North Shore marketing agency brings home the trend of thanking Facebook fans with a music video


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Hundreds of Drumstick ice cream treats were harmed in the making of a music video for Nestle this summer in the backyard of a house near Pine-Richland High School.

Not all were eaten, though; some just melted during the hours-long shoot.

But they were all appreciated, just like the 1 million Facebook fans who inspired the project led by the Smith Brothers Agency, a marketing firm on the North Shore that manages digital and social media for the Drumstick brand.

The video, posted on Facebook around noon Monday, features a ukulele-playing man singing thank you, even naming fans individually. "We raise a cone to you, our 1-million-strong Nestle Drumstick crew," he croons. "For this milestone, this song's for you."

Corporate brands began joining Facebook years ago and -- through hard work, entertaining posts and some coupon distribution -- they've built up the kinds of crowds that most rock stars would appreciate.

Now the trend is to find ways to thank fans for being willing to hit that "Like" button.

Disney posted an animated star graph when it hit 100 million likes in 2010. When Jeep hit 2 million fans in March, the brand filmed factory workers, dealers and employees talking about how great it is to be liked. Febreze tried an ambitious version in June where its team said "thank you" 1 million times, once for each fan.

The Smith Brothers team estimated the Drumstick page would probably hit 1 million sometime around the end of this summer, and they wanted to do something special.

When they looked around at what others had done, they weren't thrilled with thank-yous that felt more like commercials than personal notes. They loved a gesture made by Honda last year. After a fan named Chris carved the brand name into his lawn, Honda carved his name in the lawn in front of the corporate headquarters.

"It just felt really personal, really right," said Brian Moore, creative director.

In May, Mr. Moore and social media manager Nisha Contractor began brainstorming about ways to use comments from fans and even names in a Drumstick thank-you. Mr. Moore started singing, and they liked it.

He began working with Jay Green, owner of Big Science Music, Downtown, to develop a song to pitch to the client. In the official presentation to the Nestle folks, Mr. Moore reports he sang it himself and played a little air guitar.

It's not always an easy sell to upper management to do this kind of thing, Ms. Contractor and Mr. Moore said, because hiring talent, a production crew and filming doesn't come cheap. And even fun thank-you videos rarely go viral in the way that, say, Korean singer PSY's "Gangnam Style" musical video did, tallying up more than 400 million views.

A thank-you video that Kraft did for fans in the spring -- with an a cappella group singing some names as others scrolled along the screen or popped up in clever ways -- had about 27,000 views on YouTube.com at last check.

In that video, fans were identified only by first name and last initial. The Smith Brothers team wanted to use full names and say where fans were from, something that Nestle's legal advisers weren't thrilled about. Since Facebook fans often keep details private, Ms. Contractor had to use the site's message and email features to contact people. When she did reach them, some gave verbal OKs, but then the agency was required to get signatures on paper.

Once the work was done, deciding when to post the video was tricky, too. It was important to exceed the 1 million level by a few hundred fans, in case some went away. Then just as they were going to post, the fan level dropped by 500 or 600.

It turned out that Facebook had done a purge of its accounts that looked fake or suspicious.

So they waited to hit the mark again and planned to post the video last Thursday. That turned out to be the day the news broke that Facebook itself had reached 1 billion users. To avoid getting buried by that big news, they waited a few more days.

When it finally went up, they quickly alerted the fans who'd signed on to the project so they could take a look.

In the song, which is performed in the video by Cranberry musician Nick Marzock, the lyrics include information about where the brand's fans come from -- "... 4,474 like us in Los Angeles; 2,000 and probably more like us in Columbus ..." -- as well as weaving in comments found on the Facebook page.

And there are names, including Kara Wood in Tulsa, Okla., and "Jim Bartasavich from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania."

Mr. Bartasavich, who lives in Fox Chapel, reported in a phone interview Thursday that he was thrilled to be part of the video -- and happy to be paid with a coupon for free ice cream.

He has liked Drumstick treats for years but became a Facebook fan earlier this year because he liked the brand's website so much.

Asked how he earned that video shout-out, he laughed and offered the opinion, "I think the reason they used my name was because it rhymed well."

There may be some truth to that. Mr. Moore said the names used in the lyric kept changing based on whether the team could get legal OKs and how the names sounded. At one point, he described going back to Ms. Contractor and saying, "Wow, I really need somebody to rhyme with 'Virginia.' "

To see the Drumstick thank-you video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGh5GtS1rt4

businessnews - neigh_north - interact

Teresa F. Lindeman: tlindeman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2018. First Published October 12, 2012 4:15 AM


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