T.G.I. Friday's is currently running a major campaign, with a large national TV advertising budget, paid search, and interactive money all driving traffic to a Facebook Fan Page. The idea is gimmicky but arguably clever: "Woody", the ultimate fan of T.G.I. Friday's, has challenged them to a contest - If he can get 500,000 fans in 1 month, then those 500,000 people will all get free burgers from T.G.I. Fridays. The campaign has attracted some online media attention, mostly from bargain & freebie blogs but recently in Inside Facebook. More important, the Fan Page is up to 180,000 fans already, and there is lots of conversation about Woody and Friday's there.
But there's a problem here. Woody is clearly an actor- the fan videos are produced by a professional crew - and the whole thing smells of inauthenticity in a space where authenticity rules. It's sad- mostly because social media tools like Facebook, and Twitter, both of which the campaign is using heavily, could easily have been used to recruit real fans, to get get real fan photos and videos, to truly search for the Ultimate Fan, which T.G.I. Friday's press release defines as Woody. It leads me to wonder whether all of the "fans" are just there for the free burger - and feel no connection to T.G.I.Friday's or "Woody." And what does the company think of fan comments such as these from the Fan Page?:
Annie Zeron: I don't know you, we are not friends, get off my facebook please. Thank you.
Maybe I'm thinking too much from an ethical word-of-mouth agency point of view, and not enough from a consumer's point of view? What do you think? Does it matter that Woody is not a real fan? Is this campaign hollow or substantial?