Several days I wrote up some information about the Raging Cow blogging initiative. During the course of this I posted part one of my interview with Todd. In the next day or so I'll post some of my own thoughts about all of this along with more annotation. Here's part two:
Me - First a clarification: You wrote, "But to your point, no we did not
focus on any one community or publishing platform. And realize, this
group is only the start. We plan to invite hundred more into the
project. If they want in, we'll find them a place."
Are you saying that you have plans to have a specific number of 100
more bloggers on this project, or did you intend to write hundreds as a
generic "as many as we can get or are interested"?
TC - We have stated publicly that we hope to involve hundreds of bloggers to
the project. Obviously we have a deliberate plan for picking them, but
it's up to the blog community as to how many ultimately want to join in.
For that matter, it's up to the bloggers themselves if they want to join
in through us, getting sample product and all, or simply buy it and
comment on their own.
Either way is valid, which is the point.
Me - It is rather obvious that you had a professional artist/designer/copy
editor involved in the production of the Raging Cow site itself. Are
the project bloggers you brought in involved in that sites content? Is
it a multi-author log? Or do you have someone on staff who is writing
The notion of having a cow keep a journal is rather witty. The
additional "characters" outside of the teenagers & the cow though seem
grafted on after the fact. Can you give me some feedback on the
genesis of the additional individual characters and how they relate to
TC - Both your other questions really go into strategy and tactics, which I
can't go into that much. But I will share this with you. We believe
brands have a distinct personality, and that's obviously true when you
look at Raging Cow. So there is a full document that outlines the cow's
personality. And that goes for the other characters in the blogs. For
the sake of consistency there is a primary writer on each character, but
obviously the process is collaborative.
The other bloggers we work with were not involved in the development of
the site, although they offered some great advice after it launched.
The cam shots, on the other hand, tend to be a bit of comedy by
Me - You bring up cam girls and well to be honest that opens up my next
To be a bit, well, aggressive here I am fascinated by your choice of
cam kids for this project. I realize that cams are very very popular
with your target demographic but since the cam girls, no matter how
clean they present themselves, are almost always one click away from
adult entertainment it seems a curious choice to me. I was struck
immediately that your stance is almost like that of briar rabbit when
you say we wanted to choose bloggers who would stay away from content
"that would be inappropriate for our client's product to be in proximity
to, such as porn links, etc." Since in choosing to plug into
the cam girl culture you bring into the situation a lot of "potential"
baggage which may undermine your efforts.
I would like to hear your opinion of all of this keeping in mind that
you obviously will not reveal your strategy to me in detail.
TC - I think you've hit on a very interesting point. The whole "cam girl"
issue has some unique subtext. Here's something to ponder: Are
stereotypical cam girls linking to porn because they want to, like the
money, or want the traffic those sites drive to their site?
To be sure there are people online who have no concern for the image
they project and the digital company they keep. But we've seen this
pattern before. Think back to the personal home pages of the mid-90s,
when suddenly everyone wanted to run a banner ad on their site to make
money, no matter what the banner said.
We won't even try to take credit for it, but I think what we're doing is
at the leading edge of a new chapter for blog sites. Now it is possible
to gain credibility, and ultimately be rewarded in some fashion, without
having to accept every porn-portal link offered to you.
In this chapter blogs will be the smallest of niche entertainment sites,
true reality programming if you will. They will develop loyal followings
who tune in regularly. Inevitably that will attract the attention of
people trying to market products to that audience. So the question
becomes what is the right way to incorporate that marketing? What should
the line be between advertising and the content? For that matter, what
obligation do any of these bloggers have to disclose anything?
