Oct 4, 2005

Is that person being nice or just getting paid?

Interesting article on AdAge about Buzz marketing and the legality or lack thereof.

What I find telling is that the article focuses only on the legality of the thing:

As marketers more frequently look to recruit consumers brand agents to spread goodwill for brands, industry attorneys view buzz marketing as a likely area of regulatory involvement, especially around the issue of compensating people to participate in buzz programs when they fail to disclose their connections to marketers and agencies.

No mention about the other Purple Elephant crashing the lawn party: the honesty of staging opinion, events and "random" social interactions to influence purchases.

Call me a wacky Left Coaster, but the fact that companies pay actors to imitate friends discussing hot new music on the street pisses me off. If bloggers or pundits want to dish products while disclosing their affiliation with the producers, that's fine. I'll take their thoughts with two huge grains of salt. (I do draw the line at governmental spokespeople, but that's another topic.)

But when advertisers try to crack the social fabric with this kind of fake reality, they've crossed the dividing line. If you can't trust non-transactional social interactions to be unpaid, unscripted and unpurchased, our little, happy consumer world becomes truly bogus. It reaches the status of simulacra, a  la Baudrillard. And that's no small event.

Advertising isn't real (even if large parts of the corporate population worship at its feet), and most folks with half a brain know it. Honest marketing is contained in a recognizable context--we can expect to be sold and act accordingly. This new buzz garbage deserves the trash bin.

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