Brandhackers Happy Hour Meetup, Dewey's Flatiron, New York
July 13, 2009
I never go to Dewey's Flatiron by choice. The last time I went there, a businessman offered to pretend his wife didn't exist. And the floor smelled like the underside of the Staten Island ferry. Last night I had to go if I wanted to observe the Brandhackers SMAC (Social Media Ad Council) "Pitch Pepsi" Meetup Happy Hour. It was at Dewey's that I discovered Tyler Hoffman (CFO of Gather)'s favorite Muppets are the old hecklers in the balcony -- and that Deep Focus's Vice President, Publicity,Christian Borges, likes a Gatorade to mute his hangover. Oh right, and people pitched to PepsiCo.
The first thing I did was accost a fellow from Draftcb who is also a grad student writing his thesis on social media. I also ran into Tim Smith, VP, East Coast Sales for Social Vibe, and the extremely tall Craig from Drivemint.com who said he's not only happy to say Drivemint.com is a sole proprietorship, but that they compete with Zipcar on two levels: customer service, and they're less expensive (founder owns a bunch of parking garages, which keeps cost down and they're locally focused). I also met Jieun Lee, Partner at Spil Creative; Damien Dominguez, Principal at Spil Creative; Bethann Talty, Copywriter; and Patricia Kelpie, Marketing Strategist, Brand Builder, and Media Communications Specialist (sheesh!)
Tom Gerace, Gather's Founder and CEO as well as Chairman of SMAC (which sounds just like that decadent mac-and-cheese restaurant in the East Village) welcomed the NYC crowd with "Welcome to Red Sox nation." I'm not emotionally invested in sports, so I don't care, but I guarantee he didn't make any new pals with that phrase.
The upstairs of Dewey's Flatiron was so clogged with people, some were scattered about the floor as Gerace passed the mic to Bonin Bough, Director of Digital and Social Media at PepsiCo, who asked the audience if they could name PepsiCo's main brands. Beverage names were being thrown about as Bough reminded everyone that two-thirds of PepsiCo's business is food. "So, when you talk about consumption opportunities, a beverage and a snack work really well together," explained Bonin, as trickles of sweat raced each other toward his neckline.
Bough continued the PepsiCo pitch, highlighting the rebranding, where they exposed the rebrand to "select" bloggers. The only flashing name I recognized was Crayon's Greg Verdino. Did anyone else recognize who they consider to be influential bloggers? After the PepsiCo social sales pitch, I could hear the natives getting restless. Whether it was the $4 Buds or the $5 well drinks, I could feel the audience shifting on their feet, gnarling, and gnashing with ideas.
But Gerace and the rest of the panelists were having none of it. With every spit idea, Gerace would swat it away as ill-timed. Must. Stick. To. Agenda. While trying to refocus the audience on not sharing and just listening, the panel sent mixed messages by repeating that this was a consumer-generated Meetup, so please make your ideas known. Say what?
OH! AND. Leading up to Brandhackers, the message was that YOU could pitch to PepsiCo and your idea could be used in their next campaign. However, while perched on the wood floor at Deweys, it became more realistic: "If you represent a company, you can speak on behalf of the company with an idea, then we MAY use it." That put a really sexy idea into a suit made out of owl pellets.
Finally, we were given the challenge: harness emotional identification with and better celebrity endorsements of the Gatorade brand. Celeb athletes are great, but how can Gatorade inspire the couch-critters to be the lubricant and the catalyst for the brand? I should point out that this was the point when the word "efficacy" was used at least 45 times. I will not use it again in this column.
Some guy said "is it just sports or can it be a band..." and was immediately cut off so that we could hear more from the panel on how a campaign is created.
Another member of the audience hooted out "Does it have to be a traditional sport or could it be video gaming?" Bonin said that he loved that idea and that their R&D guy reminded him that "when you look at developing countries, there aren't stadiums, etc. etc." -- though I'm not sure that means they can afford gaming systems.. Either way, at first I snickered at the idea but then thought of the sweaty cult of Dance Dance Revolutionaries, Wii Fit fanatics, and even those strategic nerdlings trouncing through the woods and forests playing Dungeons and Dragons. I'm saying, my cousins were pretty sweaty after faux sword fighting.
The first pitch came with the aggressive, old-school New York feeling Brian Litvack, Director, Marketing & Business Developmentfrom for Sportvite (whose tagline is "stop playing with yourself"). He began with aggressive eloquence, grabbing the microphone and answering "I only need three minutes" to the shouted time limit reminder. "If you haven't heard about me it's because I'm failing or you're failing. Gatorade needs to DO something," he spat out, his phrases all at once smooth and in staccato. He sounded emotionally invested in teams, rec reation leagues--- the people that love the game. He continued, "I just talked to 500rec leagues .. YOU need to talk to 500 rec leagues."
Jason Miletsky of PFS Marketwyse (and clarifying commenter below) characterizing his college rugby team with a smile as "a bunch of Jewish kids from Brandeis," spoke to the heart of the campaign, literally -- asking that Gatorade focus on the emotion versus the science of the game, "It's the heart-stopping, I-don't-care-how-much-I-suck-I-want-to-win-this-so-bad" burn in your chest.
Mary Telesco, Director of Account Management for Meetup, grabbed the mic and said that she has popped into tonsof Meetups and that Gatorade should be a part of supporting the athlete-focused/created Meetups.
Me? I'm all about the delivery room. And please, stick your tongue in your cheek. They could play off the phrase, "is it in you?" and when Ms. Preggers launches that little wormy thing across the finish line (I'm a HUGE fan of childbirth), the doc slams a G2 in her hand. Right?
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Grainy photos are on Flickr. Good camera is almost out of the shop!