I felt I should write something on the Rage Against the Machine battle against The X-Factor’s template pop offering for Britain’s Christmas number one, if only because there was a charity element to it. Strategic planner Alex Steer has written an interesting blog about this ubiquitous topic over here and I think he raises some good points. For my two-penneth I think the RATM single campaign was a bit of a unique case and one that caught the imagination of the public for very specific reasons. And like Alex I don’t think we have seen the best brave new model of a social media campaign by any stretch. Yet.
For this blog I should really focus on how the campaign can inform us about opportunities for the third sector. Seemingly, thousands of people can be harnessed online through their mutual distaste (or outright hate) for something – Facebook and Twitter are very good at this – but can we get people to sign up to ‘unsexy’ campaigns for good, such as equality for disabled people, in as big a number and with a real end ‘product’?
I’ve viewed tens of facebook groups all vying for huge numbers of people to affect some form of social change. But once we get to the page – what is typically asked of us? Signing a petition (yawn) or a template letter to our MP? Maybe details to attend a rally (getting better)?
There are themes to be drawn out of the so-called ‘Rage against the X-Factor’ exercise for sure, and why it did particularly well. For example;
a) tapping into the great British sense of humour / irony or tradition, b) the time of year a campaign is held, c) defining what external ‘product’ will realise or personify the public’s campaigning, d) the ease of joining-in and being counted. In this case, the campaigning ask was very small; to download a cheap MP3 from the warmth of your sofa, and if you could be pushed – skipping over to justgiving and pledging a few quid to Shelter. The result was potentially affecting – some say ‘reclaiming’ – (the Great British Obsession of) what will be number one for Christmas in the pop charts.
All very empowering yet completely safe and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. Good British fun.
However I did see a third sector campaign this year which ticked a few of these same boxes – and it was all about ‘social good’; The Big Lunch, brainchild of the Eden Project. It had an online ‘pledging’ angle (registering your street to say that you would hold a lunch with members of your community on 19 July 2009); it had a Twitter hashtag, facebook group and viral aspects to pass the campaign pledge to friends; and it tapped into the good old British (almost war-time) spirit of community [I've mentioned elsewhere in this blog how Tower Hamlets are currently tapping into this]. There was a lot of bunting and balloons in the imagery of the campaign, and there were constant references in traditional media to Jubilee street parties. The Big Lunch website cites up to a million people joined-in on that Saturday in mid July – on the basis of a pledge. All of these people sat and ate lunch in the British erm ‘summertime’ with friends and neighbours. And I think that’s pretty cool.
Hats off to the Shelter-fundraising arm of the X(factor)mas campaign, but let’s agree that as a sector we are already doing some really great things – and I hope we continue to see social media employed with even more ingenuity by charities; and importantly as part of a wider communications strategy. Let’s not forget that both the X-Factor / RATM campaign and The Big Lunch were played out across traditional media too, which is very important – no social media campaign can afford to stand alone online.
I want to see more mass movements benefiting social good in 2010…Merry Christmas and a happy new year to that.
Although – look out – there’s to be another pop battle soon…