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Eggregious or Eggfective?

Posted by Colin Kingsbury

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Jul 18, 2006 3:07:00 PM

Shally Steckerl's blog post on SMS recruiting at ERE made me think about CBS's plan to advertise on eggs this coming fall. CBS knows full well that their advertising will be perceived as both intrusive and in-your-face. Odds are there will be protests at CBS headquarters and affiliates around the country involving groups of people pelting the buildings (and quite possibly network employees) with the CBS-branded eggs. And CBS knows these events will be covered by ABC, NBC, and the local newspaper. It's a classic case of, "I don't care what they write about me so long as they spell my name right."

Shally's post is less of a gift to bored headline writers, but it prompts many of the same questions. In these cases discussion often becomes segmented, like the old sitcom convention, into the angel and the devil that pop up on opposing shoulders. One says we can't do anything that might ever offend anyone, not even once, because that might tarnish our reputation. The other says, "if it feels good, do it!" Shally is happy to be pictured with horns sprouting from his forehead and his point that this technique is being used by NCAA coaches is apposite.

No one is debating whether intrusive marketing is intrusive. The more important question is whether it is effective. CBS will have its name cursed millions of times in America's kitchens this fall. People will debate at length whether anything is sacred anymore, but in the end, the product CBS is selling is scarce: if you like The Amazing Race, you have no choice but to watch it on CBS. At that point the question becomes whether the eggs offend you more than the show entertains you.

With SMS and recruiting, the balance is slightly different. At the early stage of the process, recruiters' solicitations are generally not worth very much: it's just an invitation to a conversation about a job you may not want and probably won't get. So the cost to blackballing that pushy recruiter seems very small, while the satisfaction of showing him who's boss is significant. So I think in this situation the intrusive approach has a real risk of alienating candidates.

But there is a way around this. If your communication offers a product of real value, whether it's a free Starbucks coffee or a guaranteed interview, you will get brushed off less. More importantly, you are going to need to learn how to do this sooner or later because within a year or two, every other recruiter in town will be SMS-spamming candidates. It's like telephone cold-calling: the first guy who did it might not have been objectively good at it, but he probably got great results because no one expected it. Poorly-executed SMS will deliver results today because it is novel, but it likely won't be for long.