Distracted driving has been a perennial source of inspiration for advertising agencies and brands, as a cause to latch on to and create advertising/marketing messages. The distraction caused by a mobile device, even more so! Many such campaigns focus on the result of the distraction – harm to self, harm to others, loss of life/lives, the survivors’ story and so on.
Apollo Tyres recently pitched in for this cause too, but by starting with an intended-to-go-viral gimmick. They shared blank, white posts on their properties on Twitter and Instagram (completely ignoring Facebook, where they have almost a million fans!).
On Twitter, they shared the blank images with nothing in context – no hashtag, nothing!
On Instagram, they remembered to add the hashtag, #NothingToSeeHere.
And, as if someone remembered it later, they posted a tweet with a pic of the hashtag with no hashtag in the tweet itself!!
While this was going on, to engineer a viral effect, Apollo (or its agency) roped in (as per the rate cards, I’m sure) a lot of ‘influencer’ to ‘wonder’ why Apollo Tyres is sharing blank, white social posts.
It was amazing to see so many ‘influencers’ suddenly treat Apollo Tyres like Amul or Coca-Cola (brands that are in our lives every day and we talk about frequently). And ‘wonder’ using very similar sentences and sentiments (it’s a medical/sociological miracle, I presume) about what Apollo was up to, including using another hashtag to collectively gather their ‘wonder’ – #OhhApolloTyres
Then, after we were all drained of our ‘wonders’ after enough guesses had been exhausted about Apollo re-launching the now-defunct white-walled tyres the reveal happened: it was about Apollo asking people to not look at their mobile phones while driving. Nice message, but it went with the hashtag #NothingToSeeHere.
Now, when the message is a blank, white picture, there is obviously nothing to see. But why do people look at their phones while driving? To look at a blank, white pic on Whatsapp? Not really. People compulsively look at the phone while driving, or while doing anything else, because there is always something going on in the phone screen! There’s always something tempting calling them out on social media. The point is – there IS always SOMETHING.
Does Apollo want us to realize that this ‘something’ is not as important as our lives? Sure, I get that, but that doesn’t come across when they invite us to a la-la land of no content a.k.a blank, white box. Just because Apollo Tyres posted blank, white content doesn’t mean the world is sharing the same thing too. The world remains colorful, exciting, interesting (among others) on social media and they continue to lure us while driving, or while doing anything else.
A few other brands did join the small bandwagon.
And many other individuals posted one lone blank, white photo, before resuming their colorful posts. It looks like Apollo Tyres imagined this blank, white picture to be some sort of an emblem for the campaign, even though it clearly lacks any context whatsoever for the theme.
Moreover, to make things worse, they used the hashtag #NothingToSeehere. Now, this is a very old hashtag that people have been using for a very long time to indicate this:
As it usually happens with campaigns that are well intended, most of the opinion on this campaign is based purely on the intention itself and not on how it was conceived or executed. It was obviously well-intended, addressed a crucial topic, but the execution and creative idea behind the campaign seriously lack any nuance or thought. And that shows in the fact that the campaign needed such a cringe-worthy way to engineer it to be a viral. If it was genuinely well-thought-out and intelligent, people would have carried it themselves in the first place, with only a limited push from the brand.