Jon Morter, the man behind Rage Against The Machine and Hillsborough chart campaigns, backs Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead
With Wizard of Oz ditty, 'Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead' sitting within the top five in the UK singles chart after the death of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the prospect of it reaching the top spot now seems inevitable, particularly when it emerges that Jon Morter, the man behind the Rage Against The Machine and Hillsborough Justice Collective campaigns, has been offering some expertise.
Backing: Jon Morter has offered tips to the latest campaign
Radio 1 looks reluctantly set to allow the broadcast of the Wizard of Oz song during its Sunday chart countdown and Telegraph journalist Neil McCormick said it could be "the most inappropriate and gratuitously offensive number one single ever". Thatcher's death prompted rapid sales of the tune, while street parties organised on social media erupted in cities around the country. The campaign has been branded distasteful in the media despite the public appetite demonstrated through the sales figures, and Morter and offical spokesman for the campaign, Mark Biddiss, think it's all very justified.
"Obviously, this point has ruffled feathers," says Biddiss, "but the group really has responded to the general feeling out there from those who felt and still feel how 'distasteful' Thatcher and her destructive policies were.
"The campaign has been brilliant and to see such growth and overall support within just a few days has been something I have never seen before. Current chart position is four but it is number one on both iTunes and Amazon so we are expecting this to surge to number one judging by the speed of the selling.
"The group stands at over 80,000 members and we are getting around 300 requests an hour to join. Twitter followers are in their hundreds presently but we expect that to surge as well."
Although social media consultant Morter is not co-ordinating the campaign directly he has been in touch to offer the group some pointers, and if the man who beat Simon Cowell's X-Factor, not once but twice is onside, the campaign suddenly finds not only direction but social media credibility.
Morter's social media career took off after the successful "Rage Against The Machine to Christmas number one" campaign in 2009, in which his Facebook page took on the might of Simon Cowell and successfully won the race to the coveted Christmas top spot - and with the most unlikely song choice. After starting a joke campaign the year before to get Rick Astley to number one, Morter realised there was mileage in the social media mobilisation idea and took it a step further the next time around.
"I learned from the cock-ups from the year before," Morter explains. "The reason I chose Killing In The Name was because it was an antithesis of anything the X-Factor would put out, it was a complete polar opposite. I thought, what would be the most amazing thing to see at Christmas number one, which would never get there in a million years?"
Killing In The Name, by political American band Rage Against The Machine, was a rock metal Christmas nightmare for the X-Factor pop campaign and featuring the infamous repeated line "f*** you I won't do what you tell me" screamed at the end of the song, Cowell and his colleagues would have been forgiven for dismissing the very notion. However, Morter pulled off a social media spectacular, raising over £130,000 for homeless charity Shelter in the process and delivering a free gig in Finsbury Park in London after the band felt a personal thank you was in order. All of the proceeds of the sale of the song - originally released in the early 1990s - were donated to Shelter.
"Strategy wise, I didn't try and do it the cringe worthy way where you see people tweeting celebrities asking for retweets, that makes your toes curl a little bit," says Morter. "I was quite lucky that Phil Jupitus tweeted about it quite early on and for Twitter that was it, off that went.
"For Facebook, tricks like the share button, which we all know and love now, in 2009 was just a link in the bottom corner of the group page, it wasn't even on the main screen. Unlike nowadays where Facebook predicts on your feed what it thinks you might want to see, in those days if you shared it and had a hundred friends, all of your hundred friends could see it.
"Now, only about 20 per cent at maximum will see any post from a page, so if you've got 5,000 fans you'd be lucky to get 1,000 people seeing it. With Twitter, if you tweet something and you have 100 followers and they all happen to be online, they're going to see it."
The group wasn't without its hurdles and little help from Facebook itself helped steer the campaign in the right direction after an attempted PR hijack.
"There was a PR company that, in their wisdom, decided to create a website for the campaign. I said no, it was a bit of an underground movement conducted on social networks because that was where the people were, I didn't want a corporate website," Morter explains.
"The company went ahead anyway but they put all the buying links up too early so people were buying too soon for it to count in the Christmas chart. I got in touch and told them to get rid of it, get shot of it, we don't want it. So then this guy decided he was going to make his own page and pretty much just cloned mine.
"I actually had to go to Facebook, and I was so lucky at the time as Facebook had given me my own Facebook manager because the movement had grown so huge and was the biggest-growing page in Europe, so I went to my manager and said "look, can you do something about this guy?" Amazingly, they pulled his page and all of his fans then moved into my page instead - they can do that, and if Facebook say they can't, they can," he laughs.
At the height of its fame, Morter's RATM Facebook page had 1.6 million members and drove 502,000 sales of the song, beating X-Factor winner Joe McElderry's offering by 52,000. Since then, he has been recruited for a number of campaigns, including the save BBC6 Music group and several campaigns marking musical milestones for bands such as Nirvana, The Sex Pistols and Rolling Stones. The one he's most proud of, he says, was the successful campaign last year to get the Hillsborough Justice Collective single to Christmas number one.
He has also been recruited by brands such as IKEA, Sony Ericsson and Universal Records, and jokes that he can honestly list two number one hit singles on his CV. However, changes to Facebook and Twitter tools have changed campaign strategies, he says, and he would advise any new clients now that Twitter is an absolute must, but that people get too hung up on the wrong stats.
"One thing I don't do is judge by how many likes a Facebook page gets or how many followers are on a Twitter account, I don't really go for that. It's about any way possible of sharing the word; the share button is the most important thing on Facebook.
"Whether or not they want to admit it, for Facebook you really have to pay money there now. If you want to get your message out properly and there's any steam behind it you've got to have ads, you've got to have sponsored posts. If you want to do it organically like I used to I think it's very hard now. I tell the clients I deal with that they absolutely must have a Twitter presence first, then think about Facebook."
As for the current campaign that has the media in a spin, it's no surprise that the man who brought the UK its most shocking Christmas number one single is backing the emergence of another controversial attempt, but similarly to the groups he has led in the past, Morter believes it's about public opinion and the right to make a point, in whatever way people choose.
"The Sex Pistols in 1977 is a very famous example of people buying a record to register the disenchantment with something," he says. "It's not a new phenomenon, it a way that people protest. They're not buying the song for the quality, it's about people who want to stick two fingers up and say no, we're not happy about this and we don't agree that Thatcher was the greatest leader we have ever had. It's a way of making a public protest and I'd personally say good luck to them."
For the Rage Against The Machine campaign, the pivotal day was the Saturday before the official chart countdown, a day on which Morter says he "pulled every trick in the book" in order to drum up one last push for sales. The song sold 100,000 copies that day, catapulting it to number one. It remains to be seen whether the Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead group can keep up the momentum.