THE TABITHA SITUATION

We at The Escape Pod couldn’t be more pleased with the reaction to our new Wheat Thins campaign.

I’m a 7K plus twitter veteran. I love twitter. Not every does. Not everyone gets it. I have also been blogging for years now. I love social media. To me it’s fun and stimulating. I am one of those millions of busy online worker bees who just can’t shut the f**k up. I help spread the online pollen, if I may ;-)

So the idea of combining video and twitter in a fun way had huge appeal for me personally.

I have also done more than my share of prank videos. I love doing that too. It’s fun and yields great undeniably real reactions and energy you just can’t get from contrived (ie, regular) commercials.

Every time we have done prank video there is ALWAYS a certain segment that is understandably leery and suspicious. They think that what we shot COULDN’T be real. And that it’s fake. Fair enough. I can understand that. Advertising’s biggest problem, in my estimation, is that it’s usually just irrelevant bullshit. So everything we do is viewed with a certain amount of suspicion. Even when it’s real.

This time round the online detectives have been quick to point out that one of our tweeters, Tabitha, only had one tweet on her twitter page. And that was her pro-Wheat Thins tweet. I know what they mean. I’d be suspicious too. But I can explain.

This is how we tracked down these people. Initially we hired a team of researchers to comb twitter every day for the most promising sounding pro Wheat Thins tweets all over the country. We wanted the mentions to be comparatively recent (may/april) so that people could check them out online and verify them for themselves. Because i knew they would!

As we got close to production of these budget realities dictated that we limit ourselves to tweets in the LA area so we could shoot more films. Which cut down our pool of candidates. The researchers then suggested expanding our search to include Facebook mentions too. But I wanted to keep it to Twitter to keep it focused.

So we did. Or we thought we did.

When we were near finishing the edits on these videos I searched all their Twitter accounts and nearly had a heart attack when I searched Tabitha’s twitter home page and found it empty! WTF!!!! I went ballistic. What the hell happened???

We then found out that Tabitha was a facebook mention that had gotten confused as a tweet by the researcher and slipped through.

Now to those of us involved in the production who WEREN’T social media nuts this wasn’t viewed as a big deal. But it was to me. Oh yes! I recall shouting loudly and uttering expletives. And I just knew someone like me would stumble upon this and blog about it. Just as I would. And sure enough they have.

Hence Tabitha’s sole tweet on her Twitter account. When we knocked on her door we actually asked her if she had “tweeted” the statement she had in fact posted on Facebook. You’ll notice she doesn’t disagree. She did say it. Just not on Twitter.

And in a related matter, our air guitar hero Dan REMOVED his tweet (on the advice of his agent perhaps?) precipitating yet another heart attack in my part. He put it back but if you look at the date it was last week. (UPDATE: NO HE DIDN’T. SORRY DAN/BJORN!) This also nearly broke my heart. After all our efforts, and doing this is not easy, people would think these were staged. And they weren’t. I can’t imagine staging something like this. For the simple reasons that it would be no fun and you simply can’t fake honest surprised reactions. Unless you have de Niro in your fake prank.

People talk endlessly about the need for transparency online. Well, there you have it folks. The whole story.

We did something new here. And it was largely out of our control. There will be glitches along the way. I will have a few heart attacks. But what’s new?

I hope this clears this up to everyone’s satisfaction. And thanks for all the online mentions and tweets.

Keep an eye out for that yellow van! You could be next.

39 responses to “THE TABITHA SITUATION

  1. OK, cool. So after you knocked on her door, did you arrange for her to create a Twitter account or did you guys set that up for her ahead of time? I believe your story, I’m just trying to figure out production logistics as the guys in the spot are looking at the Twitter page before they head to Tabitha’s house.

  2. the legendary Jetpacks! welcome.

    Tabitha had a twitter account but had never tweeted. the guys in the van (host guy and camera/sound/director/producer) presumed it was a tweet because they had been told it was a tweet. as we all had. the closeup of the computer in the van was done in post when we still believed it was a tweet not a facebook post. but our host asked her if she “tweeted”. technically he should have asked her if she “posted online”. but she had used those exact words (and spelling!) in reference to wheat thins within the past month.

  3. Mine was also originally a Facebook post…I never removed mine. It’s still on my Facebook page. I thought I had connected my Twitter and FB account, but apparently it’s not seamless… (just FYI).

  4. Ah Bjorn! my apologies. stupid social media technology. thanks for filling me in. glad we found you. however we did!

  5. beverly parker

    Pranking Tim started with his Twitter and became a full blown epic of planning with family, friends, the owners of Pannikins, the coffee house and his bosses.
    The uproarious laughter is a testimony to the spontanaity and love our family has in pranking each other. I prank my family on a regular basis and the Wheat Thin Prank fit right into the many ways I like to surprise my family. The laughter is from the bottom of our family’s heart of love for each other. We are grateful you guys got to join in with our family and our love for each other.

