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Social Networks

Was the Drummond Puddle deeper than it seemed or proof of our shallowness?

 “There’s a big puddle in Newcastle and everyone is watching it,” said my colleague Kate.

“Oh, you mean the river’s rising with all this rain?” I said. “A friend of mine is worried that his house…”

“No, it’s a puddle – take a look.”

 

And so it begins: the #DrummondPuddleWatch Periscope story.

At first, scrolling through the hashtagged tweets, I was confused. I grew up in Newcastle and go back regularly - where the hell is Drummond? It was only when I read The Guardian Daily Mail-style report – complete with pictures of journalists watching the puddle and references to Britain being “captivated” and in “awe”– that it clicked. Drummond Central is a social media and marketing agency and by the simple virtue of Blu-tacking a smartphone to stream people’s efforts to cruise through or else circumvent a large-ish puddle it had succeeded in putting its name in virtual lights. Despite all the excitement, The Guardian fessed up that “at its peak” viewing figures were about 20,000, so it was not exactly England’s glory in 1966 or even a major episode of Eastenders or Coronation Street.

And then there were the fast followers. The brilliant minds behind the baker Gregg’s social presence Photoshopped a sausage roll becoming a bridge across the puddle. Some wag, and there is always one, listed “puddle water” on eBay (with the highest bid currently standing at £65,900, and 90% of proceeds going to charity). For a modern instant social media story list of ingredients this was a case of all present and correct.

Several stories, even those by national media didn’t note that there might be something slightly fishy or at least opportunist in this, although The Independent stood out by leading on its suspicions that this was a promotional stunt. After all, a company like Drummond has the social media nous to know this is an opportunity and how to capitalise on the main chance.

You might be catty and say that Drummond is a company that has in the past succeeded in glamourising Stoke City Football Club, Gorman’s fish and chips, and Warmseal double glazing windows - so, how difficult can making a star of a puddle be?

But a quick look at its portfolio suggests a very sharp outfit, awash with creative ideas – and anyway, Stoke have been superb this season. Good luck to Drummond’s bright people and their awareness, whether this was a stunt or just happy coincidence.

You might sneer at how the media will leap on anything that will pull in a few hits but that race to the bottom has been running for years now and, to be just, the early days of the New Year can be lean for news.

So it goes in 2016: a puddle appears, people click out of idle interest, the media sites get traffic, Drummond gains awareness, bandwagon jumpers hitch a free ride... oh, and commentators like me try to read the tea leaves as to what all this might mean.

Maybe somebody right now is taking a webcam to check whether Lord Reith, CP Scott really are turning in their graves and if so, how this might be “socialised”.

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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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