Time to pack away your glitter balls and ear protectors for another year: Conchita rose like a phoenix in Vienna and the bearded lady handed the mantle on to Måns Zelmerlöw, so see you next year in Stockholm!
Is there anything that we can learn from the annual schmaltz-fest that is the Eurovision Song Contest, beyond the fact that the UK hasn’t done anything of note in it since 1997? (I suppose that, at this point, I ought out myself as a bit-of-a fan – if you trawl my iTunes library you’ll find over 6 hours of Eurovision ‘songs’!)
As an approximation of the current European music scene it is not even close, but then only 40-ish songs could never attempt to replicate the diversity of the music in even one country, never mind the 50+ countries that have the right to enter it from across the continent (and beyond). However, there are a few things that it can teach us about what is required to reach out to a multinational audience.
Be careful when you play a national cultural idiom.
¿Quién maneja mi barca? (Spain 1983) is one of two songs that year that received the infamous ‘nul points’ (undeservedly, in my opinion, but…) It was a powerful flamenco song, sung ‘cantaora’ style, with all the dramatic hand-gestures and bare-foot stamping that is associated with traditional flamenco from Andalucía, but it bombed. Why? It’s difficult to be certain, but Spain probably hoped that the song would evoke memories of holidays on the Costas, but sadly it was far too specialised to be appreciated north of Madrid, never mind north of the Pyrenees.
If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying!
It took Finland 44 years to eventually win the thing and then they did it with the only ‘heavy metal’ song to ever to have done so – Hard Rock Hallelujah (2006). Finland had had some appalling entries and a couple of ‘nul pointers’, but they slogged along like real troopers, being ribbed every year by their Nordic neighbours at their inability to win it. But then they found the shock entry to bring back the goods to Helsinki. Unfortunately they have since reverted to pre-2006 form, although quite how Työlki ellää (2010) didn’t even qualify for the final remains a mystery to this day. Finland also, however, proves that playing the ‘shock’ card twice doesn’t always work. Their second groundbreaking entry Aina mun pitää (2015) – a punk track performed by 4 middle-aged guys with learning difficulties – sadly didn’t get into the final in Vienna.
Be careful with your politics.
Politicking is not actually allowed in the Eurovision and contrary to the beliefs of the UK tabloids, it is also not physically possible to vote against a country. However, there have been a few instances of obvious politicking: Sámiid Ædnan (Norway 1980) was a Sami (Lapp) plea for autonomy that Norway largely ignored; We Don’t Wanna Put In (Georgia 2009) had to be withdrawn due to its obvious anti-Russian title and lyrics; Face the Shadow (Armenia 2015) was originally entitled Don’t Deny – and is a direct plea to have the Armenian Genocide of 1915 recognised, unfortunately for Armenia the principal target of that plea (Turkey) didn’t participate this year.
Watch your language(s)!
There are the obvious pitfalls of marketing to countries where you don’t speak the language. Unsubstantial Blues (Hungary 2007) is a good example of not quite understanding that in English the negating prefix is not always ‘un’: mind, I wouldn’t have a clue where to start negating a word in Hungarian. Needing to make sure that whatever it is you are marketing won’t cause hilarity in a country your marketing it to is also important. They might be ‘good vibrations’ but Bra Vibrationer (Sweden 1985) causes unintentional hilarity to a native English speaker!
Written by Peter Voss, Account Manager at ExtraMile Communications.
At ExtraMile we try to take an hour out each week to look around us at what others do and to gain inspiration and to admire people’s creativity. Each post in this series is one staff member’s take on the world of web, design and things online. We hope you enjoy it.