We now know that Snickers' much discussed recent campaign was, at least, legal.
In case you've been under a rock/trapped on an East Coast train for the last few weeks, the campaign went as follows. Various celebs, known for being a bit, well... dim or boorish put out a series of four tweets that were intelligent or sensitive, only to reveal that they "weren't themselves when they were hungry" and that in fact, after eating a Snickers, they could go back to tweeting their usual brand of inane twaddle.
The ASA, whilst disagreeing with Mars that only the final tweet was in fact marketing, (or more specifically, that the previous four tweets only became marketing after the final tweet has been posted), came to the frankly common-sense decision that this was not an attempt to mislead the public into believing that Katie Price was clever or that Rio Ferdinand had interests outside of wishing he was a midfielder.
So, the campaign was legal, but what did it achieve? This is the really irritating thing about the campaign - I'm itching to trash it because it's just the kind of inane rubbish that gives proper social media engagement campaigns (like this one) a bad name, but at the same time, if the goals were to create a campaign that would grab headlines then it was fantastically successful, and, as a marketer myself I can't say that those are bad goals. The TV ad is pretty average and the Twitter campaign has given it a new relevance, whilst at the same time, generating a boat-load (technical term) of media coverage.
In the long run, the key question is: Has it had any affect on the behaviour of those who engaged in it? Research suggests not. Here is an excel spreadsheet of all the tweets that reference the campaign, the people involved in it and Snickers themselves over the few days on either side of the campaign. When you look at the streams of those users who engaged with the campaign in the weeks running up to it, and the weeks following, a surprising picture emerges. Before the campaign, the same people were actually more likely to mention Snickers than they were afterwards. I.e. the campaign actually turned people off talking about Snickers in the long run.
I should put in some caveats at this point. 1. I don't think the spreadsheet is a complete starting point (but it is a statistically relevant starting point) 2. The number of mentions before the campaign and afterwards was quite low, so a small actual difference became a large percentage difference.
So, if the goals were to create headlines - well done. If the goals were to create long-term engagement - bad luck. I'd love to say that the moral of the story is "be trivial at your own risk" but the results aren't really that clean cut. Perhaps it's best to sum it up by highlighting the inevitable link between inputs and outputs. If what you put in is trivial, don't expect anything meaningful to come out of it.
Follow Sam Oakley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/samoakley