authors today — was plotted in Paris in 1927 by Georges Simenon, the Belgian-born author of the Inspector Maigret novels. For 100,000 francs, the wildly prolific Simenon agreed to write an entire novel while suspended in a glass cage outside the Moulin Rouge nightclub for 72 hours. Members of the public would be invited to choose the novel’s characters, subject matter and title, while Simenon hammered out the pages on a typewriter. A newspaper advertisement promised the result would be “a record novel: record speed, record endurance and, dare we add, record talent!” It was a marketing coup. As Pierre Assouline notes in “Simenon: A Biography,” journalists in Paris “talked of nothing else.”
Our fore-authors were no different from us and wanted the same things that we do; to create something that gets the greatest amount of attention in the shortest period of time with the lowest cost. Again, the key is to know what you are going to do once you have everyone’s attention. How will you to turn that awareness into consideration for you and your book?
Find more book marketing and Antic Advertising ideas in 100 Small Fires To Make Your Book Sales BLAZE!. Go here to order: