Monday, April 8, 2013

My Second on the First


My Second blog post on The First Social Media Awards in Lebanon, that is.
(Very funny, I know)

I am actually loving the SMA because they are introducing me to a lot of what has been happening online, some interesting, some important (like the NGOs featured in two categories this year) and some really, really fun and many I had no idea were out there. Being a full-time mom-of-two, blablablah, blablablah, I do not get the chance to see everything and this is like a nice recap of the year.

Like the category I will speak of now: Most Engaging YouTube Video.

Some of the videos, I was familiar with, like:

BEIRUT DUTY FREE FLASH MOB: This may be the most popular Lebanese Flash Mob on the web. I think virtually everyone has seen it. I think even my 90 year old grand-mother has seen it (note to self: show the video to téta next time I visit, just in case).

MASHKAL AT KHOURY HOME: I just love that the minute I type "mashkal at", YouTube immediately gives me search suggestions like "mashkal at khoury home" and "mashkal at khoury". This just goes to show how popular this video is.

AMAL AL DAHOUK AT TEDxBEIRUT: This one, I had watched live from Dubai, during the online live stream on the TEDx site. I am a little disappointed I can only vote for one nominee in the NGO categories because TEDxBeirut totally deserved a vote as their work was impressive and outstanding.

THE STORY OF SOUAD: This one was brought to my attention following the tragic passing of Ali Abdallah who ironically enough became "visible" nation-wide for all the wrong reasons. As the Find Ali Abdallah campaign states so clearly: everyone should be visible, anywhere, anytime, just for being there. It should not be that hard. After all, everyone is indeed there. 

And as ashamed as I am to admit this painful truth, I had never seen the other videos nominated for Most Engaging YouTube Video... So here they are for your eyes only (if like me, you were hiding under a rock for the past year):

PROPOSAL FLASH MOB: It is an entertaining (but a little too long) video of a real surprise proposal at Beirut Souks and it made me smile, laugh at moments and most definitely sing!

PEPSI LEBANON SURPRISING ELIO: This one brought a whole lot of memories! I had no idea Pepsi still did the whole plastic cap giveaway thing! I can remember a time not so long ago (and by not so long ago I mean at least two decades - yikes!) when my sister, my brother and I would carefully collect these caps in hopes of winning, I cannot remember what but I know it was so very precious, it might have been a unicorn. All we did win every once in a while was a bottle of Pepsi but boy did it feel (taste?) like a freaking unicorn! There is nothing like winning ;)

OVERLY ATTACHED LEBANESE GIRLFRIEND: There should be a warning attached to this one! That poor girl can not sing! But she is so darn cute and funny, I just love her! I swear I was laughing the whole time I was watching! I know I am only using exclamation marks with this one, but it is because her whole performance felt (sounded) like an exclamation mark! So, so, so funny! And they do get an extra point for creativity on writing these lyrics. And she gets another point for singing the whole thing while acting nutty and remembering all her lines, all in one unedited single shot (anyone who works in media production will tell you, this is not easy). Oops, sorry, forgot the exclamation marks this time so here are three to make  up for my Alzheimer's!!!

Now I need to clarify something: as I type these words, I have not yet voted and I think I will use this post to analyze my possibilities and make an informed click.

I think it will be easier to filter the videos by categories. First the PR and TV Commercials "stunts":

Khoury Home, Beirut Duty Free and Pepsi were all interesting productions. But to a (super-modest) media person such as myself, this is exactly what they are: a production. All were good concepts and we know that for certain because none were innovations and all have been tried before, more than once. Unfortunately, they all were too obviously TV-Commercials-looking.

Khoury Home edited cameras from various angles into one film. That could have worked if they had bothered changing the time code every time they switched cameras/angles (or at least make the time code jump with each camera cut). Instead, they edited all the footage from all cameras and then (lazily) applied one single "security camera" effect on the whole thing. They also could have played with the audio a little to make it more realistic (this one was too clean).

To be honest, Pepsi in my opinion, tried too hard. They got this message on Facebook which was not that special by itself and they tried to spin it into one huge social action. Which it was not. I just did not buy the whole thing and again, it is only my humble opinion, but I think they could have used the budget to do an actual social good deed. (Do not get me wrong, I am happy for this kid but I am talking about the video and Pepsi's intention as a separate concept, completely unrelated to Elio himself who deserves all the best of course).     

