Wednesday, November 03, 2010


While watching Have I Got News For You last week, I noticed that the BBC has decided to display a hashtag (#bbcHIGNFY) as the show opens. Shortly after, I spotted Question Time sporting one too (#bbcqt). I was intrigued - do the twitterati really watch Question Time? And if so, what do they say about it? So I flicked open the Twitter App on my phone. As it happened, a particularly unctuous hedge fund manager called Hugh Hendry was on the show's panel, and a lot of the #bbcqt tweeting was directed at him:
callummccrae1: Hugh Hendry is a wanker that is all. #bbcqt
markjepson: On a serious note, Hugh Hendry is an obnoxious cretin. #bbcqt
The twitterers had a point, but that's by the by. What struck me was how this totally changes the viewing experience. A passive 'slumped in front of...' moment becomes an active social one. Suddenly we're all sharing a vast virtual sofa, muttering our asides to each other.

For the time being it's rather cumbersome - and not everyone has a smartphone anyway. But one or two iterations and this stuff will be scrolling right across the screen - if we want it to. Some classifications of TV are more ripe for commentating than others - sport, soaps and reality shows are obvious contenders. And while we probably don't want to hear the whole world's commentary on our favourite movie, we may welcome contributions from our friends, so the Facebook hybrid of this will be interesting. A thousand strangers can add nothing to my enjoyment of Withnail & I, but if a friend writes "#withnail @alex - you perfumed ponce" on my wall? ... ROFLMAO

Ad breaks, let's face it, have always been fair game, so we need to work out how brands should react when ads are dissected live ("that stuff's crap"). And what about exploiting the new forum by integrating hashtags inside the campaign through an interactive creative idea? Carlton Draught in Australia has added a hashtag under the brand logo at the end of the ad, to some effect. But what about incorporating the hashtag, or some tweets, into the concept of the ad itself? You don't have to know what one of these campaigns looks like to know they exist. Write the brief.

Of course, in-programme (and indeed in-match) tweeting isn't new. What's new is merely that I have caught on. But if I've got it, then the rest of the population can't be far behind.