Wednesday, 12 June 2013

A Zero History Of The WORLD

How far have we come?  Well, we can communicate with almost anyone, anywhere, in the world as we journey. Smartphones, laptops and tablets have taken us out into the great wide yonder of the cyberspace universe, where we can browse endless information and make contact with the rest of the planet. An incredible social media mash up. 

Amazing to think that we can do all this as we walk down Oxford Street, sit in Starbucks on Broadway or travel to Newcastle from Edinburgh on a high speed East Coast train.

Sergio, Kangaroo and Rabbit By The Light Of A Blue Moon - Makeshift Studios 2013

All of which impacts with the way we live our lives and work. Forces for good? I certainly hope so.

Let me take you back to July 2011, I was working on a story for the financial section of The Mail On Sunday - a UK national with a circulation of around 6 million.

The idea of social media and how we interconnect has always fascinated me and had me thinking that these clusters of 'connectedness' (for want of a better word - and please have teeth firmly in mouth before attempting to repeat) are like villages, or little towns or even giant cities.  Each with its own 'population' of followers.

Social media, of course, is a way by which people can stay in touch, excellent for those who live some distance apart from family and friends. Also brilliant for linking people with similar interests, pastimes, hobbies and/or resonating business interests.

Working on the 'social' media story I had discovered a US - based company who found celebrities with city-sized followings and paid them handsomely to advertise products on behalf of multi-nationals. This particular business was built around Twitter and celebrities were paid per tweet for advertising branded products to their fanbase.  But, and here's the trick, the celebs didn't even have to write the tweet!

How it worked was amazingly simple. The company (based in Beverley Hills) would engage a celebrity, say Snoop Dogg (3.6 million followers in 2011) or Kim Kardashian ( 8 million in 2011), pay him/her several thousand dollars to use his/her Twitter account and then write tweets on behalf of the brand.  These tweets would then be sent to the celebrity's followers to endorse products. The tweets were written by the company's copywriters but styled to fit the persona of the selected celebrity. 

All the celebs had to do was sit in their backyard sunbathing and drinking cocktails while their fame sold the goods of selected brands, and pushed large sums of cash into their bank accounts - happy days.

In truth, this was really no different to a celebrity appearing in a television commercial, or ad campaign, but people seemed genuinely shocked that 'social' media was being used to exploit the general public in this way.

Maybe we all just thought, naively as it turns out, that this type of social media (in this case Twitter) would only be used for the betterment and interconnectedness of humankind, and not incorporated into a capital generating innovation...yeah right...

What next? Fictitious superheroes specially designed and trendy enough to attract millions of followers.  These comic book characters could then tweet thinly veiled brand endorsements to their fanbase. 

Actually, this would be an economically more viable solution for selling products to large numbers of people.  No self-obsessed celebs to cater for or pay exorbitant amounts of cash for sitting in the sunshine.  Just Superblondehairguy or girl, drawn to the ideals of perfection (never aging - Superman's hair is still blue-black, no grey - nor ever needing any plastics, botox or flamethrower treatments to recapture that youthful sparkle).  Maybe, SBHG/G, could even release a music single, generate interest...  

I like the cyberpunk angle to this.   Mmmmm....anyone got Richard Branson's phone number?  Anyone?

(Anyone, wishing a copy of the original Mail On Sunday article please let me know and I will send you the link - you will see my email address at the top right hand corner of this page.)

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