  6. beverly parker

    There is in fact a providential backstory to Tim’s selection. Serendipity brought him to your attention, but a Mother’s heart and desires for her kids, supercedes all other planning.
    More to come

  7. thank you beverly! it was great fun. you have a fun family clearly.

    i would like to point out that this comment by beverly is indeed a comment by beverly. ;-)

  8. beverly parker

    yes it is a comment from Beverly the mother of Tim, a supreme prankster. For Father’s day we pranked Tim’s dad and went on a hunt for the best banana cream pie in San Diego. We put him a car, not telling him where he was going and drove him all over San Diego looking for the best banana creme pie his favoite dessert. We walked into restaurants ordered one piece of pie , 4 forks, and 4 drinks. We took a 1-10 rating and headed to the next coffee shop. we had tim jump out of the car, run into restaurants and see if the had banana creme pie. He’d jump in the car and then we headed to the next restaurant on our list. We found the banana creme pie is an endangered species of desert. We ended the evening with dinner, banana creme pie and some great memories.
    Pranking gives families some great fun and memories

  9. See perfect set up here! First off Jetpacks and I connected because he went on Adverve which happens to be Bill Greens show (make the Logo Bigger)! Which they want you on! I confirmed not just my talent scout email! Though not sure if I guessed your address right LOL. Aliens might have ESP but we are sometimes bad at guessing email addies.

    This would be a great subject to discuss on that show.

    As for the rest Vinny you have out done yourself. I am very proud of you!

  10. So my first experience with wordpress is not a good one! I signed up to start a new blog and it hijacked me here! GRRR!

    Anyway my comment from the blog I am working on still stands. Its awaiting moderation and has my burningman man of the dust avatar! LOL

  11. Absolutely love the campaign and appreciate the detailed explanation as to why things might have appeared off at first. There will always be trolls shouting fake at everything. Thanks for the transparency.

  12. thank you seth.

  13. beverly, thanks for you lovely story. looking forward to meeting Tim when he comes to Chicago!

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  16. Vinny not only is the work and campaign being discussed you opened a huge discussion on whether people want brands reading their stuff and showing up at their house. Facebook probably isn’t happy but I think its an incredible discussion point inside and outside of advertising.

    I have seen posts of people really worried about the implications and I have seen human prostitutes who will gladly take anything for free from a brand..in fact begging for free stuff.

    Bravo! Your going to Trump the Nike campaign and the Man on the Horse by next Friday.

  17. beverly parker

    In reading the You tube comments and the blogs two questions reoccur. How was the family found and what about the integrity of following Twitter and doing a surprise encounter. To answer the first question, I was found through Tim’s
    Facebook account. Again the coincidence is that Tim had just back on FB and I was exploring its usage in connecting the ABB (aging baby boomers) with the younger generation. I am in graduate school at age 62 and we have animated conversations addressing the technological postmodern world and connecting the old world view to the new. I have been actively been persuing FB and multiple generations of users within my friends and family. What is in the center is my son’s use of technology and his trust of me being one of his friends. This allowed the researchers and casting directors to connect and make this paradigm shift happen.
    In regards to the integrity of using Twitter and FB in creating a surprise to the individual, the commentators are skipping one important step between the twitter to the final product. What is in the center is the family members who assist in developing the prank. This is a key component in reaching the end product and the integrity cement. In the process I had upwards of 10 interactions with the production team before the shoot. During that time I asked many question, about logistics, process and contract and pay. We as a family
    had many conversations and felt that this was a perfect situation for Tim and that he would be amenable to all that would occur. When we make decisions in our household, if everyone agrees we know we are going in the right direction.
    I am a little detailed on this, but I want to point out that the family/friend component is where the decision of appropriateness is vetted and decided. For us we had no red flags but had huge green lights to be apart of very fun prank and paradigm shift.
    If the prank integrity surprise is an issue, you might want to ask some very specific questions during the interview process.
    Hope this helps as your pranking paradigm shift inspires the ad world. Love to you Beverly

  18. wow. beverly! thank you

    (what beverly said)

  19. howie, what beverly said, again.

    a lot of this is the spirit and intent with which you go into the process. we were very sensitive to out tweeters. and if they shut the door in our face, we would have apologized and went our way.

    but we had created little bits for each tweet that we hoped would be funny and charming to them and make them feel special. and we edited the videos with one eye on making them come across as positively as possible.

    it was done in a spirit of friendly fun. and hopefully that came across in the videos. our goal was to be one of the more interesting things that happened to them that week.

