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FTC To Investigate 'Viral Marketing' Practices

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the take-what-ya-can-give-nuthin-back dept.

Businesses 299

mcflaherty writes "The Federal Trade Commission has stated that it is going to investigate the use of 'Viral Marketing' by corporations. This is the type of advertising that seeks to start a word of mouth campaign for the product via consumers themselves. Previously, consumers themselves set the buzz. But lately advertisement firms are stepping up to the plate themselves, seeding the market with buzz that looks independent of the company, but is in fact funded by them. The crew at Penny Arcade contend that corporate generated buzz is not Viral Marketing, and perhaps Guerrilla Marketing would be a more apt term. Either way, it appears to be a profitable advertising model."

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How low can they go? (5, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229260)

Either way, it appears to be a profitable advertising model.

Of course it is, it exploits people's inherent trust for their friends' judgement: "if X says this and X is a nice guy, then X must be true". Only if X is paid by a corporation to spew out nice stuff about some product, it basically wrecks that basic principle of human communication.

Re:How low can they go? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17229332)

Free speech is free speech. Just be happy they aren't transmitting commercials into your dreams (yet).

As long as a corporation isn't explicitly lieing about their products, I don't see a problem. We hardly need another government restriction on free speech (to go along with McCain-Feingold, obscenity laws, and the attempted CDA laws).

Re:How low can they go? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17229434)

Damnit why isn't there an Undo Moderation button!

Re:How low can they go? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17229644)

Damnit why isn't there an Undo Moderation button!

There is. It's called posting in a thread in which you've previously moderated with your login cookie active.

Except that you don't get your spent mod points back.

Re:How low can they go? (5, Insightful)

IgLou (732042) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229472)

Free speech should be for people, anything that is "said" by a business should be regulated. Consider this, disclosure prevents leaking information out about anything that could affect your stock price ahead of your official financial statements. That's regulated for a reason. If a corporation is trying to generate hype and calling it "viral marketing" is a lie in my books. The corporation is advertising through viral marketing and I as a consumer deserve to know when I'm looking at a fictionalized account for the purpose of advertising or if I'm looking at the real deal. I deserve to know if a company is trying to sell me something but disguising it as something else.

Re:How low can they go? (2, Insightful)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229670)

You're pretty much correct. So-called commercial speech is just barely above obscenity in terms of categories of protected speech. The First Amendment doesn't give you the right to deceptively advertise your product...or bribe politicians, or buy up all the media outlets in the country, etc. That's what makes the "money is speech" assertion so absurd.

Re:How low can they go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17229758)

But this doesn't mean that the government has to regulate it. This should simply be a civil case between the company and a victim. The only involvement of the government should be in administering the case and calling jurors if needed.

The government has a notoriously bad record when regulating speech. The McCain-Feingold Act, for example, was supposed to be directed at politicians, but later we learned that it could target bloggers. Do you think that the government can write a better law on the much less defined attributes of viral marketing?

Re:How low can they go? (2, Interesting)

packeteer (566398) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229930)

The Government is allowed to regulate all kinds of speech. You are not allowed to lie about your stocks and spread rumors and deception so that you pump up your own stocks. This is illegal and I think very few people think that commiting fraud through deception is a type of protected speech.

May also affect affiliates (1)

Esteanil (710082) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230010)

This might go beyond merely corporations. Affiliates may also be required to disclose the fact that they're paid for their links.
Or, more specifically, the affiliate networks & companies involved may be forced to require affiliates to do, since the networks/companies are the ones who'll be getting the fines.
Read Copyblogger's excellent post [copyblogger.com] on this subject for more details.

Re:How low can they go? (1)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230028)

Movie critic David Manning [wikipedia.org] comes to mind.

Re:How low can they go? (2)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230182)

Please. If you really believe in free speech, you shouldn't distinguish "Clinton is a moron" from "Buying my products is a good idea." Whenever a "business" says something, it requires a person to say it. You can't deny the right to the "business" while claiming to respect the rights of the person who voiced it.

If it's a fraudulent claim, sure, that should be illegal, but it shouldn't matter if it's a person or a "business".

Re:How low can they go? (4, Informative)

troll -1 (956834) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229752)

Free speech is free speech. Just be happy they aren't transmitting commercials into your dreams (yet).

This is considered commercia speech [wikipedia.org] and doesn't have the same First Amendment protections as other speech.

