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Twitter Agency Emerges from TV Character



I suppose you may have had the same response to this idea that I did initially so let’s jump right in. madmen-logo

Carri Bugbee, a Portland OR, PR agency owner has started a new business at www.supportingcharacters.com that is designed to help companies utilize Twitter to their advantage by replicating what made Ms. Bugbee ‘famous’ in the first place. In February, the first Knight Foundation-backed Shorty Awards honored Ms. Bugbee’s “Mad Men” character tweets as the year’s best Twitter advertising campaign. This award recognized her ‘campaign’ to become the Twitter version of Peggy Olson, the executive assistant turned copywriter and a whole lot more. I use quotes around campaign because ordinarily these kinds of things are paid for but Ms. Bugbee did this on her own and outside of any input from the show or AMC which airs it.

For those who are not in the know (meaning you do not watch Mad Men which includes me) the show is about the goings on in a 1960’s advertising agency (the fictional Sterling Cooper) and in particular the main character Don Draper. In order to take on this Twitter persona Ms. Bugbee simply grabbed the PeggyOlson handle and started going for it. The result was a lot of followers (12,606) and an idea to revise her business strategy for other possible characterizations of characters. You can watch a video of Ms. Bugbee explaining this whole process over at AdAge.

So, I’ll be honest here. What I see is someone who basically hijacks a social media handle (akin to domain squatting), takes over the character’s ‘life’ on Twitter without any guidance from anyone related to the show and wins an award. Gotta love America.

Maybe I’m not on top of things but I just don’t get this at all. Are people that wrapped up in TV shows that they will actually follow a fake version of a fictional character and interact? Help me here. Look, I respect the fact that there is probably a market for this and more power to anyone who can tap into it but where does the entertainment begin and end in our lives anymore? Is it better to sit in front of your computer all day and follow the exploits of a fictional character who is being played by another ‘actor’ other than the real actor / writer or engage in a conversation with a, gulp, human being?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this one.

  • http://www.michellesblog.net Michelle Greer

    She can do Twitter marketing.

    The rest of us will market to the 6 million people on Twitter, plus the billions of other people on the planet.

    Twitter is one channel. It’s lazy to focus on one cutting edge market when billions of people don’t use it.

    Michelle Greer’s last blog post..Gratuitous ?Life of Brian? Clip! Hurrah!

  • http://tomnjudy.com/strategist Tom Bennett

    I think you are missing the point in all of this, and being a little bit of a curmudgeon about it at the same time. Carri has recognized an interesting phenomenon that occurs when a popular and well-written form of media entertainment crosses over into another medium. Mad Men is well made, witty, and captures a certain vibe that appeals very strongly with the same demographic who are early adopters of Twitter. Us in the Ad/Marketing field all breathe heavily at the Madison Avenue vibe, and the captured 60′s era sentiment. “So THIS is what it was like…”

    Carri simply caught on that it would be interesting to extend this into Twitter, and hey, the narrow little demographic responded favorably. She saw opportunity and took it.

    In this age of self-appointed creativity and publishing power, what’s so wrong with that?

    Tom Bennett’s last blog post..Are you a Gear or a Being?

  • http://www.marcidiehl.com Marci Diehl

    I agree it’s an ingenious use of Twitter. I agree it’s creative. I think my objection is contained in Frank’s own:

    “What I see is someone who basically hijacks a social media handle (akin to domain squatting), takes over the character’s ‘life’ on Twitter without any guidance from anyone related to the show and wins an award.”

    I’m a writer, and if I were to create a character as rich as any on Mad Men (yes, I watch it and love it) and someone “took that character over” into some extension of life as his/her own, I’d be very unhappy, not to mention investigating the legality of it.

    The writers work very hard to create those characters in every detail — who they are, their backstories, their habits, their motivations and consequences. If you create a character in writing, isn’t that character part of your copyright? Or can any character from TV, movies or fiction be taken over by someone with their own agenda?

