NY Mag Commenters Get Hired for HSBC’s Soapbox Campaign

NY Mag Commenters Get Hired for HSBC’s Soapbox Campaign
Scott Lachut, PSFK Labs
  • 11 august 2009

We’ve written previously about the reverse trend of internet memes inspiring honest-to-goodness books, but it appears that the web’s influence on real life as reflected in popular media knows no bounds following news that five of New York Magazine‘s most prolific commenters have made the unprecedented leap from peanut gallery to professional.

The five vocal contributors will be lending their unique perspectives to a series of chatroom-style ads for British bank HSBC. The campaign is tied to the bank’s “Soapbox” television and print ads, which feature conversations on hot button topics such as education, the economy and the environment. For the online component of the campaign, the commenters will seed discussion boards with their opinions and engage readers.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the thinking behind the campaign:

The British bank chose a New York-area publication for the ads because of its big footprint in the state, said Johanna Breman Tzur, its head of brand and advertising for North America. The soapbox image conjures up “something that really feels old-school but can be used in a digital context,” she said.

Inviting readers to share their thoughts was a natural fit, though it’s the first time it has brought commenters into its media plan. It didn’t know what it was going to get, Ms. Breman Tzur said.

The decision to use commenters is certainly interesting. Even within the niche community of the NY Mag commenting section, these individuals are more or less anonymous, their profiles offering little personal information other than gender and an archive of previous comments. Which is to say, that they don’t carry the same social cache as those active in the blogosphere, a group that has increasingly become a sought after demographic for brand marketers and PR people looking to gain traction online. But given that establishing authenticity is equally important to a brand’s identity, the move seems tailored to the goals of the campaign. Whether or not it actually sells the brand’s message will have to be a wait and see.

[via NY Mag]

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