Never Ask The Internet Anything & Other Valuable Lessons From The Boaty McBoatface Shemozzle!

Never Ask The Internet Anything & Other Valuable Lessons From The Boaty McBoatface Shemozzle!
SHARE
THIS



The public are typically fools and ask them to name anything via the internet is an absolute recipe for disaster as the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) found out when it asked the public to name its new $400 million research vessel. In this guest post, acclaimed Aussie writer John Birmingham attempts to make sense of the debacle…

birmingham, john

Usually when things go wrong with corporate social media experiments, it’s a disaster for the company. They grab mindshare all right. They corner the attention economy. They win the whole damned internet, but only because the internet is laughing at them. Sometimes though, you can still get it right, even when it’s all gone wrong. Put your hands in the air for Boaty McBoatface.

For Britain’s Natural Environment Research Centre (NERC), it all turned to custard last week when they launched an online poll to name a £200 million ($A400 million) research vessel. People were asked to submit suggestions to NERC’s website – not normally a crowded, heaving disco of hot, sweaty web traffic – and people started flooding in to have their say. Or at least they did after one irreverent punter, James Hand, suggested naming the ship Boaty McBoatface. The site crashed under the sudden rush of 27 000 like-minded funsters, all intent on sending Her Majesty’s newest research vessel down to the cruel seas with a name like a minor character from Thomas the Tank Engine.

A surprised and somewhat shame-faced Mr Hand apologised to NERC via Twitter, but they were smart enough to wave him off. They were, in fact, loving it. Acting associate director of communications and engagement for NERC, Julia Maddock, said, “We wanted people to talk about our ship and get involved. We are delighted.”

Of course, it remains to be seen whether Boaty McBoatface can survive the tempest, or whether the name of some dull and worthy runner up is chosen from a long list of dead explorers, but the Natural Environment Research Centre have grabbed the right sort global attention with their wry, indulgent response to the silliness. Being a publicly-funded science-nerds, NERC are unlikely to rush into a merchandising deal with a big toy company, or Kickstart a Saturday morning cartoon following the adventures of gallant little Boaty. But maybe they should think about it.

The obvious lesson of Boaty McBoatface is, “Don’t ask the internet anything”. And “Beware of hashtag hijackers.” But look a little beyond that you can see how a NERC turned what could have been a minor PR disaster into an opportunity.

They cornered the mindshare market for a couple of days and could, with just a little resolve and a sense of humour, lock in those gains for years. Millions of school children are more likely to follow the adventures of Boaty McBoatface than the altogether less amusing Royal Research Ship Henry Worsley. (Sir Henry was a hapless explorer who snuck into the top ten list by virtue of having died attempting to make the first unassisted crossing of the Antarctic. The anti-fun police have thrown their support behind him).

Just as many grown up fans of the as yet unnamed research vessel could be lured into a relationship with the Research Centre, all for the price of a little self-deprecating humour. Boaty might not get his own ship, after all, but he could at least get a lot of subscribers to his new new mailing list.

Come on, NERC. Vote Boaty.

 

Please login with linkedin to comment

Advertising Standards Bureau Designworks Le Figaro

Latest News

Four Barriers To Overcome For Disruptive Innovation
  • Opinion

Four Barriers To Overcome For Disruptive Innovation

Zoe Aitken (main photo) is the head of consulting at behavioural science and innovation consultancy Inventium and has over 20 years’ experience helping organisations develop customer-centric growth strategies and innovation. In this guest post, Aitken says some of the best ideas come in dark times and, suggests, COVID maybe the excuse you need to instigate […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Repco Unveils “Bringin’ The Bathurst” Campaign Via Thinkerbell
  • Campaigns

Repco Unveils “Bringin’ The Bathurst” Campaign Via Thinkerbell

With its rich heritage in motor racing, The Bathurst 1000 is finally in the hands of a brand that lives and breathes the sport. To celebrate, Repco is Bringin’ the Bathurst to absolutely everything they do. The Bathurst 1000 has always been more than a race. The iconic event at Mount Panorama is a symbol […]

The Zoo Republic &  Sanitarium Change The Game With Their Latest Weet-Bix Prize-Bowl AR Promotion
  • Advertising
  • Marketing

The Zoo Republic & Sanitarium Change The Game With Their Latest Weet-Bix Prize-Bowl AR Promotion

Sanitarium Australia and The Zoo Republic have teamed up to develop and launch a new and exciting cricket promotion, to be found on Weet-Bix packs across the nation. Building on Weet-Bix’s affiliation with cricket superstars Ellyse Perry and Marnus Labuschagne, the promotion features AR technology to bring the cricket pitch to the breakfast table.

Independent Agency Indago Digital Adds Four New Clients
  • Marketing
  • Technology

Independent Agency Indago Digital Adds Four New Clients

Indago Digital has announced four new client wins, as the independent agency continues its growth trajectory. Indago’s new clients are P&N Bank, Oneflare, salary packaging company Smartgroup, and charity Kids Giving Back. The agency will handle a combination of SEO and paid search for each client. Indago’s digital managing director, Gary Nissim (pictured above), said: “The […]

DDB Honours Legacy Of First Copy Chief Phyllis Robinson On Her 100th Birthday
  • Marketing

DDB Honours Legacy Of First Copy Chief Phyllis Robinson On Her 100th Birthday

Phyllis Robinson was one of the founding employees of Doyle Dane Bernbach back in 1949, the agency’s first copy chief and the first female copy chief in the United States. Robinson was a pioneer, not just for women but for the creative advertising revolution that she helped ignite, changing the face of the industry forever. […]

Make A Wish Foundation Names Mindshare New Zealand As Media Partner
  • Media

Make A Wish Foundation Names Mindshare New Zealand As Media Partner

Mindshare New Zealand has announced its new partnership with Make-A-Wish Foundation, a purpose-driven charity with a mission to create life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. The partnership, which is effective immediately, will elevate Make-A-Wish Foundation’s digital marketing strategy in New Zealand. It will aim to increase and nurture donors, drive brand awareness and ultimately […]

The Australian Marks 10 Years Digital Subscription Milestone
  • Media

The Australian Marks 10 Years Digital Subscription Milestone

The Australian is celebrating a decade since it became the first general newspaper in Australia to launch its digital subscription model, marking the beginning of a new economic model for Australian newspapers. Since launching, digital subscriptions have grown to represent a majority of The Australian’s total reach, paid audience and consumer revenue. In 10 years […]

PodSpot Studios Expand To Sydney & Gold Coast
  • Media

PodSpot Studios Expand To Sydney & Gold Coast

PodSpot Studios, the first network of purpose-built studios founded by content creator and former breakfast radio host Dave Matthews, has launched in two new locations as it gears up for further national expansion amid Australia’s podcasting boom. PodSpot Studios is a collaboration between Matthews’ podcast production company PodSpot and the ASX-listed WOTSO Property, which owns and […]