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Earlier today web agency SapientNitro showed the world how easy it is to trend on Twitter.

The company’s method is flawless, and proves how easy it is to generate lots of noise about a brand.

Here’s the recipe for success. It worked for SapientNitro and will work for you too…

One. Write a corporate anthem. 

Two. Produce a music video.

Three. Release to the world via your Facebook page.

Four. Delete all negative comments on your Facebook page.

Five. Remove the video.

Six. Sit back and watch the tweets flow.

Congratulations, you are now trending on Twitter.

The post-mortem

So that’s how to trend on Twitter. Guaranteed. But was it worth it? Is all publicity good publicity? 

If, like me, you find corporate anthems to be utterly cringeworthy, then you might have struggled to watch it. If you haven't seen it already then here it is, at least for as long as it is available on YouTube (and I doubt that's going to be very long at all).

But the creative itself isn’t the issue here. The problem is that unfortunately SapientNitro has taken itself too seriously. By deleting negative comments the agency has opened the door to a shitstorm of tweets along the lines of ‘it doesn’t understand digital’. And that’s the sort of thing no web agency wants to hear.

While you can moderate comments in environments you control, such as Facebook or your company blog, you lose all control once people start talking about your brand in open environments such as Twitter and YouTube. This is SapientNitro’s big headache right now. There are better ways of dealing with comments like those shown below than to just kill them...

By removing the video from Facebook the company has tried to dodge a bullet, but in doing so it suggests that maybe the idea wasn't such a good one. It cannot play the tongue in cheek card. 

I actually feel a bit sorry for those involved in the production. But for 'idea engineers' the concept was sucky from the beginning. Did they not remember the savage and entirely predictable reaction to the Publicis London 'I've Got A Feeling' video?

Be careful out there, creatives...

Chris Lake

Published 15 November, 2011 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

Comments (21)

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Sean Walsh

Good review of it, they did amzaingly well to get it trending... for all the wrong reasons.

Seems a wasted opportunity, could've called it a joke and gotten some nice social about it (and undoubtedly coverage about how to deal with negative sentiment)....instead they went down the frustrating route of burying their head in the sand.

Constantly telling clients, if you get it wrong, resist the urge to delete and hide. Prepare for negativity. A quick "we know it's not the best song in the world, but we had a lot of fun making it!" tweet with perhaps some funny follow up asking their followers about ridiculous creative job titles (Idea Engineer? Seriously?) would've won them a lot of support.

But alas...

almost 5 years ago

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Tom Albrighton, Digital and SEO copywriter at ABC Copywriting

Just as Gap wasn't marketing to logo designers, Sapient isn't marketing to other agencies. For all we know, their clients or prospects might have loved this video.

How much investment have they written off with this knee-jerk response to a bandwagon that will be over by tomorrow?

I'm not saying I like the video though. Just to be clear.

almost 5 years ago

Justin Hayward

Justin Hayward, CEO at Make It Rain

Totally agree with Sean's comments, what a nice opportunity missed...

This is also a pretty painful reminder of agencies believing their own 'coolness' hype. Not cool.

almost 5 years ago

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Ben

@Tom Albrighton, they absolutely were marketing to other agencies. It's primarily a recruitment video, as in "look at how cool we are and how much we love working here, you should come too!"

I also disagree with the article that the "creative itself isn't the issue here". It's absolutely the issue. Sapient has gone to great lengths to try to position themselves as a full-service creative agency. They even glued "Nitro" to their name. I'm sorry but this has to be considered directly indicative of their creative approach: Group-think.

almost 5 years ago

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licorous

Demonstrate your passion and creativity through your work not a decidedly old school(not in a good way)corporate pep rally video.

And isn't part of the new media paradigm suppose to be learning + transparency? #stopdeletingnegativecomments #failandlearn

almost 5 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Tom - My point really is that while I think the creative sucks, the biggest issue is that it has tried to cover up all of the bad noise, and in doing so has made a right hash of it.

almost 5 years ago

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Graham Mallinson

Well. There's lots of learning in there . . . and it's always good to learn. Always like the casestudy approach - really helps explain things to clients - especially to our public sector clients where a social media mistake might mean far more than loss of face or money.

almost 5 years ago

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Tom Albrighton, Digital and SEO copywriter at ABC Copywriting

@Ben - Yes, I've realised that now. I didn't on first viewing, either because the message wasn't clear enough, or because I'm a bit obtuse, or both. I read it as a 'we're creative' pitch to clients.

