Public to choose wines for top London restaurant using Twitter
That’s the attention-grabbing headline from Decanter, explaining how L’Anima, an Italian restaurant, is asking the public to vote for wines to go onto its wine list, in an online election to be held via Twitter. Decanter says this is believed to be a “world-first.”
That’s a pretty clever idea. As soon as I read it, I was reminded of Murphy-Goode’s “A Really Goode Job” contest, which was also a world-first, in a way: the first time (to anyone’s knowledge) a winery hired a Director of Social Media. (There was also a sort of online election-that-wasn’t-really-an-election tied to that one, but let’s not go there.)
As we all know, in retrospect it turns out that what was so interesting about “A Really Goode Job” was that the ensuing media attention, which was worldwide, gave Murphy-Goode around $17 million worth of free publicity. I wonder if that’s behind L’Anima’s move? After all, here I am, in California, reading about this London restaurant I’ve never heard of, and probably never would have heard of, had they not done the Twitter thing. And Decanter in all likelihood never would have written about L’Anima otherwise.
The restaurant certainly seems keen on the contest. I went to their website to read their sommelier praise “the power of Social Media [to] help me select those [wines] that should be given a chance.” Two comments here: One, are we now capitalizing “social media”? Who makes these decisions anyhow? And two, has there ever been a self-respecting sommelier who didn’t feel capable of making his own wine list selections, without asking a bunch of total strangers, with no obvious skill set, for advice? I mean, on L’Anima’s website they say this about their wine list: “When writing the wine list, we had the challenge of finding wines to accompany [chef’s] innovative menu and representing the true Italy and its diversity.” I don’t quite understand how they’ll be able to use the word “we” after thousands of voters with, one suspects, no particular skills, and with little reference to “chef’s innovative menu” or even what “true Italy” means, do the actual selecting.
I suppose the least you could say is that all wines on the ballot were pre-selected by the sommelier and his team, so they were all qualified to be on the list. I guess, but still… Is this the ultimate challenge to authority, sponsored by no less than the Court of Master Sommeliers?
Meanwhile, the P.R. train seems gearing up for action. Jancis Robinson has already tweeted about it (“Creative use of Twitter to shape excellent London restaurant, L’Anima’s, wine list”). And when Jancis publicizes something, it will be noticed. (I know, the irony is that I’m publicizing it too.)
I wonder if this use of social media for P.R. purposes isn’t emerging as one of its main features. I mean, given social media’s tendency to talk about itself, if an organization (restaurant, winery) uses it for some sort of contest, and then the straight press (e.g. Decanter) picks up on it, the social media users will repeat the straight press’s account, creating a tornado of endless repetition of the sort we saw with A Really Goode Job and are seeing with L’Anima. It’s all very phony, in a way — a computer virus that self-generates, like a nude celebrity video leaked to a tabloid — but it obviously works. It generates buzz. Imagine a couple of tourists who hit London for vacation. They’re looking for a nice place to eat and the concierge suggests a couple of restaurants, including L’Anima. “Isn’t that the place that had the Twitter contest?” one of the tourists asks. “Why, yes, it was,” her friend replies. So they decide to try L’Anima. When they get back to Cleveland, they tell their friends, “We had dinner at the most amusing place.” “How was the food?” their friends inquire. “Oh, it was all right, but it was that restaurant that had the Twitter contest for the wine list.” “Oh. How was the wine, then?” “It was all right, too. The sommelier told us all about how some of the wines were chosen by the world’s first Twitter contest. They’re already calling it the Twitter restaurant.” “Cool! You must give us the address so we can go next time we’re in London.”
And so it goes.