Alex Bogusky: What’s Wrong With ReTweets

Alex Bogusky is co-chairman of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, or CP+B as those in the know like to say, a large advertising agency best known for edge-pushing viral marketing. As such, they’re also one of the few ad agencies whose work I admire. CP+B has won a slew of awards; they were recently named Creativity’s Agency of the Year and have collected a handful of One Club Pencils in just a few years.

After a short stint on Twitter, Alex publicly quit the micro-blogging service, saying it “wasn’t for him.” Intrigued by his thoughts on ReTweeting, I asked him to do an email interview.

Dan Zarrella: I’m a huge fan of the viral work CP+B has done, especially for Burger King (most famously the Subservient Chicken and most recently the Whopper Sacrifice). You guys seem to be using new mediums and platforms to build these campaigns. Have you used Twitter like this yet, or do you have any plans to?

Alex Bogusky: That’s really kind of you to say. We just love interacting with consumers instead of talking at them. We love the back and forth. We’re playing around a little bit with the Old Navy Supermannequins. Just getting going but it should get interesting soon.

DZ: Do you think Twitter has reached a critical mass yet where big brands are well served by engaging the audience there?

AB: I don’t know the raw numbers for twitter but there are certainly some big wins to be had. But we can’t really look at any social media in isolation because they’re all bouncing off one another and influencing each other in real time.

DZ: To me ReTweeting is an incredibly open and powerful viral messaging mechanism. Do you think ReTweeting is going to be an important tactic for viral marketing in the future?

AB: It could be. It’s certainly faster at garnering more eyeballs than e-mail, IM or chat. The question will be does it amplify or simply speed up the process. Right now we have no way of knowing because it hasn’t got the adoption yet.

DZ: You and Chris Anderson (among others) have recently expressed concern with the carefree and often intent-changing way in which the tweets you post are ReTweeted. My understand is that the core problem is that if someone else ReTweets your content, but rewrites it, it may appear that you’ve said something you haven’t. Is this a big enough problem to make you weary of ReTweeting as a marketing form?

AB: This is my personal issue with retweeting and it makes me personally uncomfortable. As a marketer I don’t see it as a concern. You want people to put their stamp on marketing even if it seems negative. Consumers play rough and you have to let them play. But as a consumer I would be concerned that somebody can appear to be putting your thoughts forward but in fact they have changed them. Maybe even reversed them. It seems like it would benefit the service to somehow lock the original message if it is presented as a RT.

DZ: What do you think is the most exciting and/or important thing about Twitter for viral marketing going forward? (Is there anything exciting or important?)

AB: I don’t like to approach new media as a marketer. I prefer to approach it as a consumer and that appreciation is more likely to inspire thinking that might help our clients. Like any new media there will be significant resistance to marketing/advertising. That was a huge them with Subservient Chicken. It was actually the first hyper successful marketing foray into the web and it pissed a lot of people off. We can expect some of the same here. Twitter will also put off integrating marketing into the service for as long as possible to get the raw numbers up and the behavior fully adopted. But at some point to monetize they will probably look to advertisers. So I think we can expect the tools that marketer have at their disposal to increase in the same way it did with Google. It may all be fairly invisible to the user ala adwords but the ability to monitor and jump into real time conversations will have tremendous appeal. I’m a little skeptical of its actual value or to put it more accurately I think this opportunity will be overvalued in the beginning in much the same way banners were overvalued in the beginning and then saw that value plummet. But I’m not a futurist. Specifically because I’ve been around long enough now to see that most predictions don’t pan out. What I like about twitter is what’s happening right now and what will be happening in the next fifteen minutes. It’s extremely exciting.

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