Sound Communication: The Holdcom Blog

Elmo's World: A Social Media Flop


Five days and 3,670,000+ views later, and Elmo’s Youtube Interview is still going strong. Inspired by the highly successful Old Spice Guy personal Twitter responses, and the countless celebrities that “curate” Youtube by posting their recommended videos, the Elmo interview is part of a new social media marketing tactic to artificially stimulate “viral campaigns.”

However, is the Elmo interview successful? Yes, it has tremendous popularity. Yes, it has nostalgia, reviving the golden days of the masterpiece-in-decline that is Sesame Street. But what the Elmo interview lacks is a consistent voice; the interview tries so hard to relate to every demographic that its ultimate marketing goal is not only unclear, but also dysfunctional.

The Elmo Interview’s first mistake is its form of “moderating” questions – where people voted on what questions would be asked. Assuming that the questions are an accurate reflection of the public’s vote, there is no way that Elmo, who embodies childhood innocence, can convey an authentic message to both children and adults while answering questions about the Iraq war, followed by his favorite colored crayon, and then stating that “Oscar is happy living in a trash can.” Who is the target market? Adults? Toddlers? What age range are posting these Twitter comments / know how to even use Twitter? How should we react, besides being entertained?

What Old Spice did successfully was that they didn’t plan to go viral – they reacted to customer feedback, and selected the appropriate questions that would support their image. Their market was college males aged 18-26, socially and technologically connected – and Old Spice answered with the right brand of humor.

What celebrity “curators” accomplish is that they successfully market their persona– Youtube gives them a time slot, and they can say / show whatever they wish. They are directly reaching into their fan base. But when we watch Elmo, we understand that his lines are scripted – he is a puppet, the interview is structured (the variety of the questions an illusion of ‘impromptu’), and our only reactions are “how cute!” instead of a call to action.

The human moderator is also strangely off compared to his cuddly counterpart. His child-like dialogue with Elmo not only off puts adult viewers [clearly, he is a grown man acting], but misinforms the public on how they should speak to their children about weighty situations.

What I have learned at Holdcom is that customer service is key. A clear and concise message on hold or voice prompt script can encourage a customer to invest in your product, and not just observe. If your message on hold is a completely different tone than a live representative, then the image of the company is compromised.

It seems that Sesame Street needs an educational program on social media.

Tags: on hold marketing, audio branding, audio marketing, social media