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Virtual Reality View: A conversation with VMLY&R's Gracie Page

Stephen Lepitak
Editor at The Drum
Gracie Page
Emerging Technology Director at VMLY&R London

Does being funny on social media give brands the X Factor? Or is the joke on them?

Dom Burch is the founder and MD of Why Social, a strategic marketing consultancy, and former senior director of marketing innovation and new revenue at Asda. Trained in PR, Dom has spent the last 17 years in a variety of comms roles at Asda, Direct Line and Green Flag including head of PR and head of social.

Brands make me laugh sometimes. Just not in a 'ha ha' way unfortunately.

Last night was the final of the X Factor; nothing inherently funny about that – unless you mean expecting Reggie N Bollie to actually sing one of their songs rather than do a raga-tip rap over a backing track.

Virgin Media however took it upon themselves to commentate throughout the two hour extravaganza on Twitter.

I haven't watched much X Factor this series (note series not season), so maybe this is a regular thing that has simply passed me by, but I suspect that ever since Talk Talk got themselves into a little trouble mid-way through the live shows other rival brands have been thinking how best to fill the vacuum.

And to be fair to Virgin Media they're not the first telecoms brand to stray away from communicating about what they actually do. Why share content in relation to your core purpose of selling mobile phones, broadband or cable TV when you can post irreverent bollocks instead?

In fact it felt like they'd recently hired an account executive from the agency behind the 'hilarious' Tesco Mobile tweets from a few years back. That's not a deliberate dig at Asda's arch rival BTW.

For a while at least Tesco Mobile was the talk of the town.

The sole purpose of its social output seemed to be to say something mildly amusing to illicit a response, ideally a like or share. Or to strike up conversations with other brands much to the amusement of onlookers.

And to that aim I have to say they were very successful for a time, whether it has helped them in the long run I'm not so sure.

This is where last night's Virgin Media efforts leave me somewhat puzzled.

Check out their feed today and it is full to the brim of @ replies to customers in distress or needing information. A very typical Monday. It's almost impossible to search back far enough to find last night's commentary.

Had you tuned into it last night there were dozens of Tweets describing Cheryl's dress, or how One Direction had benefited from finishing third in X Factor all those years ago. LOL.

Maybe I'm just being grumpy. After all the Asda Twitter feed has been known to have hour long chats with a fake James Milner parody account. They were fun while they lasted and the content was always deliberate enough to include things we actually do and sell.

Hands up, I work for Asda and am obviously biased.

But I'm also a loyal Virgin Media customer and have been for seven years, and I'm just not getting the 'why' bit? Why should I care what my broadband and TV provider thinks about the ins and outs of X Factor? Particularly when they have no association as far as I'm aware.

Personality yes, mildly engaging, OK, but what's the purpose? And does it actually make a difference?

Unlike Reggie N Bollie, I'm not sure trying to be funny for the sake of it gives brands the X Factor they crave.

Follow Dom on Twitter @domburch

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