Monday, April 26, 2010

Free Pizzas And The Emergence Of Social Media

Dear reader, let me first apologise for the many tangents that this post shall take. Join me on a journey where I try to eloquently pull together various pieces of information that I have read over the last couple of weeks and give my opinion on what I think is the future trends for media. My views are by no means innovative. I was triggered into thinking about the issue of media by the latest Hidden Pizza saga.

Lets start from the start. On April 12th, I saw a status update on a friend's Facebook profile that there was free pizza to had. Of course, being the food loving freebie sucker, I wanted to know more about it. Further enquires to the friend revealed that you had to call to place an order and then be told the address. Instantly, being the savvy Gen Y social media aware technie that I am, I smelled a viral marketing campaign. I asked this friend to take notes about what she had to do when she got the pizza. Low and behold, she had to sign a waiver form and be filmed. Bam, viral marketing!

I actually don't mind viral marketing at all. For me, it's just the ever evolving marketing strategies that mirrors how people interact nowadays. With the ever increasing infiltration of the Internet into all aspects of our lives, the methods in which information is disemminated is also changing. I personally spend quite a bit of time communicating with my friends online, via digital mediums such as email, instant messaging and social media sites such as Facebook. It seems only natural for marketers to use those mediums to promote their products and services. In fact, I would say that companies without an online presence are in danger of becoming obsolete. The power of viral marketing is phenemonal, as the targeted audience is made to believe that they are in charge of the distribution of information and would actually feel proud in being the first to obtain that information.

However, when viral marketing goes wrong is when the product being virally marketed does not match with the company behind the campaign. When I first heard of the Hidden Pizza idea, I thought it was a great way to market a new restaurant. By creating a buzz and a feeling of goodwill, I really thought the restaurant would help differentiate itself quickly in a very competitive environment where large franchises dominate the scene.

But it was all soon to unravel, with news emerging that the whole Hidden Pizza campaign wasn't for a restaurant, but was for Yellow Pages. Huh? I was perplexed. I thought that the need to search Yellow Pages for the restaurant was a bit of a game more than anything about marketing it.

This campaign didn't seem to make any sense to me at all. Using the Yellow Pages to find a hidden pizza restaurant seems pointless, as once a few customers had visited the restaurant, you would think that the location of the restaurant would quickly be known. When I started to search for the restaurant, I didn't even bother going to the Yellow Pages website. I headed straight over to Google and did a search, and was looking for revealing information from blogs. Immediately, the top hits were from blogs such as My Aching Head, Simon Food Favourites and Travelling In Mary Janes, revealing everything you needed to know about Hidden Pizza.

The model that Yellow Pages tried to use to draw users to their site and make their brand known totally failed. All the talk was of the actual pizza, the restaurant and how good a free pizza was. There was hardly any mention of Yellow Pages or how it was useful at all. As both Fitzroyalty and Anthill clearly discuss, the Yellow Pages model is outdated and does not cater to the modern users requirements anymore. They need to change their model rather than use viral marketing in a clumsy way to promote themselves.

When I am trying to look up information, about food for example, I don't turn to Yellow Pages. Their listing are static and do not offer me any more information than I could find in two seconds on a Google search. I need dynamic information that reveals more to me about the restaurant I want to eat at. I turn to user generated sites such as review sites, blogs or Facebook. Traditional print media is one stop I turn to, but they know only reveal a small part of the picture. Food reviews by professional reviewers may give me an insight into the chef's inspiration for a dish, but it doesn't reveal that parking at a restaurant is awful and hence I must get there early. Social media compliments traditional media.

There is still a lot of rejection from traditional media for social media, but the media landscape is evolving, as shown by the first ever food bloggers conference with Eat.Drink.Blog. Traditional media is being challenged, but instead of embracing the new and finding better ways to ultilise it, the attitude they adopt when dealing with social media is one of contempt, assuming that those of us who produce and participate in social media would automatically want to be involved in traditional media, which is not always true, as Mellie has demonstrated.

I have to say that when I read Mellie's post, I was a bit surprised. I applaud Mellie on her choice, but if I was given the opportunity to write about food whilst being paid, I would do it. I see this blog as an outlet to engage with others about a topic that I enjoy discussing without any restrictions, and for that I love it. But I would also enjoy being able to write in a different manner which would offer me more access to food industry people. There may be times when my integrity and morals are tested, but that is the same with any other job. We are all constantly juggling those challenges, and it's up to each person to assess each situation on its merits.

To conclude, this post is not about taking a stab at traditional media. Instead, I hope to highlight the fact that social media has arrived, and rather than trying to denying it, embracing it in an appropriate manner will actuall help a business rather than hinder it.


  1. thanks for a great read. very interesting. i was really hoping the hidden pizza was going to be sticking around after and making a good comment on sustainability but alas it was all in guise for yellow pages. i wonder how they'll assess if it was a successful campaign for them or not.

  2. It actually would have been a great idea if the product was the pizza. The use of the recycled jars and bags was very clever. I too would like to know whether Yellow Pages thought the campaign was a success or not.

  3. Oh, absolutely. In my opinion the only time reviews aren't ethical are when false claims are made (everything else, incl. money being paid for the review or whatever, spring from that).
    To be fair, I have used the yellow pages recently - but only because Philippine businesses and government offices tend to not list that information on the internet! So backwards!

  4. Hi Swee, how are you?

    Manggy, I say that as long as all the facts are stated, people can then be the judge. But if things are omitted, that's when reviews are unethical.

    Haha, that is a bit backwards of the Phillipines. I thought of all places, the Government would have a web prescence.

    Did I remember correctly that you're going overseas soon to study medicine? Or am I confusing you with someone else?

  5. Hi Thanh - that's right, I'm leaving on Saturday to finally go on with my residency :)