Re:How low can they go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17229358)

You have friends and you trust them? Obviously you're lost and don't belong here. Why don't you step away from your computer, go outside and play with your "friends."

Re:How low can they go? (5, Informative)

Possibly Malignant (933521) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229442)

"if X says this and X is a nice guy, then X must be true"

There's a syntax error in your formula.

Re:How low can they go? (4, Funny)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230116)

Type conversion error: Can't convert type Person to type Opinion in statement (-11273).

Re:How low can they go? (1)

IgLou (732042) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229578)

I agree, not to mention there is always a social engineering aspect to viral marketing that I don't like. For me this is a simple case of "If it's advertising, I deserve to know it". An individual totally has the right to say what they want. But if that individual is being directed to say that by a corporation then I deserve to know that.

Now the problem is say "regulate something related to the internet" and it draws flames. But this should be easily regulated to corporations and marketing firms.

Oh and forget viral videos and websites, in major population centers marketing firms hire people who mingle in groups to do this.

Re:How low can they go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17229640)

Apparently you don't know X as well as you thought.

Re:How low can they go? (1)

netglen (253539) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229908)

Oh nos, the FTC is now stepping up and taking the mantle of the Thought Police. It's time for the FTC to be dismantled and rebuilt from scratch.

Re:How low can they go? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17230188)

Good, makes it a bit easier to figure out who your real friends are.

(Really, if you can't tell the difference between real enthusiasm and fake advocacy, then you've got bigger problems than being "victim" to marketing.)

second post. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17229266)

second post.

Astroturfing (5, Informative)

duerra (684053) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229280)

It already has a name. It's called Astroturfing [wikipedia.org] .

Now we need to come up with a term for what will eventually prove to be its opposite. Corporate sabotage that seeks to inspire negative propoganda for another company. If Sony hadn't been repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot with a sawed-off 12 gauge lately and inspiring all their own negative publicity, I'd almost suspect that of their vomit-inducing attempt at creating buzz for the PSP [alliwantfo...isapsp.com] .

Re:Astroturfing (3, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229356)

Speaking of that sorry psp astroturfing site, did you see the last entry?


Busted. Nailed. Snagged. As many of you have figured out (maybe our speech was a little too funky fresh???), Peter isn't a real hip-hop maven and this site was actually developed by Sony. Guess we were trying to be just a little too clever. From this point forward, we will just stick to making cool products, and use this site to give you nothing but the facts on the PSP.

Sony Computer Entertainment America


Well, I must say, as much as I despite Sony these days, it takes balls to come clean and coldly admit to trying to con people, instead of simply pulling the plug on the site. Hats off Sony, for once you did the right thing.

Re:Astroturfing (3, Interesting)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229524)

If I followed you around all day long whispering that you'd be sexy if you had that car, but you don't, so you're not, and that you'd be rich if you went with that accounting firm, but you don't, so you're not...

If I followed you around telling you that you suck because you don't own this stuff, that you suck because you don't look like this...

If I did it for days and months and years...

Would it have an effect on you?

Advertisers use invasive propaganda tactics to try to make you unhappy with your life for no good reason at all, and present themselves as the only ones who can make it better, but they never make it better even if you buy their product.

Advertising is an assault. And it uses scientific methodology to become ever more effective at making you and everyone else do stupid wasteful things for irrational reasons.

The answer is really simple.

Advertising is evil, and shouldn't be permitted.

It doesn't generate any raw materials, it doesn't generate any finished products, it doesn't generate any new ideas for how to do things, it doesn't have any redeeming merit whatsoever.

In making the public aware of what is available to them, it doesn't serve any higher societal good than a global registrar of products and distributers aka the yellow pages would accomplish, and it does a good deal more harm.

Just say no to advertising and advertised goods and services.

Re:Astroturfing (2, Funny)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229728)

Just say no to advertising and advertised goods and services.

OK, so I'll just go by word of mouth then.

Wait a minute....

Re:Astroturfing (1)

mfrank (649656) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230002)

The alternative to advertising is paying more for things. No ads on TV, you'll have to get cable and the basic cable rates would be higher. Don't even ask how much a magazine or a newspaper would cost; the subscription price for a newspaper doesn't even pay for the newsprint, let alone ink and payroll. I've no interest in paying more because other people think drinking Bud will make the ladies like them.

A better solution would be to teach children how to think critically, but that's not gonna happen.

Not necessarily... (4, Insightful)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230232)

The alternative to advertising is paying more for things.