@Chris - I guess that when things like this happen, you panic a bit. Imagine publishing a video you'd spent thousands (tens of thousands?) on, then waiting for what you fully expect will be warm approval. Instead, you get flamed by your peers. It's going to be hard to go straight into reverse and say, 'Oh well, nobody liked it, so let's turn it into a joke'. To Sapient's credit, they arrived at that position pretty quickly, and were posting self-deprecating gags on their Twitter feed by this afternoon.

With social media, every response has to be made in five minutes. But thinking through the right way forward takes time. As with the Gap logo, I think dignified silence and caution might have been better than immediate acquiescence. Wait a day or two, see if the criticism dies down, and maybe a few more positive voices might pipe up.

Suppressing criticism is misguided, but aligning yourself with your detractors is wretched. Where's the confidence in their ideas, not to mention their pride? Is this concept, so painstakingly executed, now worthless in their eyes?

almost 5 years ago

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Luke Scheybeler

The real problem (and this has ALWAYS been a characteristic of Sapient since I worked there back in the early 2000s – I was a senior creative who led several large accounts) is that they are simply utterly obsessed by themselves.

This has made them extraordinarily resilient survivors... they have reinvented themselves very successfully several times. But this does not make Sapient a great place to work, nor does it tend to create long term partnerships with clients. (This may not be the case anymore, but it certainly was the case while I was there).

How does this manifest itself in this piece? Well, the subject of the video is not 'how strategy, marketing, creativity or technology can create business value'. It's not even 'look at the great work that we've done for our clients'. It is simply "we're cool because we work at Sapient and we want you to know about it".

Any business whose marketing descends into self-referrential narcissism is in trouble. Sapient, your customers don't CARE about YOUR business, they care about THEIR business... they couldn't care less about the fact that you have 'Idea Engineer' on your business card. They want you to engineer an idea to help them sell more stuff.

Promote your track record... or even better, promote your category. Don't promote your embarrassing, pretentious job title or sterile generic office space for heaven's sake.

Sapient's self-obsessed vanity also often manifested itself in more sinister ways ways that verged on cult-like. Appalling humiliation of people who strayed outside the militaristic company culture, ritualistic team chanting, and some very strange people in very senior positions. Company culture was paramount, and rammed down everyone's throat at every opportunity.

People in their early 20s had heart attacks through stress. Vulnerable individuals joined *actual* cults. Many people were hospitalised through mental illness. I'm NOT making this up.

However. We produced amazing, ground breaking work there. I worked with some of the most talented people I've ever met (and still work with many of them). I learned a huge amount about strategy, design, management and creativity... but I hated... well not every minute of it... but an awful lot of it.

Gawd bless her and all who sail in her. I hope things have changed for the better and they get over this PR catastrophe.

P.S. Can anyone link me to the Agency.com viral from a few years back? That was brilliant as well. (I've worked there too ;)

almost 5 years ago

Corrie Davidson

Corrie Davidson, Social Media Manager at Sisarina, Inc

While the video is painful and 2 minutes too long, its not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last. To me, it came across as more of a recruitment video, probably produced in-house by employees.

I think we can all agree that the real problem is their handling of the negative feedback.

While offensive language, racism, sexism, etc is often removed (or filtered) on brands' Pages, companies need to recognize the difference between negative and inappropriate comments. Social networks are just that - social. These platforms are for engaging in conversation, not broadcasting, and companies need to be prepared to participate.

almost 5 years ago

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Luke Scheybeler

One thing other thing that's just struck me and has not been mentioned yet (probably for fear of accusations of xenophobia) is that this was produced in the New Delhi office.

I think that there's an interesting discussion to be had around the localisation of marketing vs almost instant globalisation via social media.

I'm no expert in creative for the Indian market, but I think there's a chance that a lot of the reactions on twitter could be due to the fact that this misses the mark for the UK and US viewer.

Now this is just as big a fail... but it's a different kind of fail.

Before people start getting all politically correct on me, I'm not saying it's any less sophisticated, just different. In the same way that lots of US advertising won't fly in the UK and vice versa... we could simply be misjudging it due to our own cynical, marketing-weary expectations. Fererro Rocher anyone?

Either way, a global agency needs to be globally aware. And this isn't. It could be that it is simply shit. For everyone. Everywhere.

almost 5 years ago

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Luke Scheybeler

One thing other thing that's just struck me and has not been mentioned yet (probably for fear of accusations of xenophobia) is that this was produced in the New Delhi office.

I think that there's an interesting discussion to be had around the localisation of marketing vs almost instant globalisation via social media.

I'm no expert in creative for the Indian market, but I think there's a chance that a lot of the reactions on twitter could be due to the fact that this misses the mark for the UK and US viewer.

