Seriously, What’s The Point Of A Blogathon?

Firstly, congrats to Nadnut and Geekonomics for winning the blogathon.

Now…what was its point?

Some time mid-way through the competition, a troll appeared on Twitter.

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John Kerr, head of Edelman Digital Asia, mentioned the event rather unflattering in his blog post ‘No money, no social media honey?‘.

There are also grumbles against events like a Blogathon in Singapore, where high-value prizes are being given out to selected participating bloggers and the creeping realization that the event is about hardcore brand promotion, rather than promoting blogging or raising money for charity, which is the well-known focus for a ‘Blogathon.’ I don’t know many journalists who would get involved under a structure like this – celebrities yes, media no.

Firstly – bloggers can be journalists, celebrities, or maybe, horror of horrors, even both. So yeah, maybe journalists won’t take part in a blogathon, but hey, if they wanted journalists, they might have called it a journathon. Blogging is a medium. Bloggers are people who write and distribute their content using a certain medium.

Secondly, for a post lamenting the state of disclosure and transparency with regards to the relationship between bloggers and companies, I find it funny that John Kerr would actually take issue with an event that is being so clear and upfront that it is being sponsored by certain brands and that there is going to be some (hardcore) brand promotion. Although, frankly, I was at the event, and I didn’t really see how it was more ‘hardcore’ than any other sort of event promoting any other brands. Maybe John Kerr prefers his movies stamped with meaningless ratings, with cutaways, lots of allusion to sex scenes, maybe a few silhouette shots thrown in, which does nothing for the movie plot instead of just maybe 1 good scene which while uncensored, exposes the dynamics of the relationship between the characters clearly (and yes, sex scenes don’t always need to be for gratuitous titillation).

The question that should be asked is, “What’s the point of sponsoring any sort of competition ?”

Like, what’s the point of the Subaru Challenge, which if you ask me, and even if you didn’t, I think is way more of an abuse on the contestants’ bodies than what the bloggers were put through.

Borrowed an image from Keropok because he had the nicest shot of the challenge. He also covered the blogathon here.
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People who think the blogathon violates the spirit of blogging, whatever this spirit might be and the only kind of spirit I really think anyone should NEVER violate is the kind that come in bottles and taste a little smoky ( i.e. drinking whiskey with coke as a mixer – now, that’s a violation of spirit that should never happen), should just take their head out of their ass and realize that the blogathon is just a format.

Just like a marathon can be run as a competition or just as a way to spend time with friends (yes, I have some wickedly ‘sick’ friends who run marathons as a way to hangout) or a way to raise funds for charity or just a way to exercise, a blogation as a format can be used for many purposes.

This time it was used as a competition where the contestants happened to be bloggers. Simple enough? Let’s break it down some more. Contestants (who happened to be bloggers) do some sort of activity (blog) to win prizes. This blogathon is really just beginning to look like any other sort of competition. How boring.

Now to the existential question – is it only bloggers who can take part in a blogathon? But if you never blogged before, and you take part in a blogathon as a contestant, have you now become a blogger?

But I’m really digressing.

So, the question that should be answered is “What’s the point of organizing or sponsoring any sort of competition?”

I can’t speak for the team from Ogilvy, and I would never have the audacity to, but I shall share 7 (because 7 is the number of completeness) points on how this blogathon might have, well, just achieved some sort of ROI at least with a supporter of the competition like me.

1. People learned about the Tangs website. Did you know there was a Tangs website? Well, now you and I do. And it isn’t some ugly looking corporate website from last century like the one for Ngee Ann City.

TANGS (20090719)

2. I was unconsciously introduced to the ‘Fashion Spy’ feature section of Tangs’ website. When I first visited the site, I zeroed in on that section. Why? Because the bloggers had earlier been blogging using a similar format.

fashion_spy

Now, if you are wondering how blogging can help brand awareness, imagine if you request bloggers to blog in a certain way. That certain format could become easily identifiable on your own site or easily identified as related to your site. SCORE! 1 point to social media.

fashion_spy_two

3. This isn’t exactly a product of the blogathon but more of Lenovo’s continued involvement in Singapore’s social media scene. When someone asked me what sort of Vista-based laptop he should get, my immediate answer was a Lenovo ThinkPad. Which is surprising considering that I use a DELL at work (then again, maybe not).

4. I haven’t been using facial wash (because the tube is empty) for a couple of weeks now, and coupled with the stress at work, my face is really showing the effects which Nadnut so honestly pointed out. Why no facial wash? I haven’t been buying my own facial wash for some time. I usually use whatever is found lying around in the toilet or whatever the gf buys for me because, well, guys aren’t supposed to bother about such frivolous stuff like toiletries. Anyway, now the brand Kiehl is stuck in my head, and the next time I get dragged along for shopping, I’ll probably only check that brand out cos seriously I know shit about such stuff and spending a couple of hours being exposed to good looking guys touting that brand, well, it must work for me too…right…right? Weak-minded I am.

5. Mainstream buzz.

6. Why are there activities held at that big empty space outside Ngee Ann City? Well, to make the shopping center a hub of activities. Why have road-shows? Why have give-away contests? Why have mini concerts? One doesn’t need much imagination to see how the blogathon as an event temporarily turned that little corner of Orchard Road into the hub of activities for that day. Get people near the store, they might just enter the store. Pure Genius. Almost diabolical.

7. Lastly, and I think this is the killer way the blogathon might have succeeded. The bloggers were placed in a display window. What’s the point of a display window. Err..duh, to display things. But short of putting naked women in a display window, how do you get people to actually look at what’s in it. Putting the bloggers there got people to look into the display windows. And if Tangs have merchandizing, marketing and window-dressing people worth their salt, 3 months down the road, when I’m shopping for something, somewhere in my unconscious brain, things are going to start kicking in and I’ll be drawn to some shiny object whispering seductively ‘buy me, buy me’ and I wouldn’t even know why. Although I’ll guess and say I might have seen in displayed somewhere, somewhere close to friends.

Anyway, recap.

1. Competitions – Not new.
2. Awarding sponsored prizes for competitions – Not new.
3. Getting contestants to do things to win prizes – Not new.

Lastly, the blogathon was a little like a reality TV show. One of the main reasons for the success of any reality TV show is the casting of the contestants. If you want drama, you got to cast properly – place the pretentious vicious school belle in the same room as the nerdy, kind, never-been-kissed social outcast.

In the case of the blogathon, I think the team scored with casting or at least with the bloggers nadnut, dk, claudia and aaron. I follow these 4 bloggers rather regularly and from what they usually write about products on their blogs, I know that they do not embellish. They will try to find something good to say, and usually they can, because good, can always be found (not all products are made evil) but they won’t say more than what they can.

For a blogathon, if you want trust, if you want promotion with any shred of credibility (and in this case, I think the bloggers had pages load of that), then casting is important.

You can write the script. Allow improvisation. Build the stage. Get great lighting. Find excellent props. In the end, it is the actors who deliver the lines that really matter. This time, I think they deserve a standing ovation. It was an honest performance.