Jonny Gladwell, the hearty blonde media-friendly bloke who was first in line to buy the new 3G iPhone, was paid to do so. He was set up as a “plant” as part of an advertising campaign – just as we suspected yesterday.
Industry insiders have confirmed Jonny was paid $50 an hour and given $1,000 spending money to tide him over during his wait. Jonny’s effort – which has had worldwide media exposure – was part of an Aim Proximity/Yellow Pages campaign to see how long you could survive on the streets of Auckland using nothing but Yellow Pages online.
Jonny – who is not a big Apple fan, rendering him a socio-economic aberration – is in fact a friend of an Aim Proximity staffer.
Something seemed a little fishy when a full-page print ad appeared in Friday’s New Zealand Herald lauding Yellow Pages’ assistance. Jonny Gladrags turned up for the line-up 4pm Tuesday – so it seemed impossible for Aim Proximity to come up with the idea, pitch it to the client, get all 16 Yellow Pages participants on board with freebies, get a photo of Jonny and have it clear-cut/prepressed and have the print ad submitted to the NZ Herald before their 10am Wednesday deadline. Aim Proximity is a savvy agency – but they do advertising, not miracles.
So how did they manage it? Well, it was all in the works before Jonny-Dog rocked up for his three-night stint in front of the Auckland Vodafone store.
Aim Proximity set up Jonny’s blog, which has had an impressive 760 diggs, not to mention massive media attention, including spots on prime-time TV news.
Aim’s creative head Dave King said it’s been an exciting week at the agency, as they were sure someone would catch on that it was a set-up. “We kept thinking, something’s going to go wrong, someone’s going to find out – but we pulled it off. It was like a runaway train but it was on the tracks and we just had to sit tight and see what would happen next.”
Agency staff working on the campaign (who haven’t slept all week) had to be ultra-careful that they didn’t say anything that would tip anyone off. Even Jonny himself kept quiet – apart from telling his mum, of course, as he was apprehensive that she might’ve gotten a bit worried.
So, Aim Proximity has possibly just pulled off a world first for marketing. The recently promoted Tony Clewett (now deputy creative director) was instrumental in the creative process.
Mr King said the agency is going for great ideas, no matter what the medium. “This one had some online, a bit of subterfuge and a print ad – but ultimately it was all about coming up with a great idea.”
Mr King was amazed that no-one caught on, especially at one point where (in the ultimate in surreal insanity) an exercycle was delivered to Jonny so he could keep fit for weekend rugby. “Here he was being filmed on an exercycle on the street,” Mr King said. “We were sure someone was going to catch on.”
Although Aim’s sister agency Colenso BBDO holds both Yellow Pages and Vodafone (the iPhone retailer) as clients, that agency was not involved in the campaign, and only six people at Aim Proximity were privy to this information.
This stunt – following hot on the heels of DraftFCB’s pathetic and ineffective Mitchell & Dyer gimmick – will no doubt have some wondering where advertisers should draw the line. Media don’t usually view this sort of thing with affection, and this stunt hasn’t just had local coverage – it’s gone to the other side of the earth.
In Denmark, legislation has been passed to prevent obtrusiveness and disguise in advertising campaigns. Will the rest of the world follow? That’s a practical solution to the problem of marketing traditional “evils” such as fast food to children, but it would be a sad day for the advertising industry if methods were limited in such a manner.
Still, such subversive actions can either be condemned or applauded, depending on your perspective. In a crowded media landscape, finding new ways to push your brand is a challenge that agencies such as Aim Proximity are obviously meeting head-on.
The only thorn in the side of Yellow Pages is that their stunt, while effective, has given more publicity to Vodafone and the Apple iPhone than themselves. Shame neither Vodafone nor Apple thought of this first. There’s always next time – but by then, consumers and media might be just a fraction more cynical.