My devil's advocate reaction to this is, "not necessarily." If company X didn't have to spend a billion dollars to counteract company Y's $900 million advertising budget, they could use that money to help save consumers dollars. Or they could put it into R&D and engineering to actually make a better product instead of just telling us it's a better product.

Also, I (and a lot of other people) are more than willing to pay a premium for ad-less products. Does anyone remember the days way back when most cable channels didn't have ads? Now you have to pay the cable company for channels with ads, and the channels that don't have ads are very expensive. (Yet notice how they still have a lot of subscribers for that premium.)

I myself don't watch ads on television at all. Every show I want to watch, I either get via iTunes download for $2 a pop (or a season subscription), or by less scrupulous means that I don't want to go into if it's not available by any other means (wink, wink). I have a few small web sites I run for personal reasons, and I buy the hosting space at a reasonable non-free price so that I don't have to subject my visitors to a barrage of ads. I run Firefox with AdBlock so that I can avoid as many ads as possible while browsing the Internet.

I still run across ads now and then, as they're unavoidable in society. The point, though, is that I still spend plenty my share of disposable income, companies still make plenty of money off of me, but they have to do it by actually having products of decent quality that I want or need, not by yelling in both my ears constantly.

In other words, there is another way.

Personally, I think the best advertising any company can have is virtually free. It's from friends who have products and tell me about them. It's from reputable website reviews that describe up-and-coming technology and products. It's from companies' own websites that provide as much real information about products I'm interested in as I need to make an informed decision. All of these things are dirt cheap compared to the billions that companies spend on radio, television and web ads that I never see or hear. Go figure.

A better solution would be to teach children how to think critically

Amen.

Re:Astroturfing (2, Interesting)

boyko.at.netqos (1024767) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230058)

The Sistine Chapel is an advertisement for the Roman Catholic Church.

I agree with many of your points; but calling for the abolishment of any type of speech (even commercial speech) is a road we dare not walk down.

The problem is that of transparency and honesty; I have no problem with an advertisement that honestly states what the solution to a problem you have is (although there's a grey area - see Freakonomics of how Listerine "invented" halitosis in America.)

In the end, my big concern is that advertising works because it appeals to the "reptilian hind-brain" of people. If you want to stop advertising's ill effects, start producing smarter people!

Re:Astroturfing (1)

Clever7Devil (985356) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230206)

The Sistine Chapel is an advertisement for the Roman Catholic Church

God help us if 500 years from now our descendents are marveling at TV commercials in the National Madison Avenue Archives.

"Look at the lighting. Do you see how the camera man caught the grace of Britney Spears reaching for that Coke?"

Re:Astroturfing (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17230096)

Amen, brother. Marketing, while on the face of it appears to be a natural organism of capitalism, is actually an out of control cancer. While capitalism supposes that consumers make informed decisions and have the requisite information to do so, marketing deliberately sows confusion and murkiness. Marketing produces irrational behavior, which clever leeches can game and manipulate to gain revenue they otherwise might not get on their own merits. It is a flat out waste of energy as industries wage wars back and forth for the same share of consumer spending.. which could be noble, if it was producing more accurate valuation and decisionmaking in the long run--but it is not. All it does is agitate consumers and make them run about full title dazed and confused.

Re:Astroturfing (0)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230222)

Advertising is evil, and shouldn't be permitted.

Spoken like someone who has ZERO clue what advertising is actually all about. Every industry has its evil people who give the rest a bad name and advertising is no different, but that certainly does not mean the entire industry is evil. Of course such a logical point would still probably get modded down in this discussion.

Re:Astroturfing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17230256)

In an era when virtually all goods and services are completely interchangeable,
the only possible form of competition occurs through advertising.

Example: All brands of distilled water are exactly the same. Why should the
consumer buy Brand X as opposed to Brand Y? Since everything is the same,
no rational distinction is possible and only advertising can potentially
influence consumer choice.

Another example: All dry cleaners can only offer a service that is essentially
identical to any other. Why should the consumer choose to patronize one particular
dry cleaner as opposed to another? Again, when everything else is the same,
only advertising can create the necessary (and often irrational) difference.

In our capitalist culture, such an absurdity is perfectly inevitable.

Re:Astroturfing (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229398)

It already has a name. It's called Astroturfing.

Now we need to come up with a term for what will eventually prove to be its opposite: corporate sabotage that seeks to inspire negative propoganda for another company.


Sodium tetrasulfating?

