#publicconversation: A Marketing Success or Failure? | By Dongwoo Kim

You probably have seen one of these #publicconversation videos on your Facebook/Twitter feed during the last few weeks. Does “Your Boyfriend is Better than Facebook,” “Talk Don’t Text,” or “Follow the Dog’s Lead.. Speak” seem familiar? It’s all #publicconversation.

Initially, I thought it was some sort of a non-profit campaign like the “Uni Tea,” striving to encourage more face-to-face conversations between people. I like conversations and social media; hence, I thought that it was a tremendous initiative and liked its Facebook page and followed its Twitter account.

Since then, I have been seeing really cool initiatives to engage Edmontonians in a #publicconversation about common issues like the Katz stadium, winter tires, or the American election. I thought that this was great, as they were trying to make people engage in more personal conversations about current issues that they are interested in, thereby attempting to create a sense of community in this barren city of Edmonton.

But I found out today that it was actually a marketing strategy employed by a new pub called Central Social Hall opening on Jasper Avenue this coming December.

I’m not going to lie–I felt a tad deceived. I mean, these videos that went semi-viral, like “Your Boyfriend is Better than Facebook” or “Talk, Don’t Text,” were devoid of commercial element; they purposefully pretended to be a non-profit organization or public campaign thus far to gain publicity.

But at the same time, it’s a cool concept. This marketing strategy doesn’t necessarily contradict the concept of “Central Social Hall,” where people are supposed to have conversations. They made a clever use of the social media, appropriated a catchy hashtag (though a bit too long), and got people’s attention. But I still have trouble deciding what to think about this campaign/advertisement. This comment below reflects my thoughts in regards to this #publicconversation fuzz.

This marketing strategy seems to be backfiring. Most recent comments on the Facebook page tend to be negative, calling this campaign “tacky,” “pretentious,” “hypocritical,” and “CRAP.” Also, I’m sure that many people liked this page thinking that it’s a non-for-profit campaign. How would they react if they found out that this had a commercial purpose behind it?

“Any publicity is a good publicity,” but has this gone a bit too far? What do you think about Central Social Hall’s marketing strategy? Let’s have a real #publicconversation about this.

Dongwoo Kim (@dongwookim_) is studying history and political science at the U  of A. He likes breakfasts, clever Halloween Costumes, and genuine public conversations.

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  • Dongwoo, thanks for starting the conversation on this. We would love to hear what people have to say about it.

    Our idea behind this campaign was to start engaging conversations both online and offline. Yes, we still do feel that people spend too much time on their phones and not enough time chatting to each other in the physical space. That’s what we want to continue at Central. We want people to stay off their phones and talk to the people around them.

    Also, those comments you refer to were posted before we launched our latest video. We’ve had both negative and positive comments throughout the campaign. We know that not everyone was going to like it. We did reach out to those people and ask them why, we didn’t always get responses.

    Also, with the tweet you mentioned in your post, we never lied to anyone about this campaign, that includes the media. We actually had people do their own investigative work and figure out what the campaign was all about. Now that’s impressive!

    Looking forward to the responses!


    • Hey,
      If you didn’t lie, how come there was people on Global News claiming they paid for the #publicconversation billboards out of their own pocket for public good?
      Rob (the person who tweeted that)

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