The un-cunning little marketing campaign

I should start by saying how thrilled I am that the New York Philharmonic is presenting Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen at the end of this month. Go buy tickets. The opera is wonderful, and last year’s Le Grand Macabre was a marvel; somehow, Awful Avery Fisher Hall was transformed into a Real Theater, and the performances–not just Eric’s–were fantastic. And sure, I’m also obsessed with Fantastic Mr. Fox and woodland creatures in general.

Bandit Hats

Today, the Philharmonic e mailed out the following to their list. It reads:

Meet Vix. She’s clever, she’s foxy, she’s ready for love — Vix has arrived in New York! VIX IN THE CITY – A CUNNING LITTLE TALE IN TWEETS

Follow Vix as she Tweets and vlogs about the city life of a single Fox, navigating love and the job market, with some forest-y friends in the concrete jungle.

MONDAYS through WEDNESDAYS, JUNE 6–22

Then, we see that “Vix”  has “hijacked” the orchestra’s Twitter account, presumably inspired by the escaped Bronx Zoo cobra, who totally killled it on Twitter.

New York Philharmonic "hijacked" Twitter

What, you may be thinking, does the Bronx Zoo cobra meets Carrie Bradshaw meets Gossip Girl have to do with Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen? Fear not: there’s a VLOG. Actually, fear. Fear a lot.

Vix is played by a freelance classical music journalist who was hired by the New York Philharmonic as a consultant. Why aren’t they using a member of the cast? Why aren’t they using someone who works at the NY Phil? Why aren’t they using an actress? It’s all very confusing.

"I will not eat them with a fox."

There seems to be a running…joke?…about her ex being John Edwards. We don’t know why?

Unclear what is happening here

From the NY Phil's Tumblr. "ex" links to a photo of John Edwards.

I personally didn’t find last year’s Death videos from the NY Phil especially funny, but they at least showed that music director Alan Gilbert doesn’t take himself too seriously. And that is something.

The issue I really take with the campaign is this: who is it for? This video series is being posted on the Philharmonic’s Twitter account, the Philharmonic’s Tumblr account, and the Philharmonic’s Facebook page, and is being e mailed to the Philharmonic’s list; are we really the people who need a ‘Vix in the City’ vlog? Aren’t we–we who are already somewhat sold on the orchestra–the people who want to learn about the score, the production, the singers, Alan Gilbert’s interpretation, the performance history of the opera in New York City?

And if  ‘Vix in the City’ is not for us, how is the rest of the city going to find it? Once they find it, what are they going to do with it?

I saw this video, also from the New York Philharmonic, the other day. It’s interesting, informative…includes–wait for it, MUSIC SAMPLES–and is really beautifully done. So watch this, try and ignore the “viral marketing campaign,” and go see the opera.

Why are people who work for classical music institutions deeply suspicious of the merits of classical music? Do marketing people sit around thinking, “This opera might be boring. Let’s youth it up.”? Do they have so little faith in the product they’re selling?

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Comments

  1. Lindsey says

    I can see where they’re trying to go with it, but to this 30-something youngster these marketing ploys are a turn off. Ever since the rise of oddvertising everything has reached new levels of absurdity and irrelevance. Ads that offend my bs-o-meter the least win out.

  2. Really Real says

    This. This right here: “Vix is played by a freelance classical music journalist who was hired by the New York Philharmonic as a consultant. Why aren’t they using a member of the cast? Why aren’t they using someone who works at the NY Phil? Why aren’t they using an actress? It’s all very confusing.”

    Once again, brilliant analysis.

    I saw the video and it’s very confusing. Janacek isn’t mentioned or referred to even once in the entire campaign, which makes literally no sense coming from a symphony that has a rich legacy of Mahler, Toscanini, etc.

    This is the stuff that the NY Phil thinks will get it a new audience, but it just alienates (and angers) the real music fans. This is one of the most ridiculous ad campaigns I’ve seen in a long time. In this era of sinking and bankrupt orchestras, let’s hope that NY Phil gets better guidance and puts their ad money into better things.

  3. Jimminy says

    Being in another country and not getting any preliminary emails or seeing anything before the first tweet, I was genuinely concerned for the NY Phil, thinking that they had been hacked and hoping that it would not turn out badly for them.

    The subsequent tweets did nothing to make us think this was anything other than a hack, and the inclusion of a bit.ly link – which obfuscates the actual address which might have given us a clue! – to the Vlog made me think it was probably a spam link to either download a virus or just for self-promotion, neither of which I wanted to be part of. They continued the pretense over on the NY Phil Facebook, where I had gone, thinking I might be able to alert someone there in case they hadn’t seen the hack.

    How wrong I was, how misplaced was my sympathy and desire to help. Turns out it was a “clever” marketing campaign. I feel duped, stupid and angry at being taken in – and I work in marketing (including on social networks) and am paid to come up with marketing campaigns!!

    It raises serious questions about trust on social networks. How are we to protect ourselves, the users, from spam and viruses if the biggest and most trusted arts organisations out there put out campaigns like this purporting to be hackers? How do we trust anything they say in future?

    I’m willing to accept that I am not the target audience for this campaign, but I do think that the NY Phil is playing a dangerous game with their social fans they have so carefully built up. I wish them luck with it, but I hope it doesn’t backfire on them.

  4. says

    Great analysis of the situation thus far. Not being super familiar with the opera, my first thought when the “hacking” occurred was to review the plot of “The Cunning Little Vixen” in the event that I was witnessing a goofy, modern re-telling of the piece. Even if sloppily executed, it could still be considered cute, maybe even worthwhile. But this does not seem to be the case, and #vixnyc’s connection to Janáček, let alone the campaign’s relevance to the social media demographic, has yet to be seen (am I a fool for still holding out hope?).

    What the campaign has done, though, is lead me to the actual NY Phil production page for “Vixen”, where I found really beautiful, enlightening, and engaging videos with the director. Maybe that was their goal? To get me to the production page? That they already had such fantastic, easily-shareable material, though, makes the #vixnyc effort all the more confusing.

    That being said, even if #vixnyc is deemed a marketing misstep, I find it heartening that a major classical organization would green-light such an aggressive, off-beat social media campaign. We’re all still learning (though you’re right that the ENO, for one, is certainly ahead of the curve).

  5. Regina says

    This is a wonderful critique of an absurd and baffling ad campaign.

    Your concluding statements, in particular, are truly refreshing: “Why are people who work for classical music institutions deeply suspicious of the merits of classical music? Do marketing people sit around thinking, ‘This opera might be boring. Let’s youth it up.’?”

    While I generally tend to support the postmodern refashioning of “art music,” The Vix’s Vlog presents contemporary appeal with absolutely no substance. It’s ad campaigns like this that lead me to wonder: Is repackaging art music in a youthful or sexy guise more harmful then helpful? Should classical institutions rather seek to transform (that is, educate) their audiences, and not their products?

    The Vlog would actually be quite convincing if “Vix in the City” told us something about the product she seems to be selling. Instead, the “new audience” the Vix (hopefully) attracts will likely leave the opera completely mystified, trying to piece together the meaning of a relationship with John Edwards and the regenerative force of nature.

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