Bonfire of the Metaphwoars

Are you sitting comfortably?  Good-oh.

A lot of this might be familiar to you, but if you’re going to Metaphwoar on the 9th November, please do read to the end… I need your help.


Last summer, whilst sitting on the train up from Brighton one morning, I was writing a short piece for the IPA Social Collective… we wanted to change how people think about “social”…

…you know,  how to get the folks in the media & advertising game out of the notion of just thinking ‘big, immediate, shiny’, and think more along the lines of starting small, interesting social things, that are built collaboratively with people to become big, interesting social things.

Just then, a wandering metaphor pixie happened upon me, leapt into my head through the right aural passage, sprinkled some magic dust, and watched as a metaphor formed.

I think I felt her dance a little jig on her way out, as what she’d left me with was this…

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

Being one of those people, I shared it on twitter.

(Of course, being ‘one of those people’, I share quite a lot on twitter, mostly not as funny or smart or interesting as perhaps I think it is whilst writing it, and regret it a little afterwards just about every time…).

Twitter liked it.  It liked it a lot.

Maybe it was something to do with putting fire in a metaphor.  Maybe it was because everyone loves making bonfires, and lighting fireworks.  Maybe it takes us back to our childhood.  It might be all of the above, it might be none of the above.  But there was appetite for more…

So I started to expand it a bit with some reasons why; stuff like “advertising burns very brightly, but dies very quickly” and “social media takes time to start, but with attention and dedication, as you fuel the bonfire it will only ever burn brighter”


Then, the best thing happened; people started joining in…

Dan – “What about if we notice people are building a bonfire for themselves?  How could we help them make it even better?”
Chris – “your bonfire maintains interest and builds advocacy once the bright lights of the works have long gone”
David – “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”

…and it’s the thing that happens every time the bonfires & fireworks metaphor is repeated by anyone, really; in meetings or talks or blogs, people love to join in.

Which brings us to Metaphwoar


It’s an evening Andy Whitlock from Poke has created as part of Internet Week, and he kindly invited me to be part of it.  The fool.

Anyway, here’s the thing; I have accumulated lots of slides and thoughts and examples of the bonfires/social thing.  I could pick the best, speak fast and Scottish, and get through the ten minutes.

But it occurred that it’s not true to the spirit of the original bonfires metaphor.  It’s always been a collaborative thing.  It started small, and people joined in.  It’s a bonfire in it’s own right.

So we’re going to do something collaborative.  I’m not going to tell you exactly what yet*.  But I am going to set you some homework.

If you are coming to Metaphwoar, please think about how would you complete this sentence:

“Social projects are like bonfires because…”

See you on the 9th…


*Partly because of some misguided sense of mystery, and partly because the idea I have is still only half-baked.  Hey, there’s plenty time.  Anyway, I’m on last, we’ll all be a bit tipsy, and if it goes wrong I’ll sing a song or something.  Or fall over.