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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Blogging As Guerilla Marketing

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

This may be old news to NPH readers, but we're just learning about the latest trend in guerilla marketing: fake blogging, or "flogging." In some ways it seems like a natural extension of already-existing forms of stealth marketing that companies widely use, mainly those that involve employing a highly connected individual to talk about a product through his/her extensive social network. But, whereas getting Cool Kid Joe to talk about his cool new sneakers to all his friends has at least the possibility of transparency, the flog is completely deceptive.

Enter Sony's alliwantforchristmasisapsp.com

According to a story in the Sacramento Bee, Sony employed a blogger named "Charlie" to write about how his cousin "Pete" really wanted a PSP for Christmas. Only, there is no Charlie, and there is no Pete. Sony ran the whole thing as a way to market their gaming console to urban youth. When real bloggers cottoned on, Sony shut it down and called the whole thing a "humorous site targeting those interested in getting a PSP system this holiday season."

Uh huh.

Only a few months ago, Wal-Mart got outed for doing something similar. The seemingly innocent-yet-hoaky adventures of a couple motor-homing across the country and sleeping in Wal-Mart parking lots, a-blogging as they went--a project dubbed "Wal-Marting Across America"--turned out to be a marketing campaign organized by Wal-Mart's ad agency, Edelman. The couple was being paid.

That blog has not been taken down, as the Bee article reports, but has now got a "Sponsored By Working Families For Wal-Mart" badge on its front page. It also now has a pseudo-apologetic post by one of the bloggers explaining what they "should have explained" at the beginning, that they were paid by an advertising firm for their blog. The post is a moving narrative about how one couple's love for America and Wal-Mart prompted them to approach a brother who works at Edelman to see if the firm would allow them--out of their irrepressible devotion to their stores-- to take pictures of Wal-Marts and talk to their customers and employees for their blog. Surprise! Edelman even offered to sponsor the trip. All the while, the post raves about the greatness of Wal-Mart and oozes a synthetic admiration for the company and its ubiquitous presence on the great American landscape.

No way that's true.

The silver lining here seems to be that the blogosphere is pretty good at policing itself; both of these flogs had the alarm sounded against them in fairly short order. Yet you can bet it's only one step in a larger journey toward embedding product advertising deeper and deeper into every form of human discourse.

NPH is nervous.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:45 AM

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