They say fame always comes with a price. And for no sudden celebrity could those words ring truer than for my good friend Chris Macho.
Meet Chris, a funny, NYU-educated, 20-something La Canada native, who, like the rest of us, lives for tech the way a dog lives for his bone.
He was around 11 when the famous 1993 New Yorker cartoon came out: The dog sitting at a computer telling another dog, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”
Well, as he’ll tell you, now they do.
In the blink of an eye, Chris went from being a semi-anonymous social media regular to America’s official Wheat Thins Guy – all because of some serious Internet snooping.
It all started last Oct. 9th at 8:50 a.m., when Chris, like so many of us, began adding his daily strokes of paint to the endless, oftentimes inane, canvas that is Twitter – rattling off the following facetious Tweet from his iPad as if it were nothing:
“Had a hunch today would be good but didn’t think it would be THIS good … Wheat Thins is now following me on Twitter.”
Yep, Chris tweeted about Wheat Thins. His Twitter tone is of the comedic variety : “`You guys, check it out. I invented the most disgusting way to make Fettuccine.’ -A guy named Alfredo, a long time ago.”
So it was no big deal for Chris to sarcastically mock a cracker following him on Twitter, right?
Fast forward a couple months to when Chris, many Tweets later, woke up to the
door bell ringing at his Echo Park bungalow bright and early one Saturday morning.Still in his pajamas, he answered the door to a beastly circus of Wheat Thins people sporting hideous yellow and blue Wheat Thins T-shirts, each with slap-happy grins on their faces.
Then the Wheat Thins people told him, with the camera in his face, “Chris, we just want to say thank you for Tweeting about us so we’ve decided to drive this truck around Los Angeles all day as our thanks. Byeee!”
And off the cracker cacophony went down his quiet narrow street in a truck with a gargantuan yellow and blue billboard sign on its back: “FOLLOW @CHRIS MACHO, HE’S AWESOME!” with a Wheat Thins label at the bottom.
All of a sudden he’s on a Wheat Thins commercial on televisions across America, part of an ad campaign that was just dumped on him.
Chris had no idea this was going to happen. The Wheat Thins people had tracked his address down through the Internet, later triumphantly called their clever little campaign a “Twittervention.”
I call it kind of creepy.
As social media expert Sam Ford nicely puts it: A “brand’s worth is ultimately in the hands of the audience, who share word and experiences with one another. … Today, the Internet provides a textual `trail’ of those interactions, meaning brands can no longer ignore the key role the audience plays in distributing and interpreting marketing.”
If brands want to be identified with real people so badly, then so be it. But get ready to play in the big leagues with us humans, snacks.
You want to know what people really think about you, Wheat Thins?
Wheat Thins – not as nerdy as Ritz crackers, not as `80s as Cheezits, not as suburban as Goldfish – but definitely not nearly as cool as Pringles or nacho cheese Doritos.
In the snack kingdom, you’re like the wholesome nerd who always wears his sunscreen.
Shoulda stayed on your shelf and kept quiet.
A recent New York Times story about the absurd campaign stressed that the underlying goal of Nabisco was to reach out to the younger gen who prefer “snacks” to hoighty-toighty “crackers.”
I would have loved to have been in the room when a bunch of ad execs were scheming how to make their snack-cracker-snack relevant. I imagine the conversation went something like this:
“Blah blah social media blah blah demographics blah blah 18-25-year-olds blah blah … Why don’t we start following people who Tweet about us, then show up at their houses!”
They never stopped to think of the emotional damage they’d inflicted on poor Chris, with his now 13,000 followers, mostly 16, who ridicule him endlessly as “Wheat Thins Guy.”
As I peruse the @ChrisMacho stream, I see today’s hater is from “Mentally_Stoned”: “just saw the commercial. checked out ur profile to see if ur real, i have no intention of following tho.”
“I have a lot of haters,” Chris says. “They expect me to be talking about Wheat Thins. People think I owe them something.”
Did Nabisco reward him with a lifetime supply of Wheat Thins or a VIP club card that allows him entrance into any packaging facility?
No. (He was paid a very small, one-time fee for his appearance.)
Dear consumers, we know not where this will lead. Just remember Chris Macho’s cautionary tale the next time you think about Tweeting about your trip to Yogurtland or about the new Tacos del Carbon from Taco Bell.
A huge burrito might end up at your door.