7 Reasons Why Marketers Should Be Twerking Miley Cyrus

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Talk about a whole bunch of keywords in a headline that I never thought that I would ever write. But, here we are!

When cultural moments like Miley Cyrus at the Video Music Awards happen, we can’t help but stop and take a look. It’s the classic rubber neck syndrome, where we all, collectively, slow down to get a glimpse of the accident. It’s probably not the best part of the human condition, but it is who we are. We’ve taking rubber necking to a whole new level when you implicate social media into the mix. Now, we’re not just stopping to watch the madness and talking about it at the water cooler the next day, but we’re living it, sharing it, reporting on it and commenting on it like never before.

Media feeds the beast.

The Onion beat me to it. The satirical website had one of the most insightful (and hilarious) posts about the fiasco that points to the reality of what these types of events means to brands and marketers. And, make no mistake about it, brands, marketers and media entities jump all over this sort of stuff because it moves the needle. The article was titled, Let Me Explain Why Miley Cyrus’ VMA Performance Was Our Top Story This Morning, as a mock op-ed piece from the Managing Editor of CNN.com. Most will simply read this piece and laugh, but it has all of the major points about why moments like this get the kind of coverage that they do – particularly in this day and age when traditional media outlets are doing anything and everything to generate advertising revenue, and the wall between editorial and advertising is blurring faster than you can say: native advertising. You can read the article to get the humor, but here is a rundown of why marketers should be twerking Miley Cyrus:

  1. If the headline is salacious, consumers will click on the site and drive up Web traffic.
  2. When Web traffic jumps, publishers have impressive Web analytics to share with their boss… and with the advertisers.
  3. Once the story gets some traffic, spin-off articles happen (like 15 other Music Video Awards Embarrassments, and the like), these bump up the numbers even more.
  4. Digital editorial teams then turn these popular articles into slideshows (consumers love clicking on pictures). As the mock-article points out: "We also throw in a slideshow called ‘Evolution of Miley,’ which, for those of you who don’t know, is just a way for you to mindlessly click through 13 more photos of Miley Cyrus. And if we get 500,000 of you to do that, well, 500,000 multiplied by 13 means we can get 6.5 million page views on that slideshow alone. Throw in another slideshow titled ‘6 ‘don’t miss’ VMA moments,’ and it’s starting to look like a pretty goddamned good Monday, numbers-wise." Again, this is a satirical piece, but it’s one those, "it’s funny because it’s true" kind of things.
  5. One publishers have some articles rolling and slideshows that consumers are mindlessly clicking through, publishers will then create quick, cheap and dirty highlight videos and more, with experts discussing the performance or whatever. These video have pre and post roll advertising and some of them have sponsorship and product placement within the clips. More advertising. More traffic. More revenue.
  6. If consumers are spending all of this time with this type of content, media publishers have ammunition to tell brands and media agencies about how engaged and how much time their consumers spend on their property in comparison to others. Along with that, the bounce rate decreases (the amount of people who look at a page, but click on nothing else). These are prime metrics that enable publishers to command a higher advertising rate.
  7. We like to share. Once consumers watch this content, spend time with it, maybe even comment on it, they may be inclined to share it across their own social networks. From blogs to Twitter and Facebook and beyond. This propagates the content, drives more attention, amplifies it and builds the media brand. Yes, once a consumer shares it, they are complicit in helping the media entity to grow and to charge more to the advertisers.

So, in the end, everybody should read this fake op-ed piece in The Onion and realize that it’s probably the most accurate story about publishing, content and the state of digital advertising than any research report you are bound to come across.


  1. Great insights Mitch and love that you put this hot mess into perspective for publishers.
    Still feeling the aftershock from Monday’s ~4,000% traffic gains after the Miley fallout. Our Reddit links continue to fuel the fire even as I write this, and at one point over half of their top links were consumed with ‘twerk this, twerk that’. Ditto on your advice of doubling up on the VMA content, which in my case supported the bottoming-out of bounces.
    I could imagine how conflicted digital editorial staffs everywhere were early Monday morning to keep Miley off their front pages and social media, especially considering all the turmoil in Syria. I did notice some kind of kneejerk moral pullout from the chaos late on Monday from the major news networks starting with ABC. Almost as if the old, dying vanguard of journalism is still lingering.
    I think we all owe Miley a bottle of Jack and a slap on the ass (if she had it her way). I personally have come to thoroughly enjoy this new digital age of hopelessness and journalistic ‘failure’.

