Using some clever detective work (about which I will say little except that Google was really all I needed), I think I’ve uncovered the master plan behind the Mad Men Alternate Twitterverse that I’ve been enjoying lately.
I could be wrong, but here’s my theory of how this all works:
First, there are a large number of participants in this operation — not a single, lone writer playing many different roles as many suspect. These people are writers, advertising professionals, bloggers, performers, and marketers. Basically clever people.
And few, if any, of them work for AMC. I suspect some mastermind (Deep Focus, it seems) was hired by AMC to manage this campaign. They subcontracted the work to a dozen or more Twitter “actors”, each playing a character from the show or from history. Some actors may be playing more than one role, but I suspect that most actors are assigned to play a single character.
These actors use Twitter in basically the same way normal Twitter users do — updating “what they are doing” every so often, responding to direct messages, having many side conversations. But always in character. The actors tweet each other and they tweet the “real world” people they’ve been following. Each actor has their own writing and Tweeting style — some stick firmly to the 1962 universe, others slip into occasional 2008 anachronisms.
They also socialize differently, with behavior that mirrors the broad range of real Twitter user behaviors. For example, @peggyolson follows nearly 1,800 people — basically following anybody who follows her. She even trolls through other characters’ follow-ees and starts following new people, just like many Twitter users do.
@David_Ogilvy, on the other hand, has over 200 followers but only follows 23 people — just as some Twitter celebrities often do, carefully controlling who they wish to interrupt them.
Lawyers and Money
So what happened last week when the project was briefly cancelled? Well, it seems that AMC’s right hand sometimes doesn’t know what it’s left hand is doing: the lawyers who hunt down copyright violators apparently didn’t know that AMC’s marketing department was behind these fake Twitter accounts. Once this was cleared up, however, Twitter was able to reactivate the accounts — pointing the way, perhaps, to Twitter founder Evan Williams‘s projection that Twitter is going to try to monetize through corporate contracts.
Perhaps facilitating alternate universes will somday become Twitter’s bread and butter? Selling official account names for fictional characters across hundreds of fandoms? We shall see.
Why This Matters
In any case, I am completely impressed with this work, if only for the fact that it radically refocuses where and how digital marketing dollars can be spent while still exploiting Web 2.0 social media in a profoundly savvy way.
Think of it this way: How much would you charge to spend a few minutes every few hours (even while working at your normal job) to write snarky, chatty Tweets in the voice of a character from a really good TV show? Even if they pay you as much as $2 per tweet, then the person playing, say, Don Draper would have earned around $500 in the first few weeks of this project (he’s posted about 250 tweets overall).
So let’s do this for all 20-30 characters for a few months, and let’s throw in a supervising editor and a project manager to keep the project humming along. It seems to me that the whole project’s budget couldn’t cost more than $75-100k — a fairly typical, even low, budget for many TV-show promotional mini-sites.
That’s $100k for a PR-generating, sophisticated, far-reaching digital marketing effort that requires no HTML skill, no information architecture work, no programming or server configurations, almost none of the normal digital marketing skills we normally think of as part of this kind of work. All they need is some good writers, a good idea, and an open-minded client.