Re:Astroturfing (5, Insightful)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229402)

It was no accident that site was 'discovered' as fake. How easy would it be for someone to use a privacy service on their registration? Personally, I think it worked very well - that site got more traffic than it ever would have if it had been legit.

Re:Astroturfing (1)

Spaceman40 (565797) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229588)

[There] is such a thing as bad press... -- Tycho [penny-arcade.com]
The publicity they're getting is bad for the PSP and the advertising company both. On the one hand, people know it's fake, and it's pathetic to have to pretend to have friends (which is what astroturfing is, at its roots). On the other hand, if they get bad press for their client, that's bad press for themselves. Who wants to hire an agency who gave someone bad press?

Re:Astroturfing (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229690)

In advertising, any press is good press. It's about name recognition -- at least that's what friends in the business have told me.

Re:Astroturfing (1)

Spaceman40 (565797) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229770)

That's what I hear, too. I think it's more a rule of thumb, though -- with exceptions.

Not to invoke Godwin's law, but Hitler has a bunch of name recognition, and I doubt anyone would consider it good publicity.

Re:Astroturfing (3, Insightful)

EzraSj (993720) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229844)

In advertising, any press is good press. It's about name recognition -- at least that's what friends in the business have told me.


Sony already has name recognition. Name recognition is not what they're trying to get here, what they're trying to get is positive association - and they've gotten the exact opposite.

Re:Astroturfing (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229936)

In advertising, any press is good press. It's about name recognition -- at least that's what friends in the business have told me.

Sure. Why just be famous when you can be infamous with a plethora of free publicity?

Re:Astroturfing (3, Insightful)

cptgrudge (177113) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230136)

I'd be willing to bet that most people in the demographic they were aiming this for know what a PSP is already. I was halfway thinking of getting a PS3, but all these little things continue to turn me off to it. The chances of me purchasing a PS3 are closing in on the chances of me buying a PSP - that is to say, No Chance.

In the end, this isn't just some "bad press" I'm hearing about; I've been insulted. Sony seems to think that the demographic of people that will buy their PSP product, of which I'm a part, is both illiterate and unable to spell properly. Granted, Sony hasn't insulted me personally, but doing this has nonetheless lowered my view of them even further.

They have sacrificed their target demographic's goodwill for gaining a token amount of mindshare outside of the demographic. And the thoughts associated with that mindshare may be: "Golly, those gamers sure are pissed at Sony. Maybe I'll get little Timmy a DS instead of a PSP."

Re:Astroturfing (5, Interesting)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229456)

Well, at least viral marketing can be killed instantly by the negative karma that comes about when the blatant lies of this being an 'enthusiast's user opinion' are uncovered. I really like that aspect of viral marketing, the message will be accepted if the cooperation is fair about it, and just couldn't use original channels for an advertisment (for example a car advertizement that would be too shocking to show on TV, but is artistically interesting anyway.).

However, if the cooperation is trying to screw us, and someone finds out (as will eventually happen anyway), the viral marketing works just as viral against the cooperation that started it. Therefore, viral marketing is playing with fire!

All in all this must be the most fair form of advertizing, we the users can directly respons to it and decide if we like it or not.

Re:Astroturfing (4, Interesting)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229622)

If we all stop trusting each other, and keep it in the back of our minds that everyone we talk to might be trying to decieve and manipulate us for some third parties benefit, then we'll be ok.

Seriously, this sort of thing should be punished by summary execution. It's a huge assault on the very fabric of our society, trying to create a world where we're afraid to participate with our neighbour with trust.

It's not the little thing you're trying to make it out to be. People that perpetuate this sort of thign should be shot in the head and buried in a shallow unmarked grave.

Re:Astroturfing (4, Funny)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229956)

If we all stop trusting each other, and keep it in the back of our minds that everyone we talk to might be trying to decieve and manipulate us for some third parties benefit, then we'll be ok.

Hey, I'm from New York, I already do that.

Re:Astroturfing (1)

ringbarer (545020) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229490)

Maybe people would take Sony more seriously if their "funky fresh" advertising didn't assume their target market were retarded?

You can only market to idiots so many times before you alienate the majority.

Re:Astroturfing (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229592)

Now we need to come up with a term for what will eventually prove to be its opposite. Corporate sabotage that seeks to inspire negative propoganda for another company.

Wouldn't this, too, be astroturfing? Astroturfing, I thought, was any fake grassroots campaign, negative or positive.

