In late January, famous actor Ashton Kutcher tweeted that he wanted real contact with real people. In that tweet, he also published his phone number and invited people to send him a text message to connect and stay in touch, in this way.
Many media broadcast this unexpected call from the Hollywood star. Really, how can you resist such a nice request? Don’t we all want a true and honest relationship with other people? After all, Ashton is just a man of flesh and blood and wants contact with the ordinary world. Isn’t that wonderful?
We don’t know how many people answered to Ashton Kutcher and and texted him back, we only know that everyone who did it got an automatically generated response that it wasn’t really a connection with him personally, but with a company that creates their own users’ community and that they should register on the page via posted link for further use of the service. Of course, you are supposed to share all the data on this link – name, surname, date of birth, address and everything that goes along with it.
So, forget the direct and personal relationship with Ashton, even the number you sent the message to doesn’t belong to him. So the situation has now become clearer. Perhaps Ashton Kutcher really suffers from a lack of real contact with real people, but what we deal with here is a regular marketing campaign that uses a well-known personality to promote a product or service of the company that hired it.
In this very case, the idea of the Community was obviously, to offer to celebrities the services of increasing the number of fans and maintaining communication with them on the one hand, and to obtain a base of potential customers in return, that would be monetized by offering to companies promoting and selling their products.
Judging by the Community’s website, business is not doing so well. And that shouldn’t be such a big surprise. A campaign designed in this way is a great example of what happens when a marketing strategy that functioned well in the former media environment is applied in a new media context without any adaptations.
When the number of media channels was limited, the attention of their users was clearly divided, and their commercialization took place through a media buying. How much media space you rent, so much media attention you’ll get. There were clearly defined formats in which this could have been done. These were TV spots, radio commercials, newspaper ads, PR articles, and similar formats. (It is good that all these dying forms still exist on surviving traditional media, so we can still remember how they look.)
If in this media environment some company hired a celebrity for its advertising campaign, it would increase its media potential, because, besides renting media space, it also rented the media popularity of this person. Unlike the media buying, which was a prerequisite for the potential buyer to know what was being offered to him, the popularity of a celebrity served to establish an additional emotional connection to the product being offered and speed up the decision to purchase it. Logic is clear here, this is an identification model – if I buy what my favorite celebrities have, wear and use, I will be like them. This product joins and connects us.
This is how it worked because, in that media context, the media themselves were channels of communication, but at the same time the barrier between the creators of the media content and their consumers. Each celebrity was “on the other side” of that border and the particular medium through such a “commercial” was a touch point between the stars and their fans, and therefore between the product and the buyer.
Now, when each of us has become both a media channel and a producer of media content, this barrier between stars and fans has ostensibly disappeared, because now all fans directly connect with the star through the social media networks without intermediaries and directly communicate with them in a virtual world that is becoming more and more real one. Tribes consisted of millions of followers are integrated media platforms, which need to be rented, in one way or another, so that information about the product you want to sell can be registered by someone.
If you are a celebrity follower of this kind, just imagine how would you feel to get an automatic answer when you expected to connect with Ashton Kutcher, and realize that in fact, it’s a company that communicates with you in Ashton’s name, which immediately and straightforwardly informs you that the data you give would be used by them for different purposes.
A well-intentioned person in your place might think it’s a retro stunt, so he could ironically ask for the fax number to confirm that he agrees with the offer conditions, while those less well-intentioned would send text message of hatred but the greatest number would only cynically laugh and ignore the whole thing.
And this is exactly the highest value of this whole episode. Namely, this example has blasphemed the truth about how this model really works today and how the user data really is (mis)used. There shouldn’t be any illusion that managing communication with millions of fan tribes of all these celebrities who have their social networks don’t function really as it was clumsily shown in this attempt with Ashton Kutcher. Let’s be real, fans of a Ronaldo or Kim Kardashian know for sure that running the social networks of their idols is a profitable business done by teams of employees whose task, among other things, is to successfully disguise it and keep the illusion that this Ronaldo or Kardashian personally sends you tweets or Insta story and that they personally read your every comment and reply to it. After all, so each one of us does it the same way on our social networks. And then why wouldn’t we feel like Ronaldo and Kim, when we’re all in the same business and we use the same services.
After all, why would I bother thinking about how it really works, when I want to believe it’s just the way I see it.