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Diddy’s Ass-Tweet: An Allegory

October 27, 2009

I wish the vacationing Diddy (I’ve finally decided to end my policy of only calling him by his given name—Puff Daddy) could have known he was writing something of great value when he typed the following tweet:

BRAZIL!!!!! Ass! Ass! Ass! Phat round beautiful ASSES!!!!! Everywhere! Its a ASS suniami!!!!!!!! I think I like it here!!! Lol

I don’t think Diddy knew he was revealing his lack of spelling prowess (seriously, “suniami”?). Nor could he know he was offering a brilliant allegorical representation of a recent TV industry development: Microsoft’s recent sponsorship deal, and the subsequent breaking thereof, with Fox and its flagship series Family Guy. He probably didn’t intend it this way, but with some strategic word substitutions in Diddy’s ass-tweet, you can nicely sum up the first half of the Microsoft – Family Guy flirtation. Microsoft execs might well have said,

FAMILY GUY!!!!! Ratings! Ratings! Ratings! Phat round beautiful RATINGS!!!!! Everywhere! It’s a RATINGS suniami!!!!!!!! We think we like it here!!! $$$

Microsoft thought they had it all figured out. Scripted shows like Family Guy are seeing flat or declining ad revenues because sponsors know that many viewers use their DVRs and skip through commercials. Efforts to place product mentions within the content itself have thus increased in intensity, frequency, and creativity. American Idol fans know that each of last season’s episodes featured the cast singing and performing in a Ford commercial. The Office does this even more subtly, with an entire early episode based around a trip to a Chili’s restaurant, featuring such lines as “Chili’s is so cool” (that one came from Steve Carell himself).

So Microsoft, eager to push the envelope even further, comes up with a what seemed like a good idea: spend lots of money and become the sole sponsor of the season premiere of Family Guy, set to air November 8. There could be no fast-forwarding through all the ads because some of the commercial messaging would be integrated into the content itself. The software behemoth could finally reach the attractive demographics, boost the street cred of Windows 7, and see a strong return on their advertising investment. They saw all that and said, “We think we like it here!!!”

Only one problem: Family Guy is a depraved, sophomoric show (this is coming from a Family Guy fan, by the way) that alienates as many people as it attracts. It’s tempting to ask, “How on earth could the Microsoft people not know that?” The answer, I think, lies in Diddy’s unintentional allegory. Just as Diddy was hypnotized by all the ASS, Microsoft was hypnotized and distracted by their visions of a RATINGS suniami. We all know that high ratings, like attractive body parts, can cloud one’s judgment. The Microsoft story shows that this occurs at the organizational as well as the individual level.

And that, my friends, is what an allegory can do for us—effectively illustrating the general with the specific. So kudos to Diddy. It may have been accidental and riddled with laughable command of the language, but he unleashed a “suniami” of knowledge on us all.

Postscript: As of this writing, there’s no word if or when Diddy will complete the Ass – Ratings allegory by, um, pulling out of Brazil.

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