Re:Astroturfing (1)

AlHunt (982887) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229612)

>Now we need to come up with a term for what will eventually prove to be its opposite.

Maybe we need to come up with a name for government sticking it's fat nose into anything and everything.

Re:Astroturfing (1)

Turken (139591) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229948)

Now we need to come up with a term for what will eventually prove to be its opposite. Corporate sabotage that seeks to inspire negative propoganda for another company.

How about "Astroturding"?

Investiage (2, Funny)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229312)

Investiage: an investigation employing the triage method.

About Time (4, Informative)

Slipgrid (938571) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229338)

60 Minutes covered this [cbsnews.com] about two years ago. It's a good segment if you can find the video.

Fitting story (5, Insightful)

wile_e_wonka (934864) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229344)

IS slashdot trying to redeam itself after being conned into an instance of viral marketing [slashdot.org] ?!

See particularly this portion [slashdot.org] of the comments/story...

OT: Community redemption. (4, Informative)

Spaceman40 (565797) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229740)

[Is] [Slashdot] trying to [redeem] itself after being conned into an instance of viral marketing?

No. Let me remind you how our system works:
1. Person finds something they think is cool.
2. Person submits link and story to Slashdot.
3. Slashdot editors do a quick read to see if it's not blatantly inaccurate or uninteresting.
4. Editors put the story up.
5. Readers check the story out.
5. a. At least one reader looks into (or already knows) the background of the article.
5. b. At least one reader looks into (or already knows about) the subject of the article.
5. c. At least one reader looks into (or has already speculated about) the ramifications of the article.
6. We discuss.

That's the point: the community decision for the article you linked was that it was a guerilla campaign. When I read that article, I didn't realize it was such, I assumed the same as the editors. Fortunately, there's a large community here, several of which commented that not all was as it seemed, and I was enlightened.

Yay for community discussion. Articles aren't generally statements that the community makes [digg.com] , they're statements that the community responds to. That's why us old timers (and I'm a young'un, at that) are still here.

Re:OT: Community redemption. (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230050)

3. Slashdot editors do a quick read to see if it's not blatantly inaccurate or uninteresting.

Heehee. Oh wait, you're being serious?

When did it become illegal? (3, Insightful)

Intron (870560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229372)

Why are they investigating? Is it illegal, or is the FTC overfunded?

If they want to investigate deceptive advertising that has cost Americans billions of dollars, then I would prefer that they investigate the Iraq war.

Re:When did it become illegal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17229438)

They aren't investigating. They are investiaging. Slight difference.

Re:When did it become illegal? (1)

devilspgd (652955) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229746)

Ahh, but that would cut their budget... This is better, they can pretend they're doing something for the consumer, probably without actually hurting any corporations donating heavily to the current batch of congresscritters.

Re:When did it become illegal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17229812)

I would imagine that at some point all viral marketing campaigns require use of pretexting. That's not always legal.

Re:When did it become illegal? (1)

honkycat (249849) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229944)

They're investigating because it may be a deceptive trade practice. Good luck with the troll, though.

Re:When did it become illegal? (2, Interesting)

earnest murderer (888716) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229978)

It is in fact in the FTC's domain and is already regulated. The fuss is that the FCC has, after years of appeals, roused itself enough to talk about the idea of doing something about it.

Don't they have anything better to do? (3, Insightful)

needacoolnickname (716083) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229420)

Whoopee! The advertisers found out what the kids like and decided to use that to try and get more eye balls.

How about just dealing with it when the compaines lie and that whole false advertising thing?

Do people really think places like youtube and myspace were created for the community to use? No, they were created so they could get bought out by the big corporations and those corporations could put advertisments up.

Oh, and having a link in your signature to something you are trying to hock and replying to this article that this should have been looked into a long time ago... yeah, kinda hypocritcal.

Re:Don't they have anything better to do? (1)

cjcollier (115316) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229482)

maybe it was intended to be ironical

Wii (3, Insightful)

Laz10 (708792) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229426)

I think that in the future the way we (slashdot/digg/bloggers) marketed the Wii will be a textbook sample of how viral marketing is done.

