This post originally appeared on my Conchango Blog in 2006.
I need to upgrade my personal mobile phone pretty badly. Conchango issue us with lovely Vodafone v1240 Smartphones, but I was looking out for a hot new deal to upgrade my tired old Nokia 6230.
I’m a typical web user. I want to get to my information quickly and with the minimum of navigation; so I ran a search on the Orange website, using the prominently positioned search bar at the top of the page.
The result of my search was surprising. I was offered a variety of links to sites other than the Orange site. I could buy an N80 from Three, Vodafone, The Phone Spot, O2. In fact, the Orange site helpfully pointed me towards an N80 from anyone but Orange.
Being a typical click first, think later web user, I had failed to notice that I had been searching the web through the Orange site. Orange are clearly trying to be helpful to their customers by including a web-search tool on their site. However, I don’t think of Orange when I want to search the web. I think of Google. I don’t think that in this day and age that it makes sense to assume that your ISP users will keep your homepage as their default.
I was going to say that there is no difference between going to the Orange site and, say, Freeserve. Of course that might be something to do with the fact that Freeserve was co-opted into the Orange brand. I remember the old Freeserve page well. It was fairly useful in 1999, but even then I skipped by it for dedicated content that I wanted.
It is all very well using your brand as a glorified Google advertising partner, but what if people stop coming to your site because you’re not offering anything compelling or interesting in the first place?
So that is an example of a company not “getting”, in terms of what users want, where the Internet is going, or just failing to see the need to keep up.
Compare this to New Line Cinema and their approach to “Snakes on a plane”, the new vehicle for Samuel L. Jackson, famed for his profligate use of profanity at volume. A considerable buzz was generated on the internet after the title was discussed on a Hollywood screenwriter’s blog in August 2005. Since then:
- The title was changed from “Pacific Air Flight 121” back to its original working title of “Snakes on a Plane” after fan pressure.
- Fans were inspired to create graphics for fictional movies about other animals in odd settings, such as “Bears on a Submarine” “Carnivorous Lions on an Overweight Middle Eastern Woman” and “Sharks on a Roller Coaster” (Tagline: You must be this tall…to DIE!).
- Spoof auditions for the movie were filmed and shared through websites such as YouTube, Digg and IFilm.
- A competition was organised to to write and record music videos inspired by the movie concept. The top 3 videos were featured on MTV, CNN, and MSNBC after being put on YouTube.
- Filming wrapped in September 2005. Although “Snakes on a Plane” had been a minor movie in New Line cinema’s line-up, an additional five days of shooting was ordered in early March 2006. Contrary to the usual indication of problems with the film, this reshoot was to bring the movie in line with growing fan expectations. Among the additions is a line that originated as an Internet parody of Samuel L. Jackson’s typical movie persona, which I don’t need to rehearse on a family-friendly Conchango Blog!
- The studio also opened the door, via a deal with Cafepress, to fan designs relating to the film including T-Shirts, mugs etc. The Studio actually permitted fans to become official licensees of Snakes on a Plane merchandise.
This is precisely where the debate around Web 2.0 appears to be taking us. Concepts such as the Web as a platform, harnessing collective intelligence, user communities etc. are proving to add real value to the final delivered content. The movie itself didn’t do too badly; although it didn’t break any records, it is likely to turn in a decent enough profit and maybe become a DVD cult hit (the Samuel L Jackson posters seem to be selling well).
This is why although the Orange cinema adverts are funny, their site is pretty uninspiring. In contrast, Snakes on a Plane is an example, for textbooks we still have to write, of how new media is no longer just reflecting old, but how the process is becoming two-way.