    I’m left wondering: is this marketing or is it stealing?

  • http://www.frankthinking.com Frank Reed

    @Tom – I may be a curmudgeon (thanks for breaking new ground there since that’s a new one for me to be called ;-) ) but I do understand that just because I don’t like it really means nothing. I don’t like brussel sprouts either and will say so but it doesn’t mean they aren’t good to someone.

    Marci probably hit the nail on the head. I have had people ask the same question about what the writer must feel in this situation. AMC could obviously care less. They just want people engaged in the show and they are not concerned about the integrity of the character or the writer’s concerns. Imagine trying to write for the next season and thinking that you need to check in with the Twitterverse version of your creation. Just seems odd to me.

    Excuse me while I go eat my cold porridge alone in my hovel in the moss covered woods.

    Frank Reed’s last blog post..Internet Marketing’s Fresh 24

  • http://nahbois.com Siobhan

    Frank,

    This is nothing new. Carri just did what already exists. It is fan fiction. Fans of starwars created a whole movie that was made on desktop computer and shot with hand helds based on their fan fiction. George Lucas probably could of sued but he praised the fans for their creation.

    I really don’t see this as similar to domain squatting. Maybe if Ms. Bugbee grabbed the MadMen twitter handle and used it for advertising, there might be a similarity, but no she was a fan of the show and used twitter to express her own creativity, which probably ended up benefiting the MadMen brand.

    Out of her experience she learned that twitter characters can be powerful marketing tools and based a business model around it. Now THAT’s what you gotta love about the USA.

    Siobhan’s last blog post..Week 29 – Milo

  • http://www.supportingcharacters.com Carri Bugbee

    Frank, I think I can speak to your question as well or better than anybody. First of all, I never thought of tweeting as @PeggyOlson as brand hijacking. In fact, when I started doing this, I’d never even heard of the phrase.

    Some refer to what we did as “fan fiction.” I hadn’t previously heard of that phrase either, but come to find out, fan fiction actually has a long, rich history. From people who dress up to attend Star Trek conventions, to those who write complete chapters or screenplays of their favorite books and movies on the Internet, people have apparently been doing this for decades.

    There are even professors at MIT who study it: Henry Jenkins (http://henryjenkins.org/) spoke at SXSW very eloquently on the subject and Josh Greene spoke at Inverge about the blending of fan fiction and audience participation last year at Inverge. You can see the entire video of Josh’ presentation here: http://supportingcharacters.com/madmen/ (scroll down, right side). It’s really quite interesting.

    So, why not have entertainment on Twitter? It occupies nothing more than a few seconds a day for someone to read a posting by their favorite character. It’s just fun! Who has too much of that?

    Of course, for me, it was neither fan fiction nor brand hi-jacking. I just wanted to find new ways to use Twitter as a marketing vehicle. I figured if AMC had wanted to promote their show in this way, they would have done it themselves – or asked us for their characters back. But neither happened.

    They might have done that if we had damaged their brand. But we didn’t. Most of us who tweeted as Mad Men characters took it VERY seriously. I treated it like a REAL JOB during the season and for awhile thereafter. As I mentioned in the video, without doing that, I didn’t see how I’d glean any actionable data or insights. And as a marketer, that was my top priority. That, and to have some fun too!

    And for the record, I have never and will never tweet out of character for Peggy Olson. I wouldn’t do that for any kind of money. I’ve never even used @PeggyOlson to tweet @CarriBugbee. That would just be wrong. :-)

    Carri Bugbee’s last blog post..How to find us

  • http://www.frankthinking.com Frank Reed

    @Carri – Thanks for stopping by and helping out here.

    As I stated in the post I know there must be a market for this but because I am not someone who would be engaged it’s a bit hard to comprehend. As a marketer, however, it doesn’t matter what personal bias is held. if it works and it is above board then it needs to be considered. That being said I certainly know where to send someone who may benefit from this approach.

