Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Viral Marketing... or more like 'Evil Marketing in General'
I was looking up stuff on viral marketing while watching Mad Men TV episodes that I downloaded from iTunes. (I was going to photoshop the cover of Pattern Recognition into the Mad Men logo to make it look like he was reading the book... can you imagine what would have happened if they had though of viral marketing back then? We'd be so doomed.) I’ve been kind of fascinated the whole viral marketing thing since reading William Gibson’s “Pattern Recognition.” Things like hiring attractive girls to go to bars and order a certain brand of drink while talking to various men a.k.a. the target demographic. I wonder what other ‘stealth’ approach campaigns are out there and what effect they are having and is that effect measurable? Though there is a big argument that no advertising is really measureable and who is to say somebody wouldn’t have bought that product anyway. Kinda related to that is something I read a few years ago that said that most of the high rated beer commercial campaigns didn’t correspond to higher sales of that brand of beer. The notable exception was the popular “whassup” Budweiser commercials.
There are other ‘non-stealth’ viral marketing campaigns such as the Alternate Reality Games, called ARGS, such as “I Love Bees” which was used to promote the video game “Halo 2” and “The Beast” which promoted the Steven Spielberg film “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.” In those type of things you know, or find out pretty early on that it is part of a marketing plan. They are less evil and more fun that way.
I’ve always had a love hate relationship with “marketing.” I one of the little annoying and completely pointless stories I used to tell was how Marking People are more Evil than Lawyers. Lawyers are just tools, things to be wielded when going into battle. I hire my lawyer, you hire your lawyer and they fight it out. The problem is that I can’t hire a marketing person to fight your marketing person, at least not directly. Marking people bypass all normal defenses and go right after you. That would be a NND Attack for your Hero Role-Playing system people out there. (Sorry, RPG geek moment.)
I’ve been told at least twice that I should have gone into marketing because my brain functions that particular way. I’ve never been sure if that was an insult or not.
The point of all this is that I found an article on Techcrunch from late last year. It is written by a guest author Dan Ackerman Greenberg and details some of the things his company The Comotion Group does to promote videos made by their clients into viral sensations that get spread out across the internet. The article caused a huge sensation with lots of people calling him out as a dishonest, unethical, spammer. You should read the article, its choice material. He posted a second article to answer some of his critics, but that just caused more criticism.
What I just don’t get is the fact that everybody knows this is going on; he is just laying out the details. And, all things considered how is this different than hiring popular actors to promote your product, product placement in movies and TV shows, paying money to appear higher in a search engine’s results, air-brushing models in layouts, etc.?
Here let me tell you another random, only somewhat related story. (Shut up Adam.) There used to (and maybe still is) a series of television commercials, I think for Lucky supermarkets. They claim that they had an independent accounting firm randomly selected 100 grocery items and then added up the cost of those items at their store and the stores of their competitors. When they looked at the total price for those grocery items, Lucky Supermarkets was cheaper!
It isn’t a lie, but it is pretty obvious what they are doing. They had their accounting firm randomly select more than just a single ‘set of 100 grocery items’ and they decided on which was the best set of 100 that they could use in their commercial.
In the seemly endless comments and other websites about Dan’s article, I especially love all the indignation regarding how people who work for him have multiple accounts to have conversations with themselves on various forums. To you personally, what is the difference between a bunch of random internet posters who you know anything about and a secret marketing person pretending to be a bunch of random internet posters? Is anybody out there really following the advice of strangers on the internet?
As you may know I buy audio books from Audible.com, who should be paying me for all the times I’ve plugged them on my site (I just got the new Neil Gaiman novel, “The Graveyard Book” woot!). Unfortunately Audible’s plot Synopses and user reviews aren’t as robust as I would like, and their web layout makes them hard to read. So normally I go over to Amazon.com for that information. When looking at Amazon reviews if I see a bunch of positive reviews, I usually pick out the negative ones to read. I think I do this because I believe negative reviews are more honest most of the time, than positive ones that tend to be too fanatical and fan-boyish in nature. I do the same to movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
I did read something else about the U.K. passing a law last year where it is illegal for marketers to pose as consumers.
I really have nowhere else to go with this. This whole post was me writing a quick little something about that article and look what it ballooned into. What you really don’t know is that hidden is this message was a subliminal advertisement guaranteed to get you to buy a certain product. Don’t believe me? Well in the near future when you are in the store reaching for something you’ll suddenly remember this post.
Anyway, I just wanted to post this and get it out there before burying it with the really funny video game related post I wrote last night. I'm probably not going to post the Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip post, let me just sum up the major points: I liked it, wish they would have let it go one more season to get its legs, and I am a big Aaron Sorkin fan and wish I could write dialog like he does. Stay tuned true believer!