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M-Net confirms Jennings viral campaign

M-Net confirmed yesterday, Monday, 3 September 2007, that the broadcaster offered a platform for Idols contestant Cliff Jennings to create a below-the-line word-of-mouth viral campaign to support Idols Season 4. It also confirmed that the nature of this campaign was known to only a handful of executives at M-Net and its advertising agency, Ogilvy JHB.
“Who is Cliff Jennings?” This burning question caused a frenzy in media circles, Internet chatrooms, blogs and websites towards the end of last week after a premature leak on a US ad website revealed that one of the local South Africa Idols contestants was actually an actor hired by Ogilvy for an ad campaign [see Idols contestant a marketing ploy?].

“No-one on the Idols crew knew about the campaign – not the director, not Colin Moss, not the crew, and certainly not the judges,” said M-Net brand manager Pierre Cloete.

This is backed up a statement from the judges, Mara Louw, Dave Thompson, Randall Abrahams and Gareth Cliff: “As a point of departure we wish to make it quite clear that we had absolutely no prior knowledge of the genesis of the Cliff Jennings ‘viral' campaign or the involvement of the M-Net marketing department in this project. While we may have guessed at a ‘social networking' context to Cliff Jennings continued presence at the first round of auditions we had no idea that he was in fact a ‘plant' developed by M-Net marketing and their advertising agency.

“Paid little attention”

“As judges on a talent show in search of a popular music star and future industry success-story, the keen focus is upon individuals who possess the attributes for achieving such a position in the local industry and beyond. We fully understand that a wide variety of ‘performers' enter the competition each year and that in the initial stages many entrants provide the show with a degree of amusement. However, our stated aim during the course of the show is to provide the South African public with a range of singers for whom they may vote in order to finally determine a winner. As this is our chief concern in all honesty we paid little attention to the antics of Cliff Jennings.

“We trust that once the screening of the initial phase is completed the public will focus on the task of finding a valuable, talented singer who will take their place in the South African spotlight,” concluded the statement.

“As real as any other”

“Cliff is as real to us as any other contestant who auditioned for Idols this year,” said Cloete. “The Cliff Jennings character uses the unique power of Idols to promote Season 4, and his phenomenal success on web-based social communities like MySpace and Facebook proves how successfully he embodies the ideals of Idols – Cliff truly does ‘live the dream'.”

According to M-Net, the viral campaign was an instant success with the Idols viewing public and the character of Cliff Jennings has become a cult hit on the South African scene.

“Today we have blogs, social networks and chatrooms on cellphones – these electronic platforms can be compared to the traditional ‘watercooler' where people communicate and talk about things that interest them. For the past few weeks since the launch of Idols, Cliff Jennings [has been] the topic of discussion in many such forums,” commented Cloete.

By Sunday, 2 September the Cliff Jennings' MySpace page had had 3500 profile views, he had 896 friends and 25 groups dedicated to him on Facebook, totalling more than 5600 members, and his 10n videoclips on YouTube had already had 5210 views.

Continued Cloete, “Nothing Cliff did on or off the cameras was scripted and he went through the exact same audition process as any other contestant – the pre-dawn queues, the tension, the anxious waiting, the fear, the exhilaration… The only difference is that Cliff chose to document his experience in a unique documentary (Cliff Jennings: Living The Dream, available on various viral platforms), which highlights the Idols experience from the contestant's perspective.

“Encourage viewers”

“The reason why M-Net decided to ‘neither confirm nor deny' the speculation regarding Cliff's authenticity for the past few days was to encourage viewers to watch for themselves how the drama surrounding Cliff Jennings unfolded in the Sunday night broadcast of Idols. Cliff got people talking about Idols. As we enter the next phase of the show, the judges and the public decide the outcome of the show. By voting, the judges and viewers will determine the fate of the Idols contestants. Ciff Jennings never have and certainly won't influence the purpose of Idols – to find the best singer in the country,” said Cloete.

