While getting depressed about the U.S. economic situation, I wandered over to YouTube and found a video titled Pimp My Infrastructure. It appears to have HP, AMD and Microsoft backing. It's pretty funny but what it gains in humor it loses in focus, and it is wildly inappropriate for the kind of image you'd typically associate with a raised-floor solution.
If I were doing something like this, I'd use it as a way to portray a competitor, not myself, because it implies a lack of knowledge about just what is important to a raised-floor environment. I give them credit for being creative and it probably won't do much damage. These brands are well established, after all, and the idea is actually a good one. It just needed another turn and some well-set goals.
There are a lot of folks trying to do edgy right now, and this YouTube spot is a good example of what not to do.
The Problem with Edgy
This is the problem when companies do "edgy." The "edgy" part and getting around the brand police seems to take precedence; I think the brand police let this happen so they can say "I told you so" to the executives who allowed it. The problem I'll be talking about does not result from trying to think out of the box; it results when people forget they need to ensure the message is consistent with the image of the offering or the company that must be maintained to be successful. You can be fun, you can be humorous, you can even make fun of yourself, but you should never appear to lack an understanding of the problem, customer or market.
Keeping the Image of the Company First
There is a huge push to make companies look fresh and edgy. However, particularly right now when the market in all segments is incredibly nervous, a lot of care needs to be taken to ensure that edge doesn't make you look foolish or, worse, incompetent.
IBM had some success in a series of TV ads surrounding clueless executives who were depending on things like "magic beans" to solve their IT problems, contrasting its own solution in a humorous fashion to these intentionally lame-brained ideas. This campaign disparaged competitors by proxy and delivered the simple message that IBM should be considered, which is about the most you can realistically do with a TV spot. While not perfect, it remains one of the best in this segment.
In fact, in the IT space, IBM had led in these edgy concepts since the early '90s when it rolled with its monk and nun spots, which conveyed simple messages and were compared to similar, also famous campaigns by Xerox.
You can do edgy. You just have to be very careful. Apple's 1984 ad remains at the top of the stack, but the Lemmings ad it did the following year fell to the bottom and helped kill its move into business, showcasing the risk.
There seems to be a general sense that YouTube isn't TV. With TV, most of the eyeballs you are supposedly getting are not paying attention. With YouTube, every eyeball is paying attention and competitors can mail your piece around and show it in sales meetings. The idea that YouTube isn't as powerful as TV is old thinking. Done right, YouTube can be vastly more powerful than any single TV ad, and it costs far less. In fact, if you do a poorly thought-out TV ad, you can pull it from TV, but once it is on YouTube, it is there forever. And you can still find TV ads that are well past their prime on YouTube.
While I'm not sure Pimp My Ride has the following it did a couple of years ago, it is well known, and the idea of using it was a good one. However, implying that HP, AMD and Microsoft would use people that actually did the car thing was a mistake. I think it would have played better had they used people that acted like these folks but appeared as real IT employees. The end could be someone asking why they are talking like this and a wide shot that showcases that the site they just pimped was the production company for Pimp My Ride. The background message would then be that they not only know how to do it, they know how to do it the way the customer wants it done, and will go to extreme lengths to make the customer happy.
This way, the twin messages of competence and customer satisfaction are delivered, while still having fun with the content. In short, what likely happened here is that the goals weren't clearly stated; that is why they were missed and the creative drifted out of control.
Where this spot really breaks down is that they aren't really pimping an infrastructure, they are pimping a PC and tossing in Xbox stuff to do it. It makes it look like they don't even really know what an infrastructure is -- and that is trouble. If I were competing with these folks (Sun, Google, Intel), I'd give every sales rep this spot and suggest they play it before their presentation to give context.
Having fun and keeping it light are both great ideas, but you have to make sure you don't damage your brand or put a big smile on your competitor's face. I'm afraid this YouTube spot does both, and this should form a caution for anyone going down a similar path. However, given that these things really have nothing to do with the real capability of HP, AMD or Microsoft, they can be a fun diversion for the rest of us. Any diversion from the economic news is probably a good thing. HP has done a few great ones that can still put a smile on your face, or in one case, Steve Jobs' face.