August 2010 Archives

TargetProtest1.jpg

If you haven't seen it yet, you really ought to check out Target Ain't People.

Isn't that just the way media is spread these days? You get the link to the video, and you get my endorsement, all in one swift motion. Watch this video. You are my friend, and I know what you like, and you will like this. Increasingly, companies rely on viral video to promote their products. And do you blame them? If you've been paying thousands or millions of dollars for broadcast TV commercials and you happen to own a TiVo, you might start to wonder. Viral distribution is practically free and the potential reach is infinite. What's not to love?

But that low barrier to entry can also be exactly what works against you as a company. I've never seen a commercial for Target on the Web (and I'm hard pressed to remember any from broadcast TV either), but I sure will remember this Target Ain't People video sponsored by MoveOn. The video captures a musical in-store protest against Target for a campaign contribution the company made to an outspoken anti-gay gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota. Before the age of viral video, a protest like this one could have been pretty easily contained. It might have made the St. Paul papers, or maybe even the local news -- and that would probably be the full extent of the reach. But as I write this, the YouTube video has close to a million views, and it's only been kicking around about a week.

Target
CEO Gregg Steinhafel apologized for the campaign contribution and said future political contributions will undergo a review process. But where is the viral video for that? I'm not saying the situation is unfair to Target. In fact, it's extremely fair. In fact, I might even say the odds are stacked in Target's favor because the company has all the resources in the world to produce a clever video of their own, while MoveOn had nothing but a rag tag band of performers and possibly a really good point. But what if you were Target and you were hit with a campaign like this one? What would you do? What if the information in the campaign were, say, factually inaccurate and you never made any such contribution? How would you respond, when your response is basically guaranteed not to have anywhere near the viral impact of the campaign against you?

Target issued its response through traditional channels, traditional media. If I didn't tell you that, would you know it?

Critiquing the video for a moment -- the video I love. It's wholesome, it's compelling, I'm a Depeche Mode fan from back in the day -- but if I were producing that video I wouldn't muck up the anti-Target message with the stuff about the Supreme Court. It just confuses the cause. Again, I'm not saying they don't have a good point -- but I'd save it for a different video.

Before I go boycotting Target myself -- and let's face it: That would hurt me so much more than it would hurt Target -- I'd like to know more about the company's stance on LGBT issues. Time will tell -- and Target's actions will tell -- whether that campaign contribution was an isolated incident or evidence of the company's general stance. And the best that Target -- that any company -- can do to defend its itself against this or future attacks is to take away the  for the attack by doing the right thing.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2010 is the previous archive.

March 2011 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.