Thanks to Barbara Lippert, who brought me much insightful commentary and this campaign to my attention. I can’t figure out what I dislike more, how corporate this whole campaign feels when it should be about reaching out to each user individually or how Yahoo can’t help pointing at themselves when claiming to talk about ‘you’.
If you can’t agree on one thing, don’t just incorporate everything
Visually this ad is right up there in meaninglessness with Bing. It’s worse, because Bing could at least make some claim to novelty and at least the cut-scenes could be construed to capture the media-overload problem that product was supposed to solve. Here, Yahoo is professing to be about the individual, which means it shouldn’t really be about a bunch of cookie-cutter demographics. If it is, then it’s about everybody, even if they’re all isolated. At best they’re only extremely loosely-based on people I know. Nonetheless, that means it’s not about me.
It’s tough to try speaking to one person at a time. Tougher to convince them you’re speaking to them for the first time, and that this isn’t some rehearsed spiel that’s been hashed over by marketing departments, account people, creatives and their directors, and a load of focus groups. Ads that have accomplished this in the past didn’t try to reference that fact. Uncle Sam didn’t say, “I Want You–poor/middle/rich, white/hispanic/black, guy/girl anywhere between the ages of 18-35 of fighting age or capable of working in a factory!” he said “I Want YOU” and the message was strong enough. Throw in that other crap and people very quickly realize you aren’t really talking to them.
If your strategy is that you MUST make the brand about this nebulous non-existent person-in-the-street loosely referred to as ‘you’, then evade outlining who you’re talking to as best you can. In this post-post-post-modern era, irony helps. So does honesty. Come right out and say it.
The message is, “We’re interested in you, these are the people who you are obviously NOT (because our marketing department dreamed them up and stuck them in an ad), now tell us who you really are. Prove to yourself that you are not just DNA on a cotton swab, or the space between your retinas, or a blurry image on cold security monitor.”
It’s a little premature to pass all this judgment, and maybe future spots will feature different people, but I feel like it would only reaffirm the fact that Yahoo! is just an extension of Microsoft. If you feature individual people with their own stories, you’re doing what CP+B did with their ‘I’m a PC’. I’m saying there has to be a way to showcase the fact that people are unique without just showing a bunch of people hand-picked based on their congruence with various social groups.
The Y!ou logo is, in my opinion, poor design. It smacks of self-serving smugness and smells of burnt designer souls. This is the icon for Yahoo, and a shorthand of their logo:
This is how they write it when referring to the audience in second-person:
The question is, who are they putting first? An exclamation point is used to emphasize what comes before. They couldn’t even include the rest of us in the excitement. The rest of the word is tacked on alike an afterthought. This really reads, “It’s Yahoo! ou”, or “Yahoo! owns u” (because that’s what this campaign is trying to do really, own the very idea of self). Even the body copy begins with a boast about how great the company is.
I predict that nothing is really going to change, whatever increase in traffic they get will come from those who aren’t using yahoo even though they’d rather be because Google is actually that much better at delivering the goods. They will try Yahoo and likely leave again because the core message, and I suspect the whole corporate culture, was never about anybody but themselves.