Thursday, January 23, 2014

A ridiculous Bill Gates: viral or just counter-productive?

If you are a Twitter user I am pretty sure you will have seen at least one of the many Bill Gates-sponsored tweets on his third annual letter 'Gatesletter.com' - I have seen the digital version but there is a printed one too.  Anyway, I have seen one of such tweets at least 3 times in one day (and I did not spend that whole day on Twitter).

Why am I writing about this? Because it's a marvellous example of a number of things:

1) I don't even want to know how much money it cost to have a Tweet so widely and frequently distributed for a whole day, and surely money is not really an issue for Bill Gates. But it's a fact that I saw it, opened it and read it which I might not have done had it not appeared on Twitter. So, how shall I put it in a very original way? Money talks and....pays.

2) The letter - the digital one at least - is very well done. You can disagree with the content (Gates and his wife Melinda are trying to take apart three myths they claim block progress for the poor) but the way in which the arguments are presented is incredibly clear and attractive. There are beautiful graphics, video interviews and great photos - I particularly like the ones comparing big cities decades ago with how they look today. It's super easy to share it, in part or as a whole, to move from one section to another and you can read it in six different languages. True, it's quite a long letter, partly because it  has all these other elements that make it longer, but partly because it does take some time to debunk myths. So, it looks good and it reads well. Quality.... pays.

3) Towards the end of each 'torn apart' myth, there is an ingenious idea. You are asked to vote on whether you agree or disagree with the arguments you have just read/heard/seen. In sum, interactivity and feedback all in one. A smart way of checking whether the messages work and to allow the Foundation to listen and adapt. Understanding ....pays.

3) On top of spamming everyone on Twitter, Bill Gates has gone on TV to promote the letter. Nothing bizarre about that. I saw him on NBC's 'Late Night with Jimmy Fallon' and I do admire the fact that he is giving to charity so much of what he earns. He came across as a nice and clever man, a good talker and surely a true believer in the power of aid. But towards the end of the interview, there was a bit that left me perplexed, to say the least. Here is it:



Now, I can see how it went: since his comms people are avid readers of my blog, they realised the importance and power of visual communications, hence they decided to make a video that could go viral. Seriously, I know that it's meant to be a joke, that the idea that such a powerful man could make fun of himself can be seen as a good one but, at least in my case, watching that video, at the end of a good interview to promote a 'great message' was a bit of an anti-climax.

And the curious thing is that, if I were to judge the effectiveness of it, I would really struggle Why? Because in the end, having said what I just did, I still watched it, started writing about it and shared it; hence I contributed to its viral potential. I was about to write bad, ridiculous videos DO NOT pay, but is that true? Help me out here.


3 comments:

Hugh Barton-Smith said...

Saw original, not promoted tweet, but that's because Gates is sort of serious guy I follow. I don't need to be alerted to the fact that he takes his role, and particularly the message of this letter so seriously, that he's prepared to go to any lengths to get it more widely known. However, beyond the viral possibilities of the video, it subliminally does just that: the richest, and one of the most famous guys in the world, really, really wants you to see this letter.

Virginia said...

I guess you are right Hugh, I just hoped they could make something better, that's all.

Bruce McKean said...

I follow Bill and read his letter (long) from beginning to end (including the embedded videos such as from my hero, Hans Rosling).

On balance, I think the video fails.

Why?

The letter is long (as I said) and the Max Headroom-type audience (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Headroom_(character)) the video is aimed at will NOT stick with the letter.

So a somewhat pathetic attempt to reach an 18-25 year old audience fails and reduces the seriousness of the message at the same time. Unfortunate.

(And yes, Max Headroom is another Canadian...my apologies for always trying to introduce a Canadian connection.)