Re:Wii (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17229494)

1. Brainwash Zonk 2. ??? 3. Profit!!!

Re:Wii (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229866)

Not really. The Wii is doing well for a couple of very good reasons.
1. Nintendo has had a lot of success with the DS and DS Lite.
2. The Wii is more available and costs a lot less than the PS3 which is the other new console on the market.
3. Sony has been creating a lot of negative press all on their own. UMD movies where where a huge flop, Sony was really hoping that the PSP would take the number one spot in handhelds like the PSONE and PS2 did in consoles which it has not. Rootkit and exploding batteries fill out the scorecard for Sony's PR. Oh and let's not forget the lame viral marketing website for the PSP. Oh and I forgot shutting down one of the most popular import gaming sites on the Internet.

Sony's actions have created a lot of bad will in the technical community so the reaction seems totally logical. Nintendo produced some cool kit hasn't ticked anyone off lately.

Re:Wii (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230076)


I think that in the future the way we (slashdot/digg/bloggers) marketed the Wii will be a textbook sample of how viral marketing is done.


And what exactly is that process? From what I've seen it's:

1. Develop product that people want, does something new and interesting that no other product has done before, and at a reasonable price.
2. Produce that product in adequate numbers so people can actually buy the product.

See, the hard part is accumplishing step 1. Most companies would give their eye teeth to be able to find the right combination of features for the right price that people want and is new and different enough that people will talk about it.

The only thing new about "viral marketing" is the name "viral marketing". You could say the same thing about television when it first came out, but no one called having their friends over to watch Milton Bearly "viral marketing".

Fourth poste! (0, Offtopic)

cjcollier (115316) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229454)

That sure is purdy brown chrome. Reminiscint of a certain release of Ubuntu, IIRC.

Thank you teh feds for taking care of this problem. spam is not so good.

Won't someone think of the ad agencies?! (4, Funny)

TheWoozle (984500) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229476)

I mean, how else are people going to be programmed to buy overpriced, useless crap? Won't you please help a hard-working advertising executive (who has enriched our culture with priceless works of art like this [google.com] ) afford his third Mercedes?

Re:Won't someone think of the ad agencies?! (1)

RexRhino (769423) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229856)

Um, actually the hard-working advertising executive hates viral marketing, and prefers rather traditional (and very expensive) TV commercials.

Re:Won't someone think of the ad agencies?! (1)

Ranger (1783) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229878)

I just watched that Emerald Nuts commercial and all I can say is: What the fuck was that?

Re:Won't someone think of the ad agencies?! (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230268)

News flash, that hard-working ad exec cannot afford his third Mercedes...he's probably still working on his first. The average account executive makes about 40-60k/year. If you're talking in terms of upper management, then you're talking closer to 80k-120k. There are of course exceptions, but please do not go spreading false rumors about the industry. Advertising does not pay very well in general except for those who own agencies, or directors/producers who can demand a lot for their work.

An even more sinister activity (4, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229488)

Some companies have taken this a step further and are attempting to manipulate the customers themselves into giving good reviews. They are using a technique of improving the quality of their product, causing any sane customer to be unable to respond negatively. These coercive practices must end!

Re:An even more sinister activity (1)

devilspgd (652955) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229846)

It's cheaper to just convince people they like a product then to make a product people actually like.

The Sony Strain... (3, Informative)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229502)

Does this mean that Sony will get a marketing flu shot?

Sometimes it Backfires (2, Informative)

Toreo asesino (951231) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229532)

One such example was when Virgin attempted to get Internet humour website B3ta.com to come up with something for their "say yes" campaign [theinquirer.net] . Virgin got rather offended in fact over what was being produced and pulled out. It did however generate a storm of publicity (The Inq. wasn't the only site to report this cock-up), so it was successful in some respects.

Question . . . (1)

Eagleartoo (849045) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229540)

My only question is, how is this any different from regular advertising. Because of freedom of speech, all's fair in love and advertising.

Take for instance the Michael J. Fox political ad. It was extremely pointed and misleading, but there was no problem running it on television, you're paying your "friends" in the media world to publish something in circulation, what's the difference in paying some private individual, who now thanks to the internet has a wide range of available free speech options, to do the same.

Do you trust everything you read on the internet? Why or why not? Same thing goes toward every advertisement or piece of advice that you get from someone. I don't TRULY know if product A works better than product B, but because I'm friends with the creator of product A I'll tell everyone how great it is if they ask. If I was getting paid, I would tell people even more vehemently.

Advertisers are in the business of making things look better than they really are, to create some sort of value in the minds of consumers without directly saying "value" (which is a no-no). And if I spend my company's ad dollars on getting either my employees or others to do peer-to-peer advertising as it were, again how is that different from spending it on radio/television/newspaper/magazine/internet. What about game reviews in magazine, do you think the company has a vested interest in how they are seen? Are they going to continue to advertise with a magazine that continues to give them bad reviews? Or are the reviews in the magazine lop-sided so as to encourage ad-revenue?

