The easy option this week would be to talk about the Egyptian protests that have centred on social networks, especially Facebook, and how the authorities have shut them down to presage the inevitable state killings that will happen after prayers this evening.
I could have illustrated how things have changed in the last 20 years when I was in Cairo at the onset of Gulf War I and how my only instant communication was the ticker-tape machine in the Hilton Hotel spitting out words that Tel Aviv had been bombed and things were looking none so good for Westerners still in the Middle East.
I would also have talked about fleeing the city to board a boat from Alexandria, being foiled in that quest and finally committing outright fraud to obtain a ticket to London and escape what turned out to be no problem at all.
But instead I’m going to discuss something just as revolutionary as the protesters in Cairo; Old Spice deodorants, antiperspirants and fragrances. For those of you who are not part of the millions or so who have not watched the TV ad or watched it on YouTube, the ‘Smell like a man, man’ ad is fantastic.
Its star, Isaiah Mustafa, has returned in a 74-second commercial that will be make its debut on the day after the Super Bowl and will be disseminated by only one person, a precedent that will have huge ramifications for the traditional ad business model.
Proctor & Gamble, the company behind the Old Spice brand, are in the process of finding a superfan who will use his (or HER) social network channels to market the ad. So, instead of spending a fortune during the Super Bowl advertising on TV, the company will let social media do its work for it and the individual who does it will become a star in his (or HER) own right.
My suspicion is that individual will be paid hansomely by Proctor & Gamble to do so and in many ways it’s surprising this hasn’t been done before. Mavens within social networks have been munching on their eyelashes wondering why their efforts haven’t been monetised, only celebrities seem to get paid for their product promotions.
If this Old Spice campaign turns out to be successful and it appears certain that it will be, then the genie could be out of the bottle/the finger out of the dam. All that money that is spent on 30-second ads during sporting events will be redistributed to the poorer corners of the social media ecosystem and the mavens will inherit the world.
Conversely, the TV networks will be watching and will embark on a maven discovery search themselves to ensure that social media will come under ITS remit, not that of the client.
Exciting days indeed, but rather like events today in Cairo, nobody knows what will happen, except it won’t unfold on ticker-tape machines or blocked social networks, but the reliable channel of TV. As for the next revolution, who knows?