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January 24, 2009


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Debbie Weil

Maybe I'm hopelessly old-fashioned but I was taken aback by the profanity... if their intent is to get the sympathy (and attention) of the folks at Discovery I doubt this will work. Bad vibe.

Stephen Palmer

It's clever, but the blatant obscenity overshadows the cleverness. Eliminating the raunchy language wouldn't dilute the message one bit -- in fact it would strengthen it.

The message it sends is, "We're mad but we know we're powerless." They've severely reduced the impact of their creativity by implicitly displaying their feelings of powerlessness through profanity.

Effective creativity speaks of strength and ingenuity, not simple anger.

To quote a friend, "Swearing is the weak attempt of a feeble mind to express itself forcefully."

Nancy Tierney

I have to say, the 27-year old punk in me loves their response, even though I'm sure it won't get them the results they want.

Come to think of it, what were they hoping to achieve with that response? Did they really think Discovery would call them up and ask how they can make their show better? Did they expect them to change the name of the show?


So, this all begs the question, what CAN one do when one's name/brand and reputation is threatened in this way? Are there more creative AND effective ways to use it to one's advantage?

THIS would be a fun challenge to explore from a New Rule Marketing & PR perspective.


I also thought the profanity worked in terms of eliciting an emotional response, but probably wouldn't get them far in terms of getting any movement from Discovery. In fact, they might now have to defend their own acts of defamation from the URL they're using (i know, it's the same name as their own firm).
Brands have to work so hard in this environment not only to make people happy but even more so, not to tick them off.

Eric Karjaluoto

We really weren't expecting anything from the Discovery Channel. (They are bigger and I suspect have more lawyers.)

We had a chance to make a little noise and connected with a lot of people. That was great fun! ;-)

(Oh yes, and it sent us an awful lot of traffic!)


When I Google "smashLAB" the design firm is the second result. So I am having trouble with the idea that Discovery ruined their search results. (I never heard of the show before reading this post, however.)

David Meerman Scott

Eric, I sort of had the same thought as Debbie and Stephen on the F-bomb.

People are talking about you, aren't they? And isn't that part of the point?

I sure hope that this rises to the top of the search engine results for smash labs -- that would be a hoot.

Nice work.


What's the deal with the profanity? I hire design firms for work, but there's no way I would hire this company. The language shows a lack of maturity and professionalism.

Duane Brown

Personally I don't care if they swore. Isn't social media about being honest and transparent. The team at smashLAB is doing just that, IMO. It may not be how alot of us would handle it but we are not them.

For the all the people who commented and said it wasn't what they would do. What would you do? It's great that you think their reaction was bad but I don't see you coming up with a better idea.

Eric Karjaluoto

That's sort of our thought Duane. Some people will be put-off by the profanity, but they likely aren't the kind of clients we're really looking to connect with.

The text on the site is in fact representative of the way we actually speak. I must stress that we’re polite and friendly people, but we also speak our minds when it's appropriate to do so.

I think Steve's concern of professionalism is outmoded--as though we need to censor how we think in order to maintain appearances. In our minds it's better to just be ourselves and do good work. (That's what really matters.)

Lots of brands play things safely and it’s certainly their right to do so. At the same time, my concern is that such forced reserve can also slowly suffocate a brand.

We'll take a few lumps from those who feel we're overly cavalier. At the same time, we appreciate that doing things like this clearly differentiate us as a group that's willing to take some risk and spark actual discussion.

And again... it was fun. :-)

Stephen Palmer

There's a difference between transparency and degeneracy, and there's a whole lot of the latter going on in the name of the former.

The whole key to transparency is that people want to actually like what they see when pretenses and facades are dropped and the "real" is shown.

Just because I want to see the transparent you doesn't mean I want to see the mold growing on your toilet.

As for "forced reserve" -- it's only forced reserve if underneath good and respectable appearances lurks darkness. There's nothing forced about respectability when it's legitimate and authentic.

But luckily for Eric, there are enough people who are more "with the times" than I.

Duane Brown

@Eric I'm glad to hear that I was bang on. You guys should keep being yourselves. Your white paper last year on social media was well done. We passed it around the office at my shop.

@Stephan You are right that there is a difference between transparency and degeneracy. But unless you can honestly saw you've never sworn in your life or done something other people didn't like, then you don't have a leg to stand on my friend. I've been known to swear out of the blue, it happens.

I wouldn't make bold statements that the guys at SmashLAB are being degeneracy because you've not meet them I take it... you only know them from this one piece of communication. Some might say you are anal-retentive just from your last few posts and you wouldn't want someone making a bold statement about you like that.

How about you tell us what you would do instead. You seem to know so much, so you must have a solution to this problem by now. Because as my friends say... offer me solution, don't just tell me about your problem.

Tracy Renee Byrne

Well my first thought when reading DMS' original article was ... OMG. Then I read the linked website and I thought ... OMG. :)

Kudos to you guys for thinking of something to do in the first place, that was great. I probably wouldn't have sworn on a site like that, but it and the one-finger salute seriously added to the shock value! I found myself chuckling as I read it, though also thinking ... OMG I can't believe they dropped the FBomb.

We all curse, I have never met anyone who doesn't, even if it's just on occasion. Most of us usually don't do it though in front of people we don't know ... but ... cest la vie :).

Anyway, tell us guys, what did this campaign do for you? What were the results? Did Discovery ever even see it do you know? or respond? I must say, I don't watch tons of TV (at least not when the kids aren't with me) so I didn't even know about this show or what it was about even. But I am dying to know what happened as a result of your letter.


Kathleen Delaney

Discovery's smashlab may suck, but I think the point is to SHOW that the original SmashLAB doesn't. Does it do that? Not sure - only your customers can/will decide.