    If AMC had asked for their characters back or had said that they needed creative input into your characterization what would you do? I suspect that they simply didn’t think about it and since they were ‘lucky’ that someone like yourself took good care of things they figured if it ‘ain’t broke don’t fix it’.

    @siobahn speaks of an entire movie that was made but that is a very different thing than having a living breathing character that is in ‘dialogue’ with fans so I am not sure the comparison holds up.

    Word of warning to creative types who would not want this kind of creative license to be taken is to ensure you can lock down your social media handles as much as possible if you are not willing to allow this kind of artistic license with your work.

    Thanks again, Carri. Looking forward to hearing fro myou in the future as your agency develops.

    Frank Reed’s last blog post..Internet Marketing’s Fresh 24

  • jeff bunch

    Carri had a great idea, executed on it, and is getting the proper recognition in many different circles. She gets social media and this proves it. It’s rare to find a dream who makes things happen. Way to go, Carri!

  • jeff bunch

    My post should have read “dreamer”. P.S. Frank, thanks for getting a dialogue going. @jeffreyrbunch

  • http://alexpeerenboom.blogspot.com Alex Peerenboom

    I personally don’t see the point of following a fictional tv character in the social media world. But I can understand if it’s just for fun. Or if it was created by a production company intended for viral marketing.

    Alex Peerenboom’s last blog post..Viral Marketing: A Good Lesson

  • http://contentforausergeneration.blogspot.com Breean Miller

    Paul Booth proposed a theory of narrative identification based on MySpace character personas. Weird paper, weird theory! But it makes sense that a character can be used to promote something like a tv show.

    Whether or not people choose to follow and interact with this character on MySpace or Twitter lets communication professionals know a little more about their consumers.

    Breean Miller’s last blog post..is yelp just for complaining or is it useful?

  • http://www.frankthinking.com Frank Reed

    @Jeff Bunch – Thanks for stopping by. I am here to serve.

    Frank Reed’s last blog post..Internet Marketing’s Fresh 24

  • http://www.rob-bell.com Rob Bell

    I think Carri deserves to be praised for undertaking such an innovative labour of love, and the award reflects I’m not the only one thinking this!

    I follow another fiction character on Twitter, Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother (@brocode) – a vehicle to promote the book Bro Code ‘written by’ said fictional character. I find the sitcom hilarious, and the character brand extension on Twitter provides me with occasional chuckles – and has increased the likelihood I will buy the book for a friend remarkably like the comic character in some ways.

    As a member of the D&D generation, I have no problem with marketers ‘role-playing’ characters from products and programmes – it’s quite fun, and provides a level of interaction beyond static ads, minisites and videos. I think it’ll become a common promotional tool in the new Social Media age, and I imagine it will be a very effective one. I ‘play characters’ on behalf of a couple of clients too, although they’re not from TV programmes.

    We live in a remarkable time as the rules of engagement online are being rewritten on a near daily basis, with fantastic innovative game-changers appearing regularly. I love it!

    Viva l’Innovation!

    Rob

  • http://www.supportingcharacters.com Carri Bugbee

    Rob, you said it best: “We live in a remarkable time as the rules of engagement online are being rewritten on a near daily basis, with fantastic innovative game-changers appearing regularly.”

    This is exactly what I LOVE about social media. I’ve been a marketer for 20 years, but there haven’t been any significant game-changing moments until just the past few years. Even online advertising was just a model from other media plopped onto the Interwebz.

    It’s truly thrilling to be a marketer when you can discover, create and mold new paradigms.

    @CarriBugbee

    Carri Bugbee’s last blog post..How to find us

  • http://www.jaankanellis.com Jaan Kanellis

    Havent they been doing this for years on myspace? Also what about achieving the #1 ranking for a fake character on Google and then trying to monetize it. How long would you last doing that?

    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..Back To Work and Happy About It?