ChatRoulette: British Bite the Bullet
Recently an American folk-singer at a concert in Birmingham (UK) asked her audience whether any of the assembled were ‘on a date’. For a while the question remained unanswered, and no hands were raised, until eventually a lone brummie* voice in the darkened-wilderness broke the silence: “I’m here with my wife, does that count?” It may seem strange to the average American, but most British people simply do not date. We will, generally speaking, not see more than one person at a time. To some, I’m sure, marriage is simply a way of avoiding having to express an unsolicited interest in someone (not contractually obliged to reciprocate) ever again…
In an age, and a country, where it seems people are more likely to hurl abuse at a stranger than strike up a conversation with one, it was perhaps to be expected that ChatRoulette, an online platform upon which it is possible to do both, is now proving such a beguiling distraction. People have come to expect technology to be able to offer them instant satisfaction; an opportunity to escape from the mundanity of their day-to-day existence and to break free from moral and societal restrictions. Violent computer games and hardcore pornography are ubiquitous. And technology is becoming increasingly interactive…
Started only a few months ago by the 17-year-old Russian schoolboy Andrey Ternovskiy, ChatRoulette has quickly become an internet phenomenon. Using Skype-like technology, ChatRoulette offers its users a webcam connection with another, at random, from anywhere in the world.
As quickly as its popularity has grown, its reputation as a home for the depraved has been assured. A recent report (by RJ metrics – see link below) suggests that its users are 89% male and quite a proportion of them are looking for women to provide visual assistance whilst they pleasure themselves. Unfortunately for our semi-clad thrill-seeking gent, the same report found that he is twice as likely to encounter an empty chair than a women on her own. A further alarming statistic is that despite a relatively low percentage of ChatRoulette users being British – this percentage are the most likely to be indulging in ‘perverted’ behaviour, defined here as appearing naked or committing a lewd act.
Apart from the majority indulging in auto-erotic practices, ChatRoulette users can be found doing almost anything but chatting… from donning outrageous costumes and performing musical improvisations to firing insults at their chat partner and setting up frightening scenes – it seems the Creatives too have found a new place to entertain themselves.
As ChatRoulette is causing such a furore within Social Media circles it is no surprise that marketers are already looking for ways in which to use this new sensation to their best advantage. However, these new statistics should cause companies to consider this move carefully before committing to it. A fundamental principle of integrated marketing is to carefully develop and maintain a brand image whilst targeting a receptive market. Given these new statistics how many household brands would want to be associated with ChatRoulette? And even if it were embraced by the marketer, how many of the users would be receptive to a marketing message? If the company is dealing in the sexual, the underground, or the controversial then perhaps it would be worth considering. However, it is important to remember that despite employing new technology, marketing on ChatRoulette is akin to going from door-to-door, albeit without having to walk the pavement between the houses. And you are almost guaranteed to be calling at ‘a bad time’.
Of course, for the moment, the mileage is in the story rather than the execution. Underground indie band Holy Fuck are said to be launching their new single on ChatRoulette by setting up a few streaming channels and waiting for people to become connected to them. It matters little whether or not this happens – the fact is, they’ve connected themselves with a controversial new Social Media phenomenon and earned some precious editorial around the globe in doing so. Reports of Kate Moss’ ChatRoulette addiction and other celebrity sightings seem similarly PR driven…
A problem could eventually arise if more companies do choose to ‘broadcast’ on the site with ChatRoulette becoming ‘AdRoulette’ and quickly losing its appeal in the process. Perhaps Andrey Ternovskiy will be forced to consider this in time but for the moment it seems he’s quite happy just turning down multimillion-dollar offers for his creation.
The American folk-singer at the start of this piece was, incidentally, Lucy Wainwright Roche who then went on the describe a rather eventful date she did go on with a British man whose lung collapsed during the course of the evening. Perhaps it is best for everyone if the British do just keep their urges behind closed doors after all…
Thank you for reading this.
Jacob J Flowers
*Affectionate term for dialect (or resident) of Birmingham, UK
RJ Metrics Report: http://techcrunch.com/2010/03/16/chatroulette-stats-male-perverts/
Interview with ChatRoulette Creator: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/12/one-on-one-andrey-ternovskiy-creator-of-chatroulette/
Piano Improv on ChatRoulette: http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1930602