If you were driving around Switzerland, and suddenly saw a beardy, long haired guy, dressed like an angel, hitchhiking on the side on the highway, what will you do ? Probably laugh, and wondering who is this strange man. But, when you come back home, you saw the same man on Facebook. You saw that he has thousand and thousand of friends and/or fans. If you knew who he was, would you have stopped ? Would do you have listen what he has to say ?
The purpose of the article is to understand how social networks can contribute to create a public figure, his discourse about a cause, and finally a common background. By the way, who is this guy all in white, with wings ? His name is Franky Slow Down, he is an angel on the road. On the 8th of May, Franky took a three days trip around Switzerland. This is his story, only based on social medias.
Franky is a really relaxed guy. He is dressed all in white, beardy and long hair, with a gentle smile. And with his wings on his back, he stood on highways, hitchhiking, traveling only with the help of his thumbs and his kindness. But is he really an angel ? What (the hell) is he doing here ?
Public can follow all his adventures on Facebook. On the 8th of May, he announced that he will make a tour in Switzerland.
As soon as the tour started,on the 9th of May, he posted a lot of updates, photos, and videos to his profile. At 2 :55 p.m., the road angel posted a video of his first impressions in Lausanne, where the tour started. Then, he is off to Neuchâtel. He found the lake beautiful and went to Bienne, where he made another video. « Bienne is a nice place to take it easy ! »
His videos are telling his adventures. Always casual, he looks like an angel backpacker. He told in his Berne video, that he had a dream, swimming in swiss chocolate where he was drowning. And suddenly, a piece of cheese appeared to him and he climb on it, rescued. « Swiss cheese saved my life, man ! » Franky was craving for cheese and found some near the Bundesrat. Next step, Interlaken. When hitchhiking, a white car stops. The driver recognizes him. Before going in, Franky checked the back of the car, and there it is, already sticked on the car, his logo, « Slow and easy ».
Everywhere he goes, he seems outgoing, positive, enjoying the beautiful swiss landscape. To every person he encountered, he said something like « Are you guys slow down, take it easy ? » He continued to Olten, Lucerne, Aarau, Brügglifeld, Zürich, till he arrived to Schauffausen on the 11th of May. Funny thing, he did not use the Facebook location tool. Yes, because you supposed it too, Franky Slow Down is not a real angel, even a real person.
Still, on his Facebook page, Franky Slow Down has ten albums and more than a hundred pictures. In those, the viewer can follow him in his tour of Switzerland. The angel shows him always smiling, interacting with people, or choosing a postcard and hitchhiking on the highway to Olten. He shows himself as an outgoing man, participating in events, like his Facebook friends can see in the album « Loveride 2011 », for example. He also shows his fans, like an hockey team wearing t-shirt with Franky Slow Down logo.
Franky also has a Twitter account, but only 11 people are following him. All links are pointing to his Facebook page. But still, there are tweets mentioning him, most of them are mentioning the angel location. Though, interesting tweets showed up. Like this tweet of the user Hoferlink, linking to a Flickr album and a picture of Franky without his wings. And for good reasons, Franky is played by an actor who won an award for best crossmedia campain.
On Facebook, Franky has a « real » profile page. This shows that his creator wants Franky Slow Down persona to be considered as a real person. Because, if your goal is to be « famous » on Facebook, it’s easier to create a fan page that an infinite number of people could like. A profile on Facebbok is limited to 5’000 friends. As you can see, Franky Slow Down has reached this limit. But, his profile is linked to the « Slow Down, Take It Easy » fan page, Franky’s slogan. More than 240’000 people like this page, and it’s providing news of Franky everyday. The news content and displayed on the fan page, is pretty much the same. But logically, there are a lot more interaction, likes and comments around every post.
But where does Franky come from? The answer is in another video, near an highway, an angel, alone, dirty, on edge, he called his boss and said: “God, I can’t take it anymore!” He is afraid because people of Switzerland are driving really fast, and are often killing themselves on the roads.
At the end of the video, appears a website address: slow-n-easy.ch. The website is sponsorised by ASA – ASV, the swiss insurances, the BPA and the “Fonds de sécurité routière”. Franky is in reality part of a plan to sensibly people about the security on the roads.
If you only followed him on Facebook, Franky appears to be more important than the organization behind him. He is kind of a local celebrity. More than embodying a prevention message, Franky is shown as someone really lovable. Caring for swiss people, he also share the same interests. He dreams about chocolate and cheese, looks at the watches in the shop windows in Interlaken, he likes to play soccer, sings in a band, hold a swiss flag near Zurich’s lake. All this background, even if not real, makes him an interesting figure and a very well constructed one. Without him, the message of the “Slow Down” campaign would has been clear and understood. But Franky Slow Down has a relational impact, much stronger than any commercial. He is someone everybody recognize and embody a common background, therefore conversations, he is now a part of people’s lives. They can directly talk to him, to his persona. He is close to them, thanks to real time updates, and, of course, social networks.