Our approach here is not much different than a traditional sampling
event. You've seen these where crews hand out samples of product,
stickers, coupons, etc. The goal there is to get people to try your
product and hopefully they'll tell their friends. That is the core of
our strategy, we're doing sampling. But we're doing it with people that
have much bigger groups of friends than I ever had at that age (or now
for that matter). Bloggers we choose to work with get the product, some
free swag like shirts and stickers, and a handful of coupons. They get
exactly what they would get if they encountered a sampling crew outside
As for our blog, its just there to tell a story. Someone posting to your
site actually said it better than I can:
I read through that raging cow fake blog and I thought it was funny
>>*shocked*. Somebody somewhere with talent wrote that and I think they
were genuinely trying to entertain me more than they were trying to sell
a product and Dr. Pepper paid for that guy to entertain me even though
he wasn't all in my face with a product.<<
That made the day for a lot of people.
Me - Can you give some examples of other web centric initiatives, outside of
your own firm, which have set the bar for such a branding story in your
For instance a few years ago the "Blair Witch" project was a big
success for building a branding story for a commercial property.
Please give me a list of successful projects your staff found valuable
to learn from and conversely those which you felt bombed and you
learned what not to do.
TC - To be honest, the spark of this story came very early one when our
creative director suddenly speaking as if he was the cow, lamenting the
morning ritual of the milking machine. At that point we knew there was a
story to tell, the only question was where?
As for earlier initiatives by others. I think the AI fiction web spun a
couple years ago was pure genius. It probably was better than the movie
itself. If I stretch way back there was a great attempt at an online
soap opera in the early days of the web. It was called The Spot, kind of
a Real World online.
I would be very interested in seeing that kind of "programming" making a
return to the web. It seems to me it would be far more interesting here,
where people can interact with it, rather than on television.
Me - I notice that you brought the bloggers and their parents to Dallas. If these bloggers are 18+ why were parents involved?
It would seem, from my limited understanding, that this relationship between Dr. Pepper/Seven Up and the bloggers leaves someone open to some liability. While a paid trip and some swag may not constitute an employee relationship it does seem to render the firms involved beholden in some fashion to these teenagers/young adults safety in all of this. Can you give me a bit of background on this and talk a bit about how this was discussed with the bloggers?
TC - How about I answer the first part. The second part is legalese, and
that's not my cup of tea.
We asked for their parents to attend because we wanted to go the extra
mile to assure everyone that we weren't trying to take advantage of
anyone. It was an amazing weekend. Only one of the bloggers couldn't
make it. Two came w/o parents by choice. But all the bloggers had known
each other online for more than a year. It was like watching a class
reunion, except these are people who had never met.
I caught part of the conversation the parents were having. For them it
was like a support group, parents of bloggers.
The truth is we could have started the project without the meeting. But
it proved enormously educational for all of us and probably the client.
We spent a lot of time asking questions and listening to make sure we
weren't going about this the wrong way.
Along these lines, let me take a swing at something one of the people on
the comments board here said about all this. <>
>>...The people behind this scheme may even have wanted bloggers with
integrity to write about their products, but their lies the Catch 22:
once you have bribed somebody to write about your product, their
integrity is compromised. And in some shape or form, these bloggers have
been bribed - whether with flattery, money or material goods... <<
I'd suggest to you this is a dichotomy that goes well beyond our piece
of the world. A TV reporter wants to interview you about the wreck you
just saw. Does the presence of a TV camera make you an eye-witness? Or
does the now detailed enhanced version you recount qualify you?
Back to bloggers, there's no doubt someone will work on a project like
this somewhere and go overboard. At that moment the horse that brought
her to glory will crumble into dust. The readers are gone, the links
If you're looking for the mother lode of freebies, keep on moving.
There's nothing here. The key to integrity is articulating what you
stand for, understanding how the translates into the decisions you make,
and possess the piece of mind that comes from doing the right thing.
We can pass out hundreds of sampling backs to bloggers, ask them for a
link or even a fan sign. But it is a certainty that one of those
bloggers isn't going to like the drink. I would be stunned if that isn't
documented well on the site.
If we wanted anything else we'd have a slick shot of some farmers
daughter reclining on a seldom used tractor and draining a carton of
Chocolate Insanity. Instead we have a raging cow, complete primal moo
that will shake you from any sleep, racing across the country, and soon
across many of your favorite web sites.
But that's another issue.
3/6/03:9:29:53 AM PST