  2. Yet another insightful take on the latest social flavour of the week Mitch. And yes, that is one aggressively keyword-rich post title if I’ve ever seen one.
    Undoubtedly the VMA’s were a marketers dream with many agencies making every effort to hijack the cultural implications of Miley’s Twerkfest for their own benefit. However, for the more, shall we say “conservative” brands, jumping on the soft-porn tween scene that unfolded that night and the social frenzy that followed proves a slippery slope. The challenge for those brands is how to stay fresh & relevant with their integrity intact.
    The numbers and the traction are undoubtedly appealing to the bottom line but therein lies the rub; how can we harness the momentum of culturally relevant content without compromising our brand principles or coming off as a wannabe-rebellious teenager desperate for attention. (Oops…sorry Miley.)
    Oh, and James? Well played sir. Well played.

  3. Of course it all depends on the inherent nature of where this type of shlockfest content is being published, and the stance taken by your brand. In my case it was a godsend only because we cater specifically to an audience of whom would probably have acted exactly how Miley did given the opportunity and circumstances.
    This attention-starved, perpetually connected and increasingly sought-after young demographic is precisely the reason News Corp dumped $71M in Vice Media 2 weeks ago, after Time Warner got into bed with them even earlier. The values of journalistic integrity now gives way to shock and awe gonzoism. Counterculture is the new culture, and the reaction to Miley’s left-field performance from all facets proves how easy we can all cash in as publishers.
    Not to mention the VMAs touched on so many hot button issues like racism, rape culture, deteriorating societal values (whatever that is) and media sensationalism– there was absolutely no avoiding it even if your brand tried, which I think encapsulates what Mitch is saying here. If the ‘spin’ and coverage rings true with your following, great. But to willfully ignore a trending topic of this magnitude is a completely wasted conversion opportunity that marketers need to identify and manipulate to their advantage, practically in real-time.
    Millenials have thicker skins and much more selfish inclinations than many baby-boombers realize, though the upper echelons are slowly starting to learn that. Millenials live for the spectacle no matter how horrifying (I woke up one morning to volumes of chemical attack vids/pics and decapitations in our editorial pitchbox amidst a bunch of chatter about it) or how ridiculous (Miley).
    This graph should sum it all up: http://benswann.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Cyrus.jpg

  4. Please consider these excerpts from my recently published blog post, “What Twerking Means to Marketers”:
    As marketers, we constantly search for the right angle from which to deliver our message. What will resonate the strongest with our target audience? What can we do or say to grab their attention amongst all of the digital chatter and noise? It’s easy to find quick answers to these questions in a viral video, meme’d image or pop culture trend because it’s prevalent and hip. Newsjacking works when there is a real connection between your brand and current affairs, but try to present your overstuffed armchair company as being relevant to twerking and you’ll likely do more harm than good to your brand’s image.
    By exploring the history of a viral theme within the context of marketing, a brand stands to make a deeper connection to consumer attitudes, tastes, and buying behaviors, thus positioning itself to make a real contribution to the discussion without looking foolish. Every idea can be presented as a new idea, so long as it’s done with tact and respect.
    All memes and pop culture trends have history and deserve the courtesy of being used in an intelligent and accurate way. There’s an entire subculture that surrounds twerking, but it’s once-stable community has suddenly been elevated to unimaginable levels of fame… and ridicule. It’s our job to keep the treasures of the Internet fun, not to mock them for our own personal gain.
    Read the full article here: http://relevance.com/blog/twerking-means-marketers/
    I’d love to hear your thoughts on cultural hijacking and how to do it with dignity and tact as opposed to irrelevant spins on popular culture simply for increased page views and impressions.

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