The last thing we need is more interference, it is in direct opposition of freedom. If you can be bought, why do you care? You can't make people play nice, it's still a choice =).

Re:Question . . . (2, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230030)

Advertising is commercial speech. Commercial speech is regulated by, among other agencies, the FTC. For example, it's illegal to make false claims about a product or service. Nissan can't make claims that a car they sell can do 0 to 60 under 3 seconds unless the car can actually do 0 to 60 in under 3 seconds. McDonald's can't go around claiming that the Big Mac as it is today is low in fat, unless they come out with a 'Tofu Big Mac' or whatever.

There are all kinds of other laws regulating commercial speech: cigarette advertising must include disclaimers stating that smoking is hazardous, 'bait and switch' advertising tactics are illegal, etc.

One reason why the FTC is investigating 'viral marketing' practices is that they are trying to see if advertisers are using viral marketing practices to try to to do a 'run around' on the various FTC-imposed marketing rules. Another reason is that they are trying to see if the marketing practice is unfair to the consumer, because one of the charters of the FTC is to make sure that marketing practices are fair to the consumer.

My point is that no one should really be surprised by any of this... regulation of commercial speech is one of the things that the FTC does.

Re:Question . . . (1)

JayBlalock (635935) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230054)

#1 - no, the Michael J. Fox ad was NOT misleading. That is what someone with advanced Parkinsons looks like, even on meds. (are there meds that can cut out all shaking? Some... if you don't mind insomnia and hallucinations and becoming essentially house-bound) It's much more accurate to say every *other* televised appearance he made was misleading, edited to cut out all the shaking and bobbing going on in real life.

And, quite honestly, a little research into the issue could have told you this. Don't always believe what you're told by the talking heads. Which brings us right to...

And #2 - the reason it's misleading is that people are not told it's an advertisement. For example - have you ever noticed every now and then in magazines, there'll be an advertisement made up to look as though it was an article in the magazine? And if you look closely, WHENEVER this is done, there is a disclaimer at the bottom stating that it is a paid advertisement.

That is because it IS deceptive (and illegal) to present advertisements in the guise of something else without declaring them as such.

There was little doubt in anyone's mind that the FTC was going to come down on these schenanigans. They've ruled against concealed advertisements every other time the issue has come up. Putting up a blog with someone who claims to be a regular person but, in fact, doesn't even literally exist is merely the latest version of this trick.

Fundamentally, there HAS to be a line between paid advertisements and actual unsolicited information. Or else all media as we know it becomes essentially worthless and there is no such thing as a trusted source ever again. It would be, in essence, voluntarily returning to Plato's Cave.

Re:Question . . . (4, Insightful)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230300)

A simple question in response to your question ...

Why is important to tell people who paid for a political comercial when it was played on TV?

The reason is simple, because it is reasonably simple to mislead people about the source and content of an advertizement. Consider the harm to a political campaign if people started making fake comercials for their opponents in order to make their supporters look stupid ("My name's Dan, and I think all these 'feminists' need is a good ing. I support John Smith because he believes a woman's place is in the kitchen.").

As comercials move away from being in comercial breaks and billboards to product placement and blogs it is important to tell people that they're being advertized to and who is doing the advertizement.

Consider the damage that would be done to the XBox had Sony created a fake blog on how to pick up 12 year old boys on XBox Live (and made sure that this got noticed on major news sites). If Sony got away with it, XBox Live could be killed by people's outrage.

Santa says "what about ethical? ho ho ho!" (2, Insightful)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229542)

> Either way, it appears to be a profitable advertising model.

So is putting crack cocaine in your cola drink.

Which brings us neatly onto cigarette sales.

examples (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17229564)

I've read many a customer review in my day and I swear that the NewEgg reviews for the Zune look fake. Do they have a method to verify that the reviewers even own the product?

Re:examples (1)

devilspgd (652955) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229794)

Even if they did/do, it wouldn't be that hard for a manufacturer to buy a few dozen of their own product out of the marketing budget (and since they're in a position to resell those products, the cost is only the shipping and retailer markup) just to write the reviews.