It's easy to be angry, but you have to channel that into productivity... Will it be productive, in the long term?

My guess is that the "What do we have to loose" mentality took over and that was it... But hey, it was obviously fun, empowering, and a good anger management exercise.

Kathleen Seide

You are supposed to be a company that is great at communication. From your own website: "We help organizations effectively utilize digital media through brand planning, insight-driven design and the employment of online technologies."
When I see smashlabsucks.com as your solution to your problem with Discover I don't see you "effectively utilizing" the things that you would ask me to pay you for.

You have the opportunity to solve a problem for yourself and show us all how great you are at the things you specialize in... and you put up a profane letter.

Like the Kathleen right before me posted:"Discovery's smashlab may suck, but I think the point is to SHOW that the original SmashLAB doesn't."

How good were your search results before smashlabsucks? Your website came up #2 on my google search - right below the TV show (and above any comments about it).

When the little details blurb below the links say things like:
"It is almost insulting that the good people at Discovery would then force feed us "Smash Lab"".
I can tell that is a different topic than your "strategic interactive agency"

David Meerman Scott

One of the things that is important to consider is Google and the other search engines. When you enter "smash lab" looking for the agency, you get a bunch of stuff talking about how smash lab (the show) sucks. But you don't know what that's referring to.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the SEO of the smashlabssucks site. Lots of people at looking at it from thios blog and others. It will rise in the Google rankings for "smash lab".

THen if a potential client sees that, they can say "hey these guys have moxie - I want to meet them" or "Not for me."


I think Smashlab does have some kind of protection under the Trademark Law at least in California .

Well good or bad they are getting a lot of sympathy and free advertising!

Eric Karjaluoto

Hi all,

My wife and son are napping so I have a moment to get in here and respond to some of your notes. Tracy--you asked how effective it has been.

I have to say that almost all of the response we've had has been glowing. Most seem to understand that we're not angry, but rather are having a laugh by "taking the piss" out of the situation.

Discovery's PR people have been in contact, but in a very haphazard fashion. They sent us a tweet and then deleted it, and then sent a batch of direct messages to us that were a little odd. They do seem to be trying to "handle" the situation.

I just received a tweet from them that they have left a voice mail at our office. Once I finish this response I’ll check into it and see what they have to say. (We spent the morning at the park, so I didn’t hear about this until just now.)

I think the part that works here is that it's an interesting approach. Some will argue that it was a poor example of our strength as communicators. I counter that argument, with the observation that if we hadn't been so cheeky we wouldn't have seen nearly the response we have. Consider the following:

- The site has generated nearly 40,000 unique visits in just 48 hours with many carrying through to visit our main website

- We've received dozens of emails of support, all noting that they thought our response was funny (many noting that they laughed out loud). Add to this comments on Digg, Facebook, and the like

- Word has spread incredibly quickly through Twitter, with tweets and retweets now numbering in the low-hundreds (rough guess)

- We’ve received coverage on TechCrunch and subsequently the Washington Post, and other blogs are starting to write about it as well.

I think this is becoming one of our best examples of how we can command social media playfully and get a solid response.

I understand why a few of you are concerned about the language, but that's just a characteristic of our organization. Some don’t use such tactics and that's fair, but we are willing to use them. In my mind the positive response greatly outweighs the few concerns raised. And besides… you need to break a few eggs to make an omelet.

Well, I should go now. Thanks for all of the discussion and feedback. Now it's time to get out in the sun! :-)



BTW: If any of you are curious to read more of our thoughts, you are welcome to visit our blog: www.ideasonideas.com

Rick Sanchez

There needs to be a clear decision made on, as I like to say, "what finished looks like." That is NOT clear from the response. Sure, it probably made the Eric's feel better, but PR is about more than "feeling better." It is about results.


The old Marine in me wasn't disturbed in the least by the language. However, being something of a grumpy old guy, I still hold onto this old idea of maintaining a sense of propriety: right behavior for the right place. I've been know to drop the F Bomb when in the company of friends. However, someone said it previously, don't use profanity if you don't know your audience. You may claim to know the audience, in the sense of who you want to address as your target. But you have no idea who's going to visit your site.

I am, however, an admirer or originality and would have liked to see more original use of the F-word. Perhaps working it into another word, that's always entertaining.

DMS points out that folks visiting your site will decide between "gosh, how clever" and "not for me". So, put me on the side of not supportive of results at any price. Appealing to the old prurient interest is weak. Anyone can do it.

Dianna Huff

smashLAB the agency can't be doing that bad -- a plug here plus one on TechCrunch, which is on the first page of Google. Who wouldn't kill for that kind of exposure? Better than the WSJ. :-)


Nicely worded even with the profanity. The message was clear, succinct and in my opinion the Discovery Channel will be forced to take notice.



Well, I thought it was pretty funny. Everyone here is correct- the agency will not accomplish anything with this, but they seem to recognize that, having said they "know there is no way" the Discovery Channel will change the name of their show.


Not knowing anything beforehand about either the company or the program, the smashlabsucks.com site reads like an angry juvenile rant.

I don't really care about the profanity... but its use carries no impact or creativity. The "poor me, look at poor me" message says, "I'm indistinguishable from any other self-centred punk with a second grade vocabulary." So you got some extra hits and e-mails. Whoopie.

Nothing in that pity party makes me feel sympathy. Yeah, it sucks to be you. Suck it up and fight. Grab me. Inspire me. Ignite within me a desire to rally to your cause.

David Meerman Scott:

Is this really "what to do when another company hijacks your name"? Really?

What happened to the concept of providing value to others?

I feel used. :-/

Eric Karjaluoto

If you'd like more of an insight into the logic behind the site, and the subsequent results, you might find this post interesting: http://www.ideasonideas.com/2009/03/poking_the_schoolyard_bully/

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