When I started seeing ads for Badoo plastered all over New York City subway stations and bus shelters, my first question concerned its ever-so-whimsically-nonsensical name. Sure, "Badoo" rolls off the tongue easily enough and is fraught with Joycean allusion. But why not Urkywiggle? Why not Sassafrig or Ookedymook or Frmmppp? I demand that the linguists and semanticians charged with naming this web site/app dealie detail the thinking that drove their decision.
Nonetheless, the visual executions - images of young hipsters, each as bright-eyed and authentically multiethnic as the next – were interesting enough to embed themselves in my brain and prompt an Internet search-a-roni on Badoo. Turns out that it's one of the most popular social networking web site/app dealies on the planet and, like clove cigarettes and socialism, is huge in Europe. It only launched in the U.S. a few months back, which makes my ignorance slightly less inexcusable.
As part of the campaign to make Badoo as omnipresent here as it is elsewhere, the company has unleashed The Badoo Project. To get New Yorkers cyber-geolocationing with one another, it invited the entire city to "a 3 day photoshootathon [double sic]" and featured a bunch of the winners - 22 chosen by a panel of judges, 2 by whoever could best rally a social-media army to his/her cause - in the ads I can't avoid. Lo and behold, they then plopped a handful of the winners into web videos.
Predictably, the clips are standard-issue hipster monologues, in which the particular sort of skinny-jean'd individuals identified as paragons of downtown style by marketing mavens embody most conceivable urbanite clichés. They do everything in their power to merit being described as "fierce": strike provocative poses, flash basement tattoos and share their life's wisdom ("everybody has two sides to them," "every day I try to do at least one thing that scares the hell out of me"). They jog down city streets while playing the ukulele and rhapsodize about their ability to hustle while working out in princess-pink boxing gear. They are blindly, aggressively irritating.
The campaign is, at least in theory, confined to New York - "the coolest, most diverse and thrilling city in the world," according to the Badoo site copy. But here's the thing: Badoo is a social-media tool and, as we've been told ad infinitum for the last 30 months, social media knows no borders and lives outside the law and can't be tamed by your corrupt militaristic ruling-class patriarchy, etc.
So while this campaign may well resonate with New Yorkers who'd no sooner venture north of 23rd St. in Manhattan than enjoy Kenny Rogers non-ironically, it can't by its very nature be confined to New York. It's on the Internet and the Internet is written in permanent crayon. Inevitably, the hipster-bait elements of The Badoo Project will bleed onto milder audiences who won't just flee the site/app out of fear for their own safety, but will preemptively apply for restraining orders against the video participants, just in case.
And yet there's a single human moment in the Badoo videos that makes me wonder if, turned down about 27 notches and drained of its packaged coolness, the campaign could've hit its mark. At the end of her I-am-saucy-and-sassy highlight reel, Saucy (really) drops the metro-chic affectations and freezes in place. Upon seeing her face on a Badoo ad planted atop a NYC taxicab, she is visibly taken aback, able only to utter a curt "that is me."
I could've watched that moment 15 times. The rest of the campaign? Once was plenty.