  20. beverly parker

    hope this answers the challenges in your paradigm shift. For us we have a cross generational communication shift. Also my suggestion of the coffee house was to stretch farther than the publishing clearing house look of the campaign.

  21. and we loved the location too beverly for EXACTLY that reason. even though we (you and I) had never talked about it beforehand. we loved the randomness of it. it felt like a surprise birthday party. and, have to say, loved La Hoya. first time there.

  22. beverly parker

    my thoughts were that the coming to the house was very old school and tired. Tim is a very hip, cool groovy and quirky guy!!!!!!
    My FB friends in, Taiwan, Pallyup , Topeka, Eudora, Valley Center Indianapolis and San Diego are all in Coffee shops. That is where they are going and creating community. I
    thought the ad would be more current if it was situated in a place that was more trendy and how they are living their lives. I thought it needed to move from the old box to the new box. What happened was that you had other young people in the shot, you had the sounds of a city, out doors and a “set” that mirrored a coffee place in almost any place in America or around the world. You also got extra advertising boost from drivers by, customers and shop keepers in the area. The background of the traffic increased the tempo of the shot and was a great background.
    It not only lent to the shift your going for and the world the kids live in. They are usually on the move, outside doing something and looking for community

  23. Good stunt Vinny.

    @sethodell and those of similar view. Liked it from the start and never said it was fake. My radar though, like Vinny’s seems to be, is always up for fake shit when it’s done wrong. Thankfully, dumb brands and dumber agency blunders in this business are plentiful so we have lots of case studies.

    The key point that I did raise though and which for me trumps the other concerns, is the vibe from the spot that someone can easily track you down from a tweet or anywhere on the social nets you hang, etc., and man, wouldn’t that be stalker scary if they could, right?

    In that case, I’d be freaking out on just what info I had in my profile that allowed them to get my home address. (Reach out to me publicly, cool. Go behind my back and find my address? Not so much.)

    Vinny’s put up a really extensive breakdown here of the execution, something welcome in a world of PR shops who only say things like how their *viral* “got 1.2 million views!” (What they leave out is the part about how it took over three months on 20 different video sites—combined.)

  24. Beverly awesome input. Thank you. Makes me very happy you were part of this.

    And Vinny I myself wasn’t questioning your motives or the integrity of what you did. I just love it when people start debating philosophy beyond a specific spot. I agree with Beverly that the family or whomever is the go between’s are a big important part of the decision. I was just really excited that your work is having people discuss things more deeply beyond your spot/campaign. especially regarding technology evolving around us and social media.

    I recall many a spot you have brought up for discussion here that had industry wide chatter. I am very happy its yours that has this right now. Kudos and I am in awe.

  25. bill, well we are undeniably skating on thin ice here. something we were acutely aware of. and if someone showed up on my doorstep based on a tweet, i know i would just run!

    it’s funny you raise the specter of the stalker. that’s pretty much how i got my first job in advertising back in NYC in 92. i was the stalker. but nobody ever knew!

    i also just watched THE KING OF COMEDY recently. it’s a fine line. a very fine line. and like i said, it’s all in your intent.

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  27. Transparency Win.

    Excellent, original campaign. Full points.

  28. thanks james. glad you like. this pranking stuff can get complicated!

  29. brian palatucci

    hey vinny,

    the spots look fantastic. can’t wait to make a hundred more…

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  32. Irene Palatucci

    Love seeing you guys on TV….everyone loves these Wheat Thin “the Crunch is Calling”””” I get great comments on all of them from so many people….make more of these…the buzz is on!

  33. thank you irene. i’m no detective but i am correct in assuming you are somehow related to brian palatucci? if so, please tell him that he is, in industry parlance, money!

    he was perfect for this role.

  34. Irene Palatucci

    Did you love the People’s Choice Awards….OMG….the Viral Video was so cute. That poor little guy just wanted to be a “Single Lady”!!!! Loved the “Wheat Thins”commercial, winners and of course Brian Palatucci :-)…such a natural, so relaxed!! That’s the buzz from everyone I know that watched the show….A great product gets great results!!

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  37. @theescapepod I’m looking into non-traditional media as a student and was intrigued by your ads. I’m curious, how have you guys gone about tracking the success of this marketing campaign and what type of significant data have you collected? How do you measure the success of these ads?

    Regards

    Max

  38. Irene Palatucci

    This is for Max 4/17/2011..just saw your question….actually it must have been pretty good as Fios is now copying it!!! 03/21/2013!! Best compliment is having someone copy you!!!

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