Now this is just as big a fail... but it's a different kind of fail.

Before people start getting all politically correct on me, I'm not saying Indian marketing is any less sophisticated, it's just different. In the same way that lots of US advertising won't fly in the UK and vice versa... we could simply be misjudging it due to our own cynical, marketing-weary expectations. Fererro Rocher anyone?

Either way, a 'global agency' needs to be globally aware. And this isn't.

Of course, it could be that it is simply shit. For everyone. Everywhere.

almost 5 years ago

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Jonathon Oake

@Chris Lake
"But the creative itself isn’t the issue here."

Yes, it is! I knew all about this video via Twitter, but I didn't know about the deleting-Facebook-comments nontroversy.

BY FAR the bigger issue is that a creative agency has attempted to position themselves with a hilariously poor piece of creative that makes them look inept at what is apparently supposed to be their core function. It's one of the biggest fallacies of the social space that all you need to do is get your social technique/craft right and your campaign will 'go viral'. Rubbish, not if your actual content make you look like a bunch of gurning simpletons.

If they hadn't have deleted the Facebook comments it honestly would have made little difference; but if they had actually created good/average/OK content, completely different story

almost 5 years ago

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Lanie

Internal peeps say this was made by the Sapient India team to recruit others in India in what is considered a tight talent pool. Those India peeps expressed what they feel about working at SapientNitro and wanted to share what they felt with other potential employees. I've heard they are said to be feeling bummed that it was perceived differently. Should it have gone out like this? Most likely not but the intent doesn't seem to be so self-absorbed once we understand the context.

almost 5 years ago

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Zac

I'm dealing with an over engineered SapientNitro managed service process that has seen the cost of a simple project for a client go up from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars through insanely complex compliance. I expect it came from an 'Idea Engineer'

almost 5 years ago

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Luke Scheybeler

Lanie's comment is interesting and was confirmed to me by a former colleague in the UK. The fact that this that this was produced in the New Delhi office has not really been mentioned much – probably for fear of accusations of xenophobia.

I think that there's an interesting discussion to be had around the localisation of marketing vs almost instant globalisation via social media.

I'm no expert in creative for the Indian market, but I think there's a chance that a lot of the reactions on twitter could be due to the fact that this misses the mark for the UK and US viewer. Also it's simply not clear that this is a recruitment video.

Now this is just as big a fail... but it's a different kind of fail.

Before people start getting all politically correct on me, I'm not saying Indian marketing is any less sophisticated, it's just different. In the same way that lots of US advertising won't fly in the UK and vice versa... we could simply be misjudging it due to our own cynical, London-centric, post-modern, advertising about advertising, marketing-weary expectations. Fererro Rocher anyone?

Either way, a 'global agency' needs to be globally aware. And this certainly doesn't demonstrate that.

Of course, it could be that the video is simply shit. For everyone. Everywhere.

almost 5 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Jonathan - yep, you're totally right. I've said in the comments that the creative sucks. It was ill-judged in my view, especially given what we know about the response to other agency videos like this. My point is simply that once you make your bed you need to lie in it, and the attempted cover up was even more sucky than the video itself. And that's what magnified the scale of the issue, the number of tweets and retweets, and articles like this one.

almost 5 years ago

Claire Hunter-Smith

Claire Hunter-Smith, Social Media Manager at Latitude

I think it's quite catchy and it was very silly to delete and bury it- should have definitely left it out there as some lighthearted, tongue in cheek content! Going to be singing 'idea engineer' all day so they at least got their message across and that's a phrase I'll always associated with SapientNitro so that's a good thing, isn't it?

almost 5 years ago

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jeff

This is the biggest pile of wank I have ever watched. everyone involved in the production of that video should be ashamed.

almost 5 years ago

Michelle Goodall

Michelle Goodall, Online PR/Social Media Consultant at EconsultancySmall Business Multi-user

Here's a nicely crafted response from Sapient:

http://ideaengineers.sapient.com/business/so/

"Thing is, we’re a global agency. With offices in many places. And sometimes we make something meant for one place or audience that, well, gets out into another place. Or everyplace.

You know what? Many places have many cultures. And sometimes what works in one culture doesn’t really translate as it travels the globe." etc

almost 5 years ago

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Garry Davis

@michelle good find although i think it might be down must be all the unhappy "idea engineers".

As an agency testing is one thing and culturally it certainly doesn't work in the UK, removing has probably hit the moral more than anything in what was probably a great internal PR/ comms exercise. What a great message to clients, pull your social media down if its not working.

@lakey if only "december spawned a monster" was available.

almost 5 years ago

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