What better way for an anti-social app to get noticed than by insulting its target audience? London-based app design studio ustwo has just put up a pair of billboards in the hipster heartland of Shoreditch, East London, a stone’s throw from where its own studio is based, which brazenly proclaim: You have no friends and No one likes you.
The billboards, which will be teasing Shoreditch’s hipsters for two weeks, are an experimental ad campaign for one of ustwo’s recent apps: random photo-sharing app Rando, which launched back in March on iOS. Rando has now also been rolled out on to Android and Windows Phone. Last month ustwo said the app had racked up a full five million of its entirely social-less random photo shares after around two months in the wild.
So what’s with the anti-social insults? Rando’s schtick is that it eschews all the usual social paraphernalia developers typically embed in their apps. There’s no Facebook sign-in, zero social sharing options at all, no comments, no likes, no favourites, no followers/followees. There’s also no way to tell who gets the photos you share/receive, beyond a general location. It’s deliberately — liberatingly — stripped of context.
Turning to a fixed-location, paper-based advertising medium may seem pretty old school but Silicon Valley has long had a bit of a thing with billboards. ustwo’s Matt Miller tells TechCrunch that’s certainly one reason he was keen to experiment with papering giant fliers atop one of Shoreditch’s busier junctions. “I’ve always been interested in billboards since flying out to San Fran in 2012. I remember during a taxi journey over there, being really impressed with the billboards and thinking to myself how I’d love to see our work pushed that way back home,” he says.
The cost of the Rando billboard campaign is “around the same amount it would cost us to develop a small app”, according to Mills. But it’s the only paid marketing ustwo intends to do for Rando — relying instead on “the virality of the concept” to keep it travelling, which, ironically enough, has led to plenty of organic chatter on social sites like Twitter and Instagram.
“The irony of Rando is that the majority of promotion very much is driven by the virality of the concept. We’ve had a range of people talking about it on Twitter and Instagram — with a lot saying how much they love the anti-social element of the app. Other than the billboards we won’t be advertising though…we’d rather someone influential picks is up organically and spreads the word,” he says.
The point of the billboards is thus to provoke and spark debate — ustwo is certainly not expecting them to trigger a goldrush of downloads — but if it’s virality you’re after, debate and controversy are your (anti-social) friends. “We hope people will talk, and be intrigued,” Mills adds.
That said, he does also reckon the billboards help to “validate Rando as a quality brand” — showing how, despite everything going digital, paper advertising is still clinging to cachet and a lasting sheen, perhaps even more so as digital ads have cheapened and proliferated. And that despite the impact of paper-based marketing being far more elusive vs measurable clicks.
“We wanted to raise awareness of Rando within the tech and design scene in and around our studio in East London. Also to make the point that in a world so dominated by digital development, we still believe that old school display advertising has the power that no digital can match on a local level in terms of making a big statement,” he says.
“We originally came up with the straplines a few months back and mocked them up into billboards. We had a lot of interest with people asking if they were real or not – which made us decide to actually run them. The ‘no one likes you’ and ‘you have no friends’ message was something we wanted to get out there. The straplines themselves are perfect for Rando and so far removed from the majority of other advertising messages you see out there by big brands, that we had to go for it.”
As for the anti-social stuff in general — that’s always been and continues to be another experiment for ustwo. “Consolidation of anything that people want to engage in, without social validation, is something that really fascinates us and hopefully Rando means we learn a lot more about it,” he adds.
So yeah, Shoreditch hipsters, for the next few week read this and weep…