Advertising Firework, Social Bonfire

I’ve been doing a little thinking around ‘Campaigning vs Continuous’ for something that a bunch of folk (Mark, Le’Nise, Katy, Neil, Amelia, Graeme, Jamie, Nigel and myself) are doing for the IPA.  It’s still work-in-progress and that, more soon though.

Anyway, here’s a little analogy I think kinda works, but just thought I’d try out here first…

If advertising is a firework, then social media is a bonfire.


Advertising burns very brightly, but dies very quickly.  Social Media takes time to start, but with attention and dedication, as you fuel the bonfire it will only ever burn brighter.

You just light an Advertising firework and stand back; it’s prepackaged for you to be easy by others (media owners, agencies and the like).  Social Bonfires need the most care in the first stages (the careful construction of kindling, a gentle blow here and there).

Bonfires can provide lots of things – heat, light, food.  As Marta Kagan points out in ‘What The F**K is Social Media‘ (which is great, have a look)in addition to customer acquisition, Social Media can be help with public relations, customer service, loyalty building, collaboration, networking, thought-leadership etc. 

The advertising firework is pretty much a one trick pony.  Whizz, bang; It’s all about the acquisition.

And when your firework fizzles and dies, you need another.  Then another.  And another… as soon as you stop lighting the fireworks, people have nothing to look at, and bugger off.  And fireworks are pricey, too…

Whereas when you start a bonfire, it might be just you to start off with.  Then a couple more folk.  Then a small crowd… as the fire grows, more people come.  And as more people come, some of them will even help you build the fire; break some wood up, throw more on, poke around in the embers to make sure the fire doesn’t go out…


I put a few of these thoughts out on twitter, and had some more great thoughts back…

Mat“you need certain things like gunpowder to make fireworks, bonfires can be made of nearly anything, but especially not gunpowder”  

Beth – “but fireworks so pretty and make you go ooh and aah a lot – and everyone loves them – we can all remember our fave displays too!”

David“people become obsessed with making fireworks ever bigger and louder without ever asking if people if thats what they want”   &   “people tend to remember really good bonfires that let off loads of heat but for every one of those there are loads that don’t light”

As a way to explain the difference between the ‘campaigning’ nature of advertising, and ‘continuous attention’ required for Social Media success, I think this works… but thought I’d ask all you folks first; all thoughts & builds welcome, as always.

I really fancy a toasted marshmallow now…


Thinking about this reminded me of the phrase ‘firework band’ from a few years back (Dorian Lynsky wrote a great piece in the Guardian about it)… a band that soars at an astronomically fast pace, fizzles, dies and crashes back to earth. 

The irony perhaps is that most firework bands still burned longer than the phrase ‘firework band’…