As I age into the demographic equivalent of a isolated hamlet on the western coast of Antarctica, I should be prohibited by federal law from weighing in on certain topics. Top-40 songcraft, fashionably appointed pants, activities that take place later than 8:30 p.m. (9:15 p.m. on weekends)… these are no longer realms of personal familiarity.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still big on liberty, freedom, flatbed trucks, eagles (bald and otherwise), chaw-chewin’ and everything else that cements my standing as a proud ‘merican. I just no longer know what I don’t know; my blind spots have blind spots. It’s time for the government to step in.
The problem emerges most embarrassingly when I choose to write about marketing programs that target younger audiences (which is to say: all of them). It is here that I often encounter one of the subsets of sentient being about which I have nothing resembling a point of reference: new-media celebrities.
As I understand it, these people achieve renown by filming themselves doing what my mom’s cousin might have called “stupid idiot shit” and sharing it via social media. Brands then shower them with products and attention. The mechanics and the appeal elude me in equal measure.
Thus with the giant caveats that I don’t “get” Internet celebrity and that I wouldn’t know a Snapchat if one were sent to me via fax, I really dig a new Marriott campaign that leverages the smart cellular computer phone technology. In its first video volley, “Marriott Rewards Presents 6 Days, 7 Nights: Berlin Featuring Jen Levinson,” the totally non-stodgy hotel chain looses Internet personality Levinson (“100K+ Snapchat,” per her web page) on Berlin.
Her assignment: To stay at Marriott’s MOXY Berlin, eat a lot of food and document the dickens out of it. It seems that she’s expected to use Snap’s Spectacles to simulate her point of view and maybe post a bunch from Marriott’s Snapchat handle? That question mark isn’t a typo. I genuinely don’t know what’s flying.
The catch is that Levinson self-identifies as a picky eater, which raises the stakes knee-high. Can our fearless protagonist milk the food bit while still completing whatever brand tasks Marriott has assigned her? On a less micro level, can she toe the line that separates self-unaware Millennial from Ugly American?
Indeed she can. “6 Days, 7 Nights: Berlin” works because Levinson doesn’t take the assignment too seriously. When she announces, “I am adventurous in all aspects of my life except when it comes to food,” we’re primed for an idiot to start acting all idiot-like. That was the case in previous campaigns pairing A-list brands with Internet personalities, in which the only direction given to the personality was apparently LOUD LOUD LOUD MORE LOUD YES.
Instead, Levinson comes across as a sweet, decent young adult enjoying her time in a new city. She performs a few modest snow twirls and flops onto a MOXY bed as any road-weary traveler might. She also lands a few solid funnies, likening the appearance of one local dish to “really sad tuna.”
I’m not nuts about the clip’s kitchen-sink approach to editing, which turbo-alternates among split screens, wallpapers, animations and more. There’s narration, there are straightforward addresses to the camera… Was that a Segway I saw? I think it was.Nonetheless, “6 Days, 7 Nights: Berlin” burnishes a brand with a degree of skill and (relative) restraint that most Millennial-focused campaigns to date have lacked. I’m not sure if the lesson here is that old brands can learn new tricks or that social-istic campaigns sink or swim on the appeal of their protagonists. Right now, I’m leaning towards the latter. Levinson’s parents done raised a good kid.