Consumerist on G4’s ‘Attack of The Show’ Tonight

We will be a talking head on G4’s Attack of the show tonight, Tuesday, June 20th. We will be talking about viral marketing. The two other floating noggins will be an unnamed Wired editor (they’re interchangeable, apparently) and Jordan Weisman, Chief Creative Executive of 42 Entertainment, a firm credited with creating the “I Love Bees” alternative reality game for Microsoft. No Douglas Coupland. He’s reportedly hanging out with some Belgiums who build entire religions out of Legos.

Our talking points (this is from an email we received):

• Is stealth/viral marketing deceptive?
• Should the consumer know when they’re being advertised to?
• Should consumers be annoyed when they find out that a cool new game/video/website is actually an ad for a product?
• What are some bad stealth marketing campaigns you’ve seen and do they do more harm than good?
• Is it getting harder for companies to advertise their products? Can consumers spot a viral ad/campaign a mile away? Do viral/stealth marketing campaigns still work?

What do you think? Give voice in the comments, maybe you’ll put words in our mouth.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Hooray4Zoidberg says:

    I think viral/stealth marketing is a considerable threat to our society as a whole. It destroys the integrity of human conversation and information sharing that has helped us evolve over thousands of years. What happens when we can longer trust the information we are presented with in everyday situations? Is my co-worker talking about this new game because he is generally excited about it and enjoying it, or because he gets paid $20 if he mentions it 5 times a day?

    These days everyone knows product ads on TV and in magazines are full of crap. We simply don’t believe them anymore because as so many of them stretch the truth. Since we are instinctively pack creatures, we seek the opinion of others to help make an informed decision about products we are considering. With the growth of the internet it’s never been easier to find other people’s opinions. Because of this technological advance people have been making much more intelligent decisions about the products they purchase.

    Companies have caught up now. They understand the threat of people communicating openly and truthfully about their product. They plant reviews on Amazon and other websites posing as a consumer and raving about it. They make bogus blogs and forum posts pretending to be normal consumers and gain trust. They make fake movie reviews on movie websites posing as everyday readers. They have succeeded in effectively blurring the lines so that you can no longer trust what you hear or read about a product on the internet. This means you have to buy it for yourself to find out first hand that it doesn’t work as advertised on TV.

    All this is done without regard to the long term effects on our society as a whole or the damage they are causing to their marketing medium. Already the days of trusting internet reviews are behind us. There are simply too many plants out there now to trust user reviews. Such a great resource has come in and gone in just a few years, completely ruined by greedy marketing firms. As offline stealth and viral marketing techniques become more commonplace, the same is likely to happen in our day to day conversations.

  2. Morgan says:

    Hooray4Zoidberg pretty much hit the nail on the head; the most important question on your list is “Should the consumer know when they’re being advertised to?”, the answer to which is “YES!” I have no problem with a free game/video/website being an advertisement as long as they tell me up front, in the opening to the video or the game or in a note below it.
    Similarly, advertising through comments in blogs or on Amazon or the like is ok if (and only if) the commentor makes their affiliation with the company clear. Transparency is key.

  3. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    I’m with Zoidberg, for the most part. Viral marketing ITSELF isn’t harmful, as long as it’s honest; unfortunately, this type of ad lends itself naturally to dishonesty, and we live in an age where simply saying the phrase “truth in advertising” can kill three passersby by making them laugh to the point of embolism.

    I actually support creative advertising, which can include using little free games, cute contests, and clever product-placement campaigns — go right ahead, as long as you’re not misleading the public. Unfortunately, the far more popular trend has been to mislead the living hell out of the public, by trying to fool them into thinking that they’re playing a game, having a conversation, or being entertained when in reality they’re being pitched to.

    The irony is that I think companies are doing this because they finally perceive that all the skanky advertising tactics of the 80’s and 90’s (sublimation, misdirection, and the free-for-all exploitation of every possible emotion that might trigger buying, be it greed, lust, inferiority, laziness–hell, we don’t care if all the 12-year-olds think they’re fat, as long as they’re buying!–etc.) have jaded the consumer.

    Well, they have. Being lied to, overly or covertly, makes people not trust you. DUH. Is the answer to find a new, sneakier way to lie? Only if you want your consumers to get even more jaded, trust you even less, and eventually refuse to buy anything that’s advertised at all (which sounds out there, but I’m almost to that point already, so it is possible). It’s not the creative let’s-step-outside-the-usual-box-of-what-advertising-is part of viral marketing that bothers me; it’s that within the context of viral marketing especially, the drive to be even a little honest seems to be evaporating, rather like the self-esteem of that guy who bought the Porche so women would hang all over him…