Thursday, 7 January 2016

A Storm in a Puddle: #DrummondPuddleWatch

It's spontaneity, the elusive spark of creation that fires an insane idea right around the world, leaving professional communications and marketing professionals gnashing their teeth and turning green in envy.
So it was with #DrummondPuddleWatch, where a Newcastle-based media strategy company decided to livestream the efforts of commuters to navigate a large puddle outside their offices.

The internet latched on with all its explosive and unpredictable enthusiasm. By the time twenty thousand people were streaming the feed through Periscope, it attracted the attention of the press and social media.
Between them, they magnified the experience - more and more people signed in to see what the deal was. Chain reaction, triggering ever more social media posts exclaiming surprise and confusion (like shock and awe, but less dangerous), ever more media coverage, and ever more visitors to the feed.

I have a few theories about the success of the Drummond Puddle. I think I spoke to the intrinsic nature of the British, an entire nation fixated on our temperamental weather system, especially after the rigorous storms and destructive flooding recently.
Note also the popularity of memes when snowfall disrupts the British transport system so effectively each time; if any nation on the world can cope with heavy rainfall, surely it should be Britain!

Ultimately, it typifies that British stereotype of reservation, fussiness, our passion for the passionless. "So British!" came the cry again and again, across every social media channel as they observed our endless battle with the slightly annoying elements of a few more inches extra rain.

The company at the heart of it all, Drummond Central, insisted to the world's media they weren't in fact staging a massive PR coup. I believe them - they were coy via their own social media channels, retweeting the best bits only.
Not so every other major band, latching onto the passing coattails and ultimately dragging the Emperor's New Clothes down in the muddy puddles. Mashable posted a great digest of some shameless cashing in from huge brands that, many claim, were second only to the spambots for ruining a good hashtag!

Yet that is their job - or, more accurately, their job is to somehow anticipate these kind of phenomena and if possible co-opt them for their clients. That can be the ultimate kiss of death to something that thrives on spontaneity - remember flash mobs? Before they were used in cringe-inducing adverts set in train stations?

There was no future in the Drummond Puddle of course. Well, I mean, it's still there and probably will be for some time, based on the forecasts. But the madness, the inmates running the asylum, the whole social media furore had to pass, like a storm in a muddy puddle. I was lucky enough to stop by and see the triumphant last minutes.

Afterwards, a Drummond Central employee hastily scraped some water into a bottle. "You aren't going to put it on eBay are you?" I asked wonderingly. "No," he laughed. "Just a memento from the day we broke the Internet!"

Well, Newcastle's insufficient drainage did, for a few hours anyway, achieve second-highest worldwide trending topic on Twitter and level pegging with the gleaming buttocks of a Kardashian. You can't break the internet with content like this, of course. It's the fuel the internet needs to grow, baffle, amuse, entertain and - ultimately - to advertise.