Friday, August 19, 2011

Some Heartfelt Advice To Brands From A BlogHer Believer

cgc-brand-badgeLet me start off by saying that I love the Clever Girls Collective. I have been a member since almost the beginning. I LOVE that they have put together a vast range of bloggers from all sizes and degrees of popularity and can give small-fry bloggers like me a chance to make $50 here and there with a sponsored post. I believe in the company and the brand they have built.

So when I found out they were going to host a party at BlogHer, I was really excited. I was PUMPED. I was so excited about their Rock Star theme that I even bedazzled a dress with a sequined Union Jack flag just to wear on the big night! I was stoked for it even after they announced that Ubisoft, their main sponsor and a company that I adore and loved working with in England, was going to be promoting The Smurfs movie via their new Smurfs-themed Just Dance game for kids. I remained enthusiastic, even though my heart sank because, well, rarely does a movie come along with STINKER written as clearly across it as The Smurfs did. They were still pushing the Rock Star theme over the Smurf theme, though, so I thought they’d figure something out to make it cool, not painful. I believed in this party so much that I volunteered to appear in the Clever Girl video they put together of bloggers lip-synching to P!nk’s Raise Your Glass while dressed like a trashy 80’s rocker in my back yard, for crying out loud.  The video, btw, is le awesome.

P!nk–Raise Your Glass with the “Cleverist P!nk Divas”

So, to say the least, I had a lot of hope invested in this party. And, …you can tell where I am going with this, right? Sigh.

I was so disappointed. It seemed like all the elements were there: giddy anticipation, promise of meaningful interactions with great companies, great location, beautiful night…

I’m not sure exactly why the vibe was off, but it just felt like not that many people were having a great time while I was there, and I was, honestly, a little confused as to what and where all the sponsors were—I mean besides the Smurfs, which you certainly couldn’t miss. There was a Nintendo guy at, essentially, a tall card table, handing out cards and taking cards to give away a few 3DS’. Maybe Nintendo was too busy planning their private event that was happening the next night to put any effort into this one?  There was a room I walked into that had… um, nothing in it? I remember vaguely that maybe there was something on a table, but there wasn’t a rep around to talk about what it was. So I walked out after the women in the room stared at me for a second. There was a room on the other side of the pool that I never even went into, mostly because I was afraid it was just another space to feel awkward standing around in. Maybe that was where the Ep!phanie Bags rep was? I don’t know. There were some very nice people at a centrally located booth giving away these giant pink Modify watches, but I couldn’t discern what the watch had to do with what their company was about. Their product sounded cool (wish I could remember what it was!), but none of the reps were handing out cards and their product hadn’t yet launched, so…

The one sponsor (or hired company, I don’t know) that totally nailed it was A Fun Company. They had this awesome booth set up where you got all these silly props and they took a video of you in front of a white screen, which they then turned into a flip book. Very cool and Loukia and I rocked it out. Along with everyone else who did it. The energy level while in that line was great and the take home flip book was one of my favorite take home items from the entire conference.

So what went wrong? And, hey, maybe 90% of the people there had the best night of their lives! I could be way off-base. But I’ve talked to a few people and they all agreed that something just wasn’t clicking, so I’m going to have to go with my gut on this one.

For me, there were three problems:

1.) The Audio portion of the party was off in almost every regard. There were two super-cool looking lady DJs spinning records… that I could barely hear. I don’t know if there were sound constraints because it was on a rooftop, but if you sell a party as totally ROCK STAR, then the music must be loud. I didn’t come to chill out in the Space Lounge, I came to rock my socks off. 

2.) Which brings me to the Ubisoft Just Dance Smurfs issue.

I know Ubisoft needs to promote their Smurf Game and CGC want to help them make the best impression on the 500 bloggers that were expected to be at the party. I understand the commercial aspect of this, but for a crowd of amped up women bloggers, many of whom are high on the fact that they are away from their kids and homes, on VACATION, blessedly on their own, while giddy over the fact that they are hanging out with their most favorite blogging peeps,at a fabulous party, all while not having to take any of their children’s demands into consideration…

Why, WHY, would you choose to promote a product so painfully geared to only children? Why not promote Just Dance 3, which is coming out this Autumn? Perfect!  Let us dance to adult songs and routines while we’re at the party and then give away a couple hundred copies of the Smurf Just Dance game creating massive goodwill with all blogger moms with Wii’s and guaranteeing huge positive word of mouth about how awesome the forthcoming Just Dance 3 is? 

Upon arriving, after posing for the flip book, I made a bee-line to one of the dance areas, coercing three nearby people into forming a dance team, and then was bored to tears with the song and child-paced dance moves. I’m not implying in any way that I’m above it all and breezed through our song with a high score or excelled at the dance moves, I didn’t. :: smile :: (If you watched the vid of me dancing to Just Dance 3 at the CyberMummy conference in London in June, you know perfectly well I am an enthusiastic, but not particularly gifted dancer.) 

