A Mountain (Dew) of a Train Wreck, Ragú: A Saucy Reward for Innocence Lost

Note: The views expressed on this blog are my own, and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer, its management, shareholders or employees.

Dub The Dew Mountain DewSpeaking candidly, I love a good marketing train wreck.

This includes my own crashes and blunders, as, in my career, I’ve paid more than my fair share of “tuition” for miscalculations with six to seven figure price tags.

For those in the digital marketing world, every action has a measurable reaction: from billions of impressions to individual clicks a consumer makes (or doesn’t make). For some, marketing online is more science than art. The vigorous testing, scoring, progress reports and report cards can be brutal to a marketer’s creative side. And, trust me, creative and media train wrecks are frequent – if you look at the numbers alone.

Measurement aside, for me, there’s something delicious and altogether captivating about awkward moments between marketers and consumers. On either side of the coin, it’s difficult to quantify that feeling of betrayal of trust, disappointment or “what the hell were they thinking” moment after experiencing an “off” ad or campaign.

While I think it’s important to examine a brand’s intention and objective when examining the wreckage of a botched campaign, online consumers have little incentive to care about such things beyond a simple comment or “Like” on a Facebook newsfeed about the event.

“Mountain Dew Just Lost the Internet”
In many cases, digital subcultures can take advantage of a brand’s digicultural naivete. Take Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen & Mountain Dew’s recent contest/name-game mishap: “Dub the Dew,” which fell victim to 4chan’s mischievous antics. Read the Time article >

Regardless of the level of appropriateness or decency, are we really shocked that names like “Hitler did nothing wrong,” “Moist Nugget,” “Fapple” or “Diabeetus” made the top of the socially/consumer generated list? The underbelly of the Web feeds off these types of situations, and was largely laughing at Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen & Mountain Dew. It was a pure demonstration of consumer dominance over brands in the online space. And, to me, it was amazing to behold.

In a statement, Mountain Dew has apologized to fans offended by the debacle, and quickly distanced itself from the campaign as executed.

“Dub the Dew,” a local market promotional campaign that was created by one of our customers—not Mountain Dew—was compromised. We are working diligently with our customer’s team to remove all offensive content that was posted and putting measures in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Mountain Dew has a legacy of engaging its most loyal fans to tap innovative ideas for the brand through really successful programs like “DEWMocracy” and “Your Malt Dew” and so we sincerely apologize to all of our fans who may have been offended by this customer’s program.”

Regardless, both the pizza company and Mountain Dew didn’t appear to anticipate or appreciate the reality of a digital truth: People do and say things online they would never do or say in the “real” world.

Sex & Spaghetti Sauce
Which, indeed, brings us to RL (real life, for the less nerdy). Ragu recently launched a commercial that made it’s way to my Facebook feed, accompanied by a “I can’t believe this is actually a commercial” comment or two, followed by several “WTF?!” responses.

This deliciously awkward moment brought to you by Ragu, proud sponsor of The Bedroom Olympics:

I don’t know about you, but I’ve suddenly got a hankerin’ for some pasta. And, perhaps some therapy to discuss my childhood.

This isn’t a Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake Halftime Special. This is Ragu directly associating mommy and daddy’s WWE Monday Night Raw wrasslin’ with their product. Exactly what a consumer wants to think about when enjoying pasta (note to mom: heavy sarcasm).

Honestly, I find the ad rather amazing and hilarious, in that wildly awkward-train-wreck kind of way. I applaud Ragu’s bravery and “Brand Building from Left Field” attempt, though I can’t help but notice the “what the hell” reaction many consumers are voicing across the social web.

My opinion? Leaving a consumer with an awkward feeling has a time and place, albeit infrequent and targeted. I think charities and non-profits often use this method (along with guilt) to their advantage, to move people beyond complacency toward action.

Regardless of where one falls with Ragu’s sexy spaghetti ad, it will certainly ignite the online landscape with thousands of comments, arguments and conversations. Millions of YouTube views aside, I know what many of us will be thinking about when we sit with family over a large plate of gluten-free pasta: Why didn’t Prego think of this?