Foodies who tweet know there’s a new message out there in the social media universe: Boston is a culinary hub and deserves to be the venue for “Top Chef’s” 10th season.
Hosted by Padma Lakshmi, “Top Chef” is a Wednesday night show on the Bravo TV network that’s a competitive cook-off. Instead of songbirds battling a la “American Idol,” this show has chefs vying against one another to determine who is the season’s most uber of uber chefs. Season Nine brought chefs from around the country to Texas, where much of the action was taped. Earlier seasons have taken place in such locations as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.
But so far, Boston --- a.k.a. the land of the bean and the cod and the home of the first gastronome to put cream in the chowder --- has been terra incognita for “Top Chef.”
Mayor Thomas M. Menino thinks Lakshmi is missing out on something. In a tweet to area students earlier this week, Menino said, “Boston colleges: Join me in telling @BravoTopChef why #yougottatryboston and film season 10 here in our great city (or your campus)!” An earlier Menino tweet: “Boston – let’s work together to bring #topchef here. What’s your favorite restaurant or chef in Boston? #yougottatryboston.”
These Menino blasts are part of a larger lobbying campaign on Twitter called “#yougottatryboston.” The campaign, which launched Feb. 1, is part of a collaboration between the city and Digitas, a Boston marketing agency. If enough locals tweet about Boston, “Top Chef” might be persuaded to put the Hub on its map, the thinking behind the campaign goes.
The campaign is an outgrowth of a conversation between the city and Digitas in which the two decided that Boston needed more exposure for its restaurant scene. Get chosen by “Top Chef,” and good publicity would likely follow, with one potential result being that more tourists and suburbanites would want to make restaurant pilgrimages to the city.
In pushing Boston as a chowhound’s nirvana, Digitas decided that Twitter was the appropriate marketing vehicle. This is a pro bono campaign, and a Twitter campaign doesn’t require big cash outlays. But keeping costs down weren’t the only reason to choose Twitter, said Rob Rizzo, the executive creative director at Digitas.
According to Rizzo, some of the biggest customers of new restaurants are also big fans of social media. These are young adults who snap pictures of an entree or an umbrella drink with their iPhone camera, then go and post the photo on their Facebook pages to alert their friends.
To this demographic, “chefs are rock stars,” Rizzo said.
The campaign launched earlier this month, in part with Digitas staffers alerting all their Facebook friends and urging them to tweet on Boston’s behalf.
To date, there’s been more than 1,000 Twitter conversations about #YouGottaTryBoston, and more than 10 percent of all social conversations mentioning “Top Chef” mention the campaign or Boston as a possible host city, according to Digitas.
Many “Top Chef” viewers are avid social media users, and the show is aware of Boston’s Twitter campaign, said a Bravo network spokeswoman, who added that to her knowledge, no city has ever tried something like this before.
It’s unclear when “Top Chef” will announce the host venue of season 10. Last year, the announcement that Texas would be the venue for season 9 was made in September, about two months before the season’s premier. It’s possible that the news could come earlier than September.
As for the “#yougottatryboston” campaign, the Bravo spokeswoman said, “This is very cool.”
And even if Boston doesn’t win this year, there could be a consolation prize in the form of good publicity for the city and its restaurants, Rizzo of Digitas said.
“Maybe more people from Medfield will decide to have dinner downtown,” he said.
Chris Reidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.