Unexpected Platforms—The Power of Context in Marketing

context of marketing

Confession: I hereby declare that I’m too old for the MTV Music Video Awards. I didn’t recognize a single artist at the star-studded ceremony until Gwen Stefani broke through the half-nude tapestry of young pop stars, rocking age 44 in a fuchsia pants suit.

Ah, refreshing.

So why do I sit through an awards show that I don’t care about? Because being on top of pop culture is part of my job as a representative of the consumer voice in the advertising world.

The big takeaway for me on Sunday evening was watching Miley Cyrus turn the stage over to a homeless youth after her hit “Wrecking Ball” was announced the winner for video of the year. Personal feelings on the matter aside, I have to admit that the juxtaposition of a homeless teen standing center stage in front of the world’s pop powerhouses was provocative and intriguing—and in FAR better ways than Cyrus attempted to hit those notes last year.

It caught my attention, not because I didn’t realize homelessness in America is a problem, but because you don’t typically expect to see someone from that world in the context of one of pop culture’s most beloved events. Awareness is great, but what about action? There’s no blurred line about it: Cyrus’ attempt to generate more outreach around the cause was successful—she’s raised more than $200,000 for the “My Friend’s Place” charity (where she met the homeless teen) since her stunt on the Video Music Awards.

While it’s clear that star power has helped to fuel this effort, it’s important to recognize that star power alone wouldn’t have garnered the same publicity and awareness that was created via the mash-up of homelessness in the context of a televised marquee awards show. We expect a pop star to look forward to winning the biggest award of the ceremony so she might take the opportunity to thank everyone involved in her success. We wouldn’t be surprised if she swapped out her “thank you’s” in favor of using the stage as a soapbox to share political views. But handing the stage over in its entirety to a homeless teen so he can be heard in his own voice?

That, my friends, is a wrecking ball right through “predictable advertising” and a reminder that putting our messages in an unexpected context is sometimes the very thing we need to do in order to stand out and be seen.

By Lisa Dolbear, Account Planner