Jul 19, 2010

4 Lessons For Gov Via The @OldSpice Guy

Should i start with a melodic, "Hellooo Ladies?"

Not one to let a hot meme slip by, and vacation prone to hearing the oceans in a shell and seeing signs in billowing clouds, here's my resounding YES to finding lessons for dot-gov in this past week's Internet phenom: that most awesome 180 videos in 3 days, multi-channel, rock-hard abs Old Spice campaign.

But I am not going to write about the brilliant social media campaign--others are doing that. Instead, I want to talk about four lessons we can take from @OldSpice Guy to better our dot-gov projects.

Number one: Speed
This is 2010, and if you haven't got it yet, we stopped waiting. The Old Spice team created video responses in real time. Someone--sometimes famous and sometimes not--would tweet and in minutes there was a response. And it was good. We hadn't seen this level of realtime before, but we like it.

Government needs to get with the program and escape from the time warps of never-ending requirements gathering, ad nauseam reporting, acquisition merry-go-rounds, and TAA (total risk aversion). I was on a panel a few weeks ago when someone asked how was it acceptable for government to take 3 months to implement open government initiatives. My response? that I would love for a project to come in under six. Sigh.

Our citizens expect immediate results. We need to make it so.

Number two: Planning
How do you make 180 videos, have them distributed across multiple networks and garner 11 million views in 3 days? Very carefully. This was a well-designed and executed plan. And, like any well-executed plan, it looked easy. But the handsome man already had a fan base, the social media team knew where to reach out, all the resources for the rapid research, writing, producing and editing were on site, and sign-offs were established.

I don't want to miss any chance to hammer home the strategy message. You, too, are building toward a goal. You have to lay the groundwork, do your research and pull together the team.  You also need to be open to opportunities.

For example, we learned that you can't put a new capability in place during a disaster (duh, you say, but there is an expectation that technology can solve problems "magically"). That's why it's important for people drill and for organizations to run simulations and exercises. That's why your IT and new media teams need to participate. Setting up a Twitter account days into a crisis is much less effective than building a follower base and expertise to broadcast information that scales.

Is having a web infrastructure that can easily output RSS something you will need? Don't have the infrastructure you want, but can begin collecting data for the next gen? Do it now. In 2006, we tested third party tools for a blog, because, even though we had no nibbles from the front office, we knew that we would keep pushing to blog. When the formerly reluctant boss hit "go," many months later, we were ready with tested technology and policy. We went from go to live in 5 weeks without breaking a sweat.

See where you want to be. Build toward that state.

Number three: Talent
No doubt that the Old Spicers had a corral full of talent. From the guy in front of camera to the professional broadcast quality output to the hysterically funny writers to the social media experts who brilliantly got it and executed on key to the crazy creatives that put the whole scheme in motion, this was high-quality work.

Who do you have in your stable? Is your organization built for mules who keep their heads down and plod along on the well-worn path? Or do you nurture thoroughbreds and give them room to run? Do you hire or contact with superstars only to to keep pulling up the reins and push them to follow that old path? Does your staff look at the Old Spice campaign and wish they could do something like that?

You want high quality output? Find and nurture the folks who can do that work. And give them the space.

Which leads to...

Number four: Trust
There would be no speed from this well-planned caper if there wasn't an extraordinary level of trust in the superstar team.  The ad company had worked with the client at length and pitched a process that skipped traditional sign-offs from legal, et.al. And the client agreed.

This is an interesting element. It's critical to understand that while trust is imperative, it's not automatic. Trust needs to be earned, every day. It's unreasonable--and dangerous--for executives to bet on a project or team simply because trust is a success factor. It's up to the folks in dot-gov to build the trust and to show the judgement necessary to take on risk. You create trust by building relationships, by showing success on smaller projects, by understanding the needs of the organization and developing programs to meet mission goals, by creating strong implementation and risk management plans, and by communicating clearly both up and down.

Trust, like Rome, isn't built in a day.

So that's it, speed, planning, talent and trust or SPTT! I think I need a vowel for that. Hey, look, a fish just fell in my arms. Then it turned into diamonds. I'm on a horse.

And, in case you missed it, here's my personal favorite of the Old Spice rapid ads--to the actor's daughter.



  1. Great observations Gwynne. Fun campaign and I think the lessons of Speed, Planning, Talent and Trust are incredibly valid. Especially the trust one. Without the trust in this case none of this could have happened. Imagine the replies going though a communications approval process similar to that in most agencies and being released 3 months after the fact...somehow I suspect they just would not have the same impact, not to mention relevance.

    I really think trust lies at the root of it.

  2. @nusum yes, agreed that trust underlies this success. Importantly, this is actually an element that any individual can help build. There are so many things that an individual has no control over. I have heard many times that "they" don't get it, but I have had bosses who were reluctant to trust. If you can deliver for them--and be honest when you can't--you build the infrastructure that becomes trust. I know that you have had that experience, too!

    Thanks, Thom!


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