Perhaps I would’ve been more enthusiastic about dancing to the game if I could’ve heard the music better. The way the TVs with the games were set up, they had to be quiet enough that they wouldn’t overpower the DJs (which were just loud enough to create some ambience) nor the other dance stations. 

When the final dance-off went down, with four teams competing for four Wii’s and some games? The women danced on a darkened stage in the corner, facing the TV (which was away from the audience, so we couldn’t see it), while one of the Clever Girls yelled encouragement in a microphone. So for about 15 minutes, there was NO music to be heard, women danced sort of in unison in a space I could barely see, while a lone voice occasionally said, “C’Mon!!”, “This is for a great prize, ladies!!”, etc. I will grant you that it looked like the women competing were having a super fun time. I assume they could hear the music while they danced…

3.) So, the final part of why the party didn’t gel for me is a little more personal. And I hate admitting it, because I don’t want to negate everything I said above by having people think it was inspired by sour grapes. I hope you know me well enough to know that even a stand-off in the corner would not be enough to ruin a great party for me, there’s a reason why I brag that “partying is my specialty!”  Because it is! Anyway, you be the judge.

Screen_shot_2011-08-18_at_11.33.54_PMAs I mentioned before I started, not only was I in the Raise Your Glass video, but I also put quite a bit of time and effort into the dress I wore to the party. I also tweeted many times about the party in the months building up to it and was even recently named to the Clever Girls “UbiChamps” program, which I blogged about. I know I’m not The Pioneer Woman or Anissa Mayhew or one of the many immediately recognizable, hugely popular bloggers that were around over the weekend. But I was one of FIVE bloggers that took the time to videotape themselves for a video that I knew the Clever Girls would be using as a promotional device to celebrate their brand. And, for the record, I can certify that I was definitely the only 6’2” woman (in my 5” heels) in a fuchsia dress with a sequined Union Jack emblazoned across it, sporting a giant cloud of blonde teased hair. 

And you know what? Not one of the Clever Girls came up to say hi. There were some other women there who had enthusiastically embraced the rock star dress code, but the overwhelming majority of party-goers were in pretty standard cocktail party wear, so I stood out at least a little. I wasn’t expecting a ticker-tape parade, people. But I was expecting a big, “Hey!! You must be Amy!!! So glad to meet you!” 

To be fair, I don’t know any of the Clever Girls personally (nor watched them in a video), so I didn’t recognize any of them to say hi to, either. Hey, I know the street goes two ways! By the time the competition & giveaways came along and I could identify which women were the Clevers, I was was on my way out the door.

I know I shouldn't take it personally, but I did. Honestly? My feelings were hurt. Which makes me want to scream at myself for having an over-inflated ego, or something. I mean, what did I think would happen? They were running a party and I'm sure had a thousand things on their minds. I get it. But they should've come up with a better way to identify themselves as hosts, if they truly wanted to meet their membership, because the personal slight, on top of the not great energy at the party (a Smurf-induced malaise, perhaps?), and the overall poor interactions with venders left me entirely cold on the whole party and I was happy to make it out of there in time to hang with friends and then make it the Queerosphere in time for some of that elusive dancing that I'd been hoping for all night.

I see now that the real problem was that I had invested way too much emotionally in the party, and, ultimately, in a perceived connection with the Clever Girls. 

So why am I writing this post publicly, instead of privately to the Clever Girls?

I wanted to share my thoughts on this via my blog because I know I’m not alone in feeling disappointed with this party. And if I, a woman who is, as a friend noted recently, “genetically engineered to rock any party” left this one feeling underwhelmed and unloved, then something really had to be wrong.

I also want all the people who are planning parties for BlogHer 2012 to take heed. You need more than enthusiasm and good intentions to throw a party that will blow us bloggers away. You need a message that means something to us, you need to set proper expectations for the event, and if you’re going with a theme, you need to keep your sponsors in line with that theme.

Because if you don’t, you might not just be wasting the sponsors’ money and yours, you will end up alienating your attendees because you wasted their time.


  1. Good for you for writing this. I love working with Clever Girls, too - but I, like you, was disappointed with this party. I remember leaving with you and being all... Meh... Really?
    The flip book was awesome, though! It's still in my purse!


  2. Oh I remember how much you were looking forward to that party. And I can imagine how hard it was to write this. But I have to say - this was honest and (obviously) carefully thought through. And on top of that, you were considerate regarding the fact that Hosting a first time party with sponsors is no easy feat.

    I didn't go to that one, but like you, I have no doubt that the CGC group worked very hard to make the event everything you had hoped/expected it to be. And they may have had many of the same feelings of disappointment. eating

    Getting a negative review is never easy. But at the end of the day, it's more helpful than getting only the good feedback. How can we improve upon something if we didn't know there was a problem?

    I think that anyone planning to host a first-time event next year can find some very valuable advice here. An excellent reason to opt for public as opposed to private communication. It's ultimately what this while "community support" thin is about right?

    Hugs to you my brave friend!

  3. And? Not sure where that "eating" came from... No doubt some smart phone related thing. Damn auto-correct!


Thoughts appreciated. Advice welcome. Douche-baggery scoffed at then deleted.