Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Using Hitler downfall parodies for library marketing?

Okay this could be one of my craziest ideas yet.

Of course you would have heard of Hitler Downfall parodies  , where a classic scene from the German movie Downfall has its subtitles changed so it seems Hitler is ranting about anything from being banned in Xbox live to disappointment with the latest Apple product.

In the library context, I suppose it would be trivial to create many such parodies as there is plenty to rant about. One can make Hitler rant that ebooks are slowly being denied to libraries , to rising serial prices and/or lack of library jobs, closing of libraries etc. In a more recent context , we can create one ranting that J.P. Porcaro was named LJ mover & shaker. There is so much material, I am surprised few exist yet.

However the difficulty it seems to me is this, how would you use it a official marketing library campaign to promote one of your services? Such videos are inherently subversive and negative.

In fact the videos I have seen so far that are library related are ones created by users unhappy about a new library policy and one by Phil Bradley for advocacy purposes - Hitler concerned about savelibraries campaign .

My first idea was to create a video where Hitler finds out about a new service, say "Hitler finds out he can text the library questions" , but after toying with it a while, I felt that this wasn't in the spirit of such parodies.

I finally hit on a solution. He could rant about a genuine problem of concern to users for a long time, that the library has finally solved. (credits at the end would mention that)

Here's one idea, many libraries are employing discovery services like Summon or next generation catalogues like Aquabrowser. One could create a video where Hitler finds out about some weakness in the catalogue that prevents him from doing what he thought he could do.

For instance Hitler is told by his generals he needs three peer reviewed articles and he confidently states that that he would search for articles in a classic catalogue. Then watch his dismay turn to anger when he is told he can't do that....

After ranting about other difficulties and issues that he has put up with regards to the classic catalogue, the end credit could scroll... "Don't be like him... Use to search for articles for your assignment".

Below is one example."Hitler finds out he can't search for articles in the library catalogue"

Okay, so it wasn't hilariously funny and kinda lame, but you can probably do better. For this video, I tried to include references that many librarians active on Twitter/Facebook/blogs would recognize as this is the target audience but ran out of steam at the end.

The actual one you create for your library would be more specific of course, and should be peppered with references your users/students would recognise including petty problems, references to events and polices etc You could also sneak in references to new or existing library services as I did here with text a librarian service.

How much technical skill does it take to make one like this? Not much, you can follow the instructions  but it will obviously take time to come up with a funny script and then time to sync the subtitles.

The second part becomes easier once you have created the first parody since later ones just involve changing the text without needing to position and time each subtitle again. In fact, the video above wasn't my very first one. The first one was one made for the local context ,which explains a bit why the one above isn't very smooth or as funny as it should be I think.


I think this must be my craziest and perhaps most dangerous idea to date. I can see why this idea will not pass muster because of so many reasons. Here are some.

While it is good to be able to poke fun at oneself and admit shortcomings this might be going too far. A "approved" video of such nature would be by necessity  restrained which may prevent the video from achieving the pure spontaneity the best parodies of this class exhibit.  It might even lead users among this line of thinking and you might see a spate of such parodies made on library shortcomings,  which while fun to watch might not go down so well with management.

However as an internal staff video why not? It might be a good creative exercise to create such a video for internal use only that accurately captures the issues that annoy our users the most, a funny but accurate one could remind and focus our staff on what issues we should focus on solving rather than trying the latest fads.

So what do you think? Is this totally crazy??

Added note - I hesitated for a few weeks before deciding to release this post. But in the end I decided to take the risk and release this idea. After all, we are always asked to try to innovate and that doesn't come along without taking a few risks. It goes without saying, but I will say it,  no offense was intended with this post/idea.

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