iJustine, Karen Get Lost in America With AT&T
Surprisingly, there hasn't been much press on AT&T's Lost in America, a Wal-Marting Across America-style (sorry, Justine) travel blog program fronted by Justine Ezarik, a.k.a iJustine and Karen Nguyen. For a few months now, the pair have been "lost" in America and exploring Alaska, Austin and Chicago.
At the outset, the pair, as the story goes, had no idea where they would be dropped. In the first episode they were given AT&T Blackjack 2 phones, blindfolded and dropped in the "middle of nowhere." With lots of faux fear, Karen quickly locates herself using the phones GPS and...takes a picture of a fish (bird). Yup, they were in Anchorage, Alaska. Karen was then assigned the task of finding a local with whom to have coffee.
Justine was dropped off in her own "middle of nowhere" but with a quick "yo, what's up? you're in Anchorage," Justine was on her way. She, too, was assigned the task of having coffee with a local.
The pair had to take pictures of the "strangers" (I mean, come on...with a camera following the pair around, how uninformed could these "strangers" have been about what was going in?) nd then upload them to their blogs, yo! Karen got off easy. Justine got suckered into playing chess by some old dude who was probably like, "whoa! I'll do anything to keep this hottie around because, damn, I'm not getting this at home!"
It goes on...and on and on and on from there. More challenges. More faux docu-drama. More dramatic raising of the stakes. More...cookies.
It would be easy to make fun (trash?) this effort but that would run counter to a tenet we've held high for quite some time when it comes to campaigns of this type: identify already popular elements/people/sites/programs and ride the wave. Justine and Karen have huge audiences. HUGE. They have followings. To use and old-school media term, they have reach. And even in the new world of media, reach still matters.
But what would an Adrants article be without some snarky doubt. So here it is. From someone else, Jill Weinberger, who wrote on NewTeeVee, "So why haven't I rushed out to switch to AT&T yet? It's not Justine and Karen's fault. They attack their missions with such adorable zeal that they may soon be replacing buttons as the official worldwide standard of the cutest thing one can be as cute as. And the missions themselves - uploading photos and video, downloading music, searching the Net - are certainly a reasonable measure of a phone and a network's capability.
But, thing is, I didn't really get a feel of why AT&T and the Blackjack 2 were better than anything else they could have been using. Sure, they got great coverage in Alaska, but I had no way of knowing if getting great coverage in Anchorage (a city of 300,000 people) was that big of a deal."
Oh and that tiny detail EVERYONE IN THE WORLD KNOWS iJUSTINE USES AN iPHONE. Sorry, couldn't help that.
Bitching aside, the series isn't overly preachy product-wise and the pair do have a connection (or at least reach to) many other people who have audiences of their own who, in turn, will propagate the message to and even wider audience.
In a comment to Weinberger's piece, Tubefilter Editor and AT&T Lost in America Director Drew Baldwin wrote, "The focus of the series was on the ubiquity of coverage and at&t's extensive presence in the United States which allows customers never really to get lost no matter where they go-thanks to GPS, AIM, email, internet, phone, photos, video, etc... As the series evolves I think you'll notice in Austin and Chicago there is even less emphasis on product and more about how these intensely connected individuals - who cannot go for a second without being in touch with their audience-can still be in touch, and fully, no matter where they go, thanks to at&t."
But, but, but...isn't it common knowleged Verizon has the best coverage? or is that just an urban legend.
The series was produced for Tremor Media by Digital Content Partners and Studio8. It was directed by the aforementioned Drew Baldwin
Topic: Mobile/Wireless, Online, Opinion, Product Placement, Social, Video, Weblogs
Great article. The Lost in America series has not been getting much exposure but thanks to sites like this iJustine and Karen are getting a lot of online love.
Thanks for the write up on our series. Can't believe you noticed those cameras following the girls around, doh! I swear it was all Flip Video footage they shot of themselves :)
Getting full-bars in Anchorage is enough for me to be a fan of AT&T! Hope you get a chance to watch Episodes 6-11 which we filmed in Austin, TX ...they can be found @ www.attlostinamerica.com.
Thanks for the writeup, Steve.
Okay, we're busted. This is clearly a mocku-drama, and the tongue-in-cheek nature of Justine and Karen should give have given it away, if nothing else. And other than the somewhat campy premise and a few plot elements involving the phones, AT&T gave us a lot of freedom, especially with Austin and Chicago--and you'll see more of Studio 8's quirky creativity come out as the series progresses.
What impresses (or surprises me) the most is that Justine catapulted her vlogging career by lambasting AT&T with the iPhone Bill vid (just google "iPhone Bill")--now she is starring in AT&T's nationwide campaign?
Steve, you're right: Justine is the champion of the iPhone (and therefore AT&T by relation), so the question I have is this: is 'Lost In America' a brilliant, progressive marketing move on AT&T's part, or were they simply oblivious, or is this series a testament to the power of online personalities who have irresistible reach?
p.s. By "lame" I meant the videos, not the article. Truth be told, I quite enjoyed the Wal-Mart dig at the beginning.
I get the good PR coverage, but the script-writing is hard to digest... who is the target audience?
The one (big) problem is the fact that Justine became famous precisely because of her love for all things Apple, so it's odd to follow her around as she plays with a Blackjack, because that's not what her fans, which AT&T were obviously trying to target, have come to expect. Now had they jumped on this for the iPhone and then gotten Justine in the mix, you'd have a win all around, but I just think they slightly missed the mark on this one.