As I read this past week, Oscar Mayer is backing one of the more interesting social media/viral/guerilla marketing campaigns that I have seen recently.

In case you haven’t heard of the Great American Bacon Barter promotion, the brand has recruited unknown actor/comedian Josh Sankey to drive cross-country with 3,000 pounds of bacon, and no cash or credit cards. The idea is that he has to find creative ways to trade his bacon for all the essentials: gas, food, places to stay, etc. He left NYC on 9/10, and has gotten as far as Chicago to date.

As you can imagine, all of this is being tracked in real-time, with an active twitter feed and website hosting videos/photos/etc. – all documenting the journey. Sankey mostly interacts with people via twitter, lining up lodging and activities for his next destination on the fly. He seems to be drumming up a somewhat successful response.

I like this idea because of the platforms it covers. Not only is there the online engagement, but all along the journey, this campaign is actually connecting with people face-to-face (and creating local buzz thereafter).

If you can believe it, someone actually got a tattoo that says “bacon” for 137 bricks of said food (a brick being a pound, as far as I can tell). Sankey’s also exchanged bacon for sunglasses, a carwash, clothing and other random junk. I haven’t seen much bacon for gas bartering, but let’s not get bogged down in the details.

I also think it helps that there is a camera present – it helps to grease the wheels, so to speak. For example, Sankey barters with a NYC cabbie for a ride for 2 bricks of bacon. With no camera around, this would be a far shadier situation, with the cabbie eventually calling the cops – but the camera legitimizes the exchange, so people go along. The idea of instant ‘fame’ doesn’t hurt either (think college kids).

The weakness of this campaign, is that it is very pro-bacon, but not pro-Oscar Mayer. Of course people go gaga for bacon – it took over the country long ago, oft-documented by this blog. My concern, if I was paying for this expedition, is that the brand ambassadors are ginning up excitement for bacon (like asking people if they like cash), but not the brand. I think there is a missed opportunity here. A tad more promotion wouldn’t hurt, and could leave a more lasting impression.

Another misstep is the shallow depth of social media. No real Facebook presence (someone clearly reserved a Bacon Barter page, but never started/branded it – so the default page is Oscar Mayer’s), no promotion branded YouTube channel, and nothing on Pinterest, for example. In essence – there was room here to connect with more people.

Anyway, I’m sure that Sankey is not operating without notes from the HQ on this expedition, so things will probably evolve as he makes his way to LA.

Overall – cool concept, good execution, but a couple missed opportunities for the brand.

What do you think of this campaign?

H/t to Media Decoder for the scoop. And for the ad folks, here are the brains behind the idea.

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