Wrong number, Paddy

Wrong number, Paddy

12 August 2014 | Lloyd Hughes

Ah, Paddy Power. I bloody love its marketing team. They must have a right time of it in their office, coming up with risqué stunts and ideas galore and not giving two hoots about who they offend or upset.

Some of its stunts are genuinely class but probably cost an astronomical sum to implement. On occasion the Irish pranksters seem to utilise technology that I didn’t even know existed. I remember being genuinely gobsmacked at the sky Tweets that PP rolled out at golf’s Ryder Cup in Medinah, 2012. How was it done? Planes and smoke apparently…

But it doesn’t always have to be done using a budget bigger than an oil baron’s bank balance. Sometimes the winning ideas are simple.

Over the weekend I saw on my Twitter timeline that the person running the Paddy Power Twitter account had received a text off someone called ‘Steve’ who’d been given the ‘wrong number’ by somebody called ‘Jess’ in a Dublin nightclub the evening before.

Paddy then spent the day texting ‘Steve’ pretending to be ‘Jess’ and asking for help on what to input from the three hundred odd thousand PP Twitter account followers. What followed was a conversation that lasted the best part of a day and absorbed the Twittersphere as people waited on tenterhooks to see how it turned out.

After some blatant innuendo, outrageous hints and eventual reveal, ‘Steve’ took it rather well that his texts were being pawed over and judged by an online audience of several hundred thousand. Paddy promised to reward him for being such a good sport and the spectators lauded ‘Steve’ for taking the humiliation so well.

Being the PR cynic that I am, I immediately sensed a stunt. Despite its cavalier attitude to offend, I thought that even Paddy Power would draw the line at public ridicule of an unsuspecting individual. But thousands bought into it and I witnessed a jump of at least ten thousand followers during the course of the episode (taking them past the 400k mark), which ended with ‘Steve’ conveniently remaining anonymous, whilst it also fortuitously drew to a close at the end of the ‘tweeting day’, without dragging on unnecessarily.

Getting into the office today, the Paddy Power social stunt was brought up so we thought we’d do our own locally based wrong number tale to while away the day. Whilst we expected people to see through our half-hearted attempt and throw some Paddy Power heckles our way, a surprising few got on board (clearly not PP followers) with someone even setting up a fake account purporting to be the real ‘Subtone Tracy’ – Tracy being the heroine of the piece and Subtone being a local nightclub.

Not expecting any genuine engagement, we were somewhat taken aback, which led to it getting a bit out of hand. What had started off as a couple of tweets soon took up our whole timeline and probably massively annoyed ‘in the know’ followers with our frequent tweets. Which just goes to show the importance of social media planning and management; tip of the cap to you there, Paddy!

However, it also showed that it’s pretty easy to set up something like that. So easy, that I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been done before. I’ve ‘wrong number’ pranked many people in my time and also wound up several mates making out that I was somebody else. I was amazed that I hadn’t seen it in action on that scale on social media prior to Saturday.

Paddy Power clearly spotted an opportunity and went ahead and reaped the rewards, probably not believing how straightforward it was. It just goes to show…on Twitter, people love engagement, personality, and having a laugh. This is what gets you followers and retweets, and ultimately what gets you talked about. Good work as ever, PP, you’re still sitting firmly on the mischief-maker’s throne.