Naked: The numbers prove we were right to do the Witchery jacket hoax

naked-office-sydneyThe agency behind last week’s fake jacket furore has released the findings of a fast-tracked survey that it says demonstrate the success of the controversial campaign.

Naked Communications last week won itself the condemnation of a large portion of the Australian marketing industry over its stunt for the launch of men’s stores by fashion  brand Witchery. The agency was behind a fake video that appeared on YouTube featuring “Heidi”, a girl who claimed to be trying to find the man who left his jacket in a cafe.

The video was swiftly outed as a fake, with Naked and Witchery at the centre of a deception storm. But today, Naked has come out fighting after commissioning independent research at its  own expense to measure the views of Witchery’s target audience for the campaign. Survey company edentify carried out an online survey of 1000 men aged between 28 and 35, with an interest in fashion.

The key findings included:

  • When asked if they were aware of Witchery Man, 17% responded that they were.
  • 486 of the 1000 said they had seen the video.
  • After viewing, 26% had told a friend; 14% had forwarded a link; 4% had responded to “Heidi” by email and 33% said they had continued to follow the story. 40% said they did nothing more.
  • 32% said they are likely to visit the store; 15% are very likely; 31% said they were unlikely.
  • In terms of brand perception, 23% said the result made it “more exciting and interesting”; 12% said they didn’t respect it any more; 35% said it was cooler as a result; 16% said they were less positive about the brand.
  • Asked how they felt about the media being fooled, 47% felt it was funny; 24% didn’t care; 24% were disappointed and 6% didn’t know.
  • Asked to describe the stunt, 40% said it was lighthearted and entertaining, 39% said it was interesting or different; 21% said it was deceptive or offensive.

(Because the respondents could answer yes to more than one option, the numbers in some of the points above do not add up to 100%.)

Naked’s chief executive Mat Baxter told Mumbrella the results were “bloody good”. He added: “At the end of the day, we’re opening a store and want people to go there.”

Conceding that it was “extraordinary” to commission such an expensive piece of research so early in a campaign, he said: “A lot of people are professing to speak for the  consumer, but they are speaking from their own agenda or opinion.”

Baxter said: “Social media is about starting conversations. So it was as good for us that there were sceptics as there were people who were positive. That’s what starts conversations and gets people talking. We knew that what we were doing was probably going to polarise people but we wanted to make sure we got more positive than negative, which is what we achieved.”


Naked's Baxter

And he insisted that the fact that many people were suspicious of the video from the start was part of the plan. He said: “We expected a large number of people to know this was a marketing campaign. People know that a large percentage of what goes on YouTube is delivered with a level of intrigue.It’s an open and free market that allows visitors to decide what’s real and not real.”

However, he admitted that things went awry with the high levels of coverage leading to early exposure, meaning a planned “episodic” approach had to be dropped, including a series of print ads.

And he insisted that other than uploading the original video, Naked had done no further media manipulation. He said: “The media jumped on this. There was absolutely nothing we did to propogate this. The media circus loved it because it was a great story. They did not fact check. We never said to anyone to put this as national news and that’s a decision they made.”

But he conceded : “It’s very hard to absolutely waterproof plans for a campaign like this.”

Baxter said Naked had briefed its client about the risks beforehand. He said: “It just went nuts overnight. it’s very strange when you’re managing your client because they’re at the eye of the storm and they are freaking out.” But he added: ” “Witchery is thrilled.”

Baxter said that the media atmosphere had turned “hostile” because of revolutions a few days before over a video entry for Tourism Queensland’s “best job in the world” promotion featured a member of staff from Cummins Nitro, the ad agency behind that campaign, pretending to get a tattoo. He said: “I think that’s very different. That was a structured competition that had a set of rules in place. It was a registered, organised competition involving the government.”

Meanwhile, he refused to be drawn on what the advice of Naked’s sister agency, social media specialists The Population, had been before the campaiogn began. He said: “We sought their advice in the early stages of the campaign. Their advice was interesting and we took it on board.”

And he had a message for the many marketing commentators who criticised the campaign. He said: “We’re aware of the hypothetical rules in this sphere – there are a lot of people out there who claim to have the rule book. But the reality is that it will be shaped by what the consumer will tolerate.” He added:

“They are not rules; they are theories. We care about delivering for the client. If the industry is not happy, guess what? That is not a concern to us. I’m used to us being slagged as an agency. I was disappointed but not surprised.”

“If this is what the industry does when things don’t conform to the cookie cutter approach, taking swipes from the sideline, then that’s very disappointing. But the one thing missign from the commentary was what would they have done? What problems have they solved for a client? I feel like we’ve been pulled over the coals. But in the long run, it’s going to scare the industry. People are going to become more risk averse, and I think that’s a negative for clients.”

 Meanwhile, because Heidi was outed so speedily, the agency has had to come up with a new plan to maintain awareness in the run up to the March launch of the stores. Partner Adam Ferrier refused to discuss what is coming next, but he said: “It will be interesting.”

Baxter said that as a result of the publicity, the agency had already taken three calls from potential clients, with two of them already converted into formal proposals.

(Update: The SMH’s take on Naked’s stats is available here)

2.30pm update: Iain Naim, Witchery’s CEO, told Mumbrella this afternoon: “I’ve never know anything like this with any of the brands I’ve worked with before. We’re really very pleased.

“It was a very different approach for us, as we’ve normally been quite conservative in our approach to advertising. We worked with Naked through the whole process and did a lot of consumer research prior to launch.

“We assumed this had the potential to be huge but we did not believe it would move so quickly. It’s been quite phenomenal.”


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