Beirut Duty Free Flash Mob has got to be my favorite among the three because it is simply beautiful. It works perfectly with the brand and even uplifts it. I think even real unsuspecting travelers engaged in the dance (if they all are in on this, then they get extra points for really playing it well).

Now I am not saying Social Media is no arena for brands to advertise themselves, far from it. It may actually be the most important platform for corporations to get visibility and gain credibility nowadays. However, and I admit that is completely arbitrary and subjective, I would like to use my vote to place the spotlight on nominees that do not have big budgets or the means to be in the media all the time. So that is why I will stay away from the videos I feel are more like TV Commercials.

Which brings me to the second category: individual initiatives such as the Proposal and Overly Attached Girlfriend.

These are the reason why YouTube was invented. They may very well be the "You" in "YouTube". They made a video and they posted it online in hopes of going viral.

The Proposal could fall in the previous category because it was produced by a production house (unrelated to Beirut Souks as they thank the venue in the end credits) with the intention of promoting themselves obviously, but because they position themselves as "enthusiastic university graduates, (who) aim to assist NGOs with the delivery of their message in a new and creative way, by the mean of audio-visual tools." (Source: Facebook) I choose to not place them in the same basket as powerful, budget-ful (whatever, it is 2:50 am and I invent words now) companies. They are film people and it appears the crew behind Overly Attached Girlfriend is too. Clearly, they enjoy writing, performing and producing their own productions. In that concept, that means "Film People" to (humble) me who are what makes YouTube what it is.

These two videos were fun enough to be shortlisted in this category and they do fall in the whole "Social Media" spirit but while they are entertaining and catchy, I personally feel they lack that extra something that makes the viewer want to get involved.

And although "engaging" does not necessarily mean for the viewers to actually "engage" into some sort of action, I feel that with the last two videos present in this category, that special quality cannot be overlooked. Both Amal Al Dahouk and Souad's story ask us to get involved and do something.

Really, at this point, it has become very personal and subject to my own personal discretion.

Well, let us be fair, all of the above was too, but I reserve this right, this being my blog and all ;) Just kidding, I honestly tried to think out-loud with you and be as objective as possible in my assessment.

The cause Find Ali Abdallah are championing is truly important and I did support their campaign on Facebook (which felt right) but I am not completely and undoubtedly certain this is the correct approach to tackle such a massive and sensitive subject. The intentions were truly commendable and the efforts as well, but I think they were brought from immediate raw emotions of pain following Ali's terrible tragedy and understandably. But I personally feel we are walking on dangerous grounds here as this involves people (and sometimes organized people) who we do not necessarily understand or know how to deal with. Pinpointing on the internet the location of children or even adults in need can engender grave consequences including and not limited to sexual assault or organ theft. While the aim is to save lives, if done without a proper safety system, it could actually have the opposite effect. Not to mention some of these people, while most definitely in need, are voluntarily or involuntarily attached to "bosses" who place them on certain streets as means for profits. This by itself is dangerous to some unknown extents. In any case, this is not the place nor the time to assess Find Ali Abdallah and again, I just would like to reiterate, I do believe their intentions are beautiful and I agree with them on the urgency and importance of this issue and I do not like to bash without proposing solutions and admire those who "do" rather than just preach (as I am doing right now) but I myself am not qualified to know how to go about this. So I am simply expressing fears which are probably part of the reason why I cannot vote for this video at this point in time (unless I am more informed and can understand how Find Ali Abdallah operates, so feel free to fill me in on this if you have any information please).

Which brings me to Amal Al Dahouk. A video I admit enjoyed and appreciated from the first viewing, back when it was streamed live at TEDxBeirut. I honestly believe it carries all the qualities to be a nominee and even a winner in this category. Firstly, it introduces a young talent who is eager to make a change and impact her environment positively. We always need young people like that. She is an independent, apolitical person (or at least, as far as this video shows) which is also so important to me. She is smart, funny and she proposes a plan for us all to take action. If that is not engaging, I do not know what is. And considering this talk is relevant to our behavior with regards to Media in general and Social Media in particular, I find it highly appropriate right now!

Well, I guess I know who is getting my vote then.
Thank you for the help ;)

Now it is your turn: who will you support?

  • The Social Media Awards official website
  • Like The Social Media Awards on Facebook
  • Follow The Social Media Awards on Twitter
  • Join The Social Media Awards on LinkedIn

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