“It is important to note that Cliff Jennings was never intended to generate content for Idols Season 4,” Cloete stressed. “We have more than enough weird, wonderful, talented – and talentless – contestants at every audition. Just tune in to DStv channel 38 to see all the gripping material captured in regional audition of this season of Idols. What Cliff did was to generate a unique and hugely impactful viral marketing campaign for the show. M-Net commends Cliff Jennings for the way he continues to live the dream, and we wish him well in his future endeavours.”
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I agree...-
It was a laugh watching him - I couldnt believe someone would behave like that! But now I feel a bit 'let down' because he was an actor. I feel a bit scammed...
Posted on 4 Sep 2007 12:35
just SAD... what losers-
another example of corporate d1cks
Posted on 4 Sep 2007 12:37
It's sad that MNET chose this option to rail-road it's loyal viewers. Actually pathetic come to think of it. Surely MNET could have utilised some other platform to increase it's audiences / subscribers. MNET you leave a bitter taste in my mouth. The whole Cliff Jennings saga was in poor taste. Just goes to show how pathetic a large broadcaster such as yourself is becoming. As for those judges, they definetly knew what was going on!
Posted on 4 Sep 2007 13:39
Fooling all the people, some of the time...-
I concur wholeheartedly. The entire exercise was a scam - cooked up by MNET to try and lure new viewers to replace the ones they lost when OpenTime closed. The scam backfired and now MNET is in damage control mode. And for anyone to even begin to believe that the judges weren't in on it from the beginning, must also be an advocate of prescribing beetroot as an effective treatment for AIDS.
Posted on 4 Sep 2007 14:34
Bunch o' wankers-
That's what they are
Posted on 4 Sep 2007 14:46
Just how trustworthy is ANY MNET reality TV series now?-
Think about this. How can we really trust any of the 'final results' on an MNET reality TV show? Maybe this is too big an assumption to make, but I really will always wonder if the winner of any of these shows really 'won' or were simply stooges for higher MNET ratings, paid to 'win' and go crazy. Ferdinand crapping in the garden in Big Brother 1, for instance. Probably completely scripted. As far as I'm concerned, these shows have lost all 'reality' and are simply more 'Laugh Out Loud' episodes in different guises...
Posted on 4 Sep 2007 17:21
Good Intentions, Very Poor Execution-
Firstly, I think that MNET is thinking out of the box by trying to use new platforms and social networks such as Facebook and My Space. Unfortunately, a strategy that involves misleading the public will do some serious damage to the brand. I believe MNET was seriously misguided and it should have trusted its brand enough to know that they didn't need to hire an actor. Agencies need to realise that it might make sense in the boardroom but having to explain the strategy to the public to avoid damage means something went seriously wrong.
Posted on 5 Sep 2007 14:07
There was no script you nana. he freestyled the whole thing.-
Ed v Jaarsvelt rules!
Posted on 5 Sep 2007 16:41
Idols vs Parliament?!-
Why is everyone getting so heated up over this?! I think it's great that someone is finally taking the piss out of the "so-called" reality farces that we're bombarded with almost every night. Let's hear some newsworthy comments about "Madame Speaker" in parliament ordering Mr Waters out of the house for challenging the Minister of Health instead of everyone getting hot under the collar about an actor, for gods sake!
Posted on 6 Sep 2007 12:20
Idols vs Parliament?!-
Why is everyone getting so heated up over this?! I think it's great that someone is finally taking the piss out of the "so-called" reality farces that we're bombarded with almost every night. Let's hear some newsworthy comments about "Madame Speaker" in parliament ordering Mr Waters out of the house for challenging the Minister of Health instead of everyone getting hot under the collar about an actor, for gods sake!
Posted on 6 Sep 2007 12:22
"The scam backfired"?-
Then why are you all taking time out of your busy schedules to discuss it (and, by extension, the show) on this forum? Page 3 coverage in the Saturday Star and Sunday Times is not to be scoffed at - I'm sure some of you even know what that's worth, down to the last cent...
Posted on 10 Sep 2007 16:09
Simon says
Go Cliffie-
Osama Bin Laden is fake not Cliff Jennings
Posted on 11 Sep 2007 15:08
Pompous nobody.-
Thato Matlhabaphiri, ????? Pomp and full out. I think the greatest Africans are those that find something positive in others. Being an Idols judge should not give this boy the right to crush and mame the contestants esteem... Bra, you are whack.
Posted on 11 May 2008 14:10