Penny Arcade (1)

ParaphiliaNOS (1015689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229576)

Penny arcade linked the Sony viral site wrong. They had a_psp when the real site is my_psp.
http://www.alliwantforchristmasismypsp.com/ [alliwantfo...smypsp.com]

Re:Penny Arcade (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229882)

Strange then that the title of the page says "a PSP". Saying "my PSP" jives with the "my two front teeth" it borrows from, but then it also implies that he wants his PSP back, PSP back, PSP back, which doesn't work either unless you pronounce "PSP" with only two syllables: "piss-pee back", and then you might as well replace the kid with William Murderface (Murderface Murderface).

Ha, I'm immune (4, Informative)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229598)

since a) I don't talk to anybody, and b) even if I did, I wouldn't trust what they said.

Sigh.

You mean? (2, Funny)

BCW2 (168187) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229624)

I've been wrong when I thought all advertising was viral?

I was 15 hours short of a marketing degree when I realized i wasn't qualified, I have a conscience!

Re:You mean? (1)

Eagleartoo (849045) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229780)

I've been wrong when I thought all advertising was viral?

I was 15 hours short of a marketing degree when I realized i wasn't qualified, I have a conscience!
wow . . .
That makes me cry a little, maybe that's why I feel myself dying inside a little more everyday.

Were all Slashdotters born yesterday? (2, Insightful)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229626)

Were all Slashdotters born yesterday, or just the original poster?

Previously, consumers themselves set the buzz. But lately advertisement firms are stepping up to the plate themselves, seeding the market with buzz that looks independent of the company, but is in fact funded by them.


For Christ's sake, this has been the way the world has worked for thousands of years. (Remember the story about John the Baptist starting the buzz about the "one who comes after"?)

"Consumers" have NEVER "set the buzz." If you think otherwise, I'd like to meet you, because there's a good chance you'll be buying whatever I'm pitching in 3-6 months. (And you'll think it was your idea too.)

No Such Thing as Negative Publicity (1)

mandelbr0t (1015855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229642)

I think a lot of viral marketing is based on the idea that there's no such thing as negative publicity. Judging by most people's reactions when they find out about such ploys, there really isn't. Someone always apologizes for the marketer, or talks about how clever the campaign was, or simply refuses to believe that the marketer is doing anything unethical. As someone pointed out, there *is* something unethical about these campaigns; they abuse the trust we place in someone for appearing to be independent from the organization, thus enabling them the ability to give what appears to be an unbiased review.

The only negative publicity we can deservedly give these hype-sters is non-publicity. Don't go nuts when a fraud or hoax is exposed; simply ignore it. You'll probably forget all about it in another week.

mandelbr0t

Viral (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17229654)

Viral as i've always played it is using something like...

Come to my business..

We take a photo of you enjoying yourself.. (with your permission)

We make the photo available to you online...

We allow you to send the photo to your friends (or rather links to the photo).. ... you get the idea...

A business "planting buzz" is just that.. it's a gorilla technique but if it's paid for, it's paid for, and that isn't speech it is commercial speech.. I would like those two to be treated the same but the law doesn't see it that way..

Commercial speech that is misleading is usually called fraud.. The particular fraud would seem with "good buzz" to be aimed at lowering the transaction cost, the risk that some new product or service sucks... sucking in consumers to making purchases based on false endorcements and recommendations..

The age of the cynical bastard (3, Interesting)

gosand (234100) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229658)

My friends have long considered me to be a cynical bastard, because I always question the validity of everything. Nothing is ever what it seems, there is always some kind of not-so-well-hidden advertising, product pushing, and damn-near lying. It has turned me off of a lot of TV and music, and I generally get very irritated when I come across sneaky marketing and/or advertising. It makes it pretty hard to believe anything anymore, and really shows the power of how we present things. (not to mention the gullibility of most people) I don't shop and Wal*Mart because I think they are scumbags, I don't partake of anything Disney. But it seems that it is almost unavoidable these days.


Hell, I don't even know what my point is in posting... I guess I just wish that more people would question these things and take a stand against them, because that is the only way they'll go away. But most people just don't seem to care.

Re:The age of the cynical bastard (1)

StupidMBA (1039062) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229886)

It makes it pretty hard to believe anything anymore,....

You and me both!

And, I'd like to add, I have been burned by referals by friends and acquaintances. Sometimes, they're pretty crappy shoppers or don't know anything about the product. How many of you would go and get a recomendation for a computer from your grandma? Me niether.

Someimes folks like a product or service based on their own values - they may like cheap and aduquate and others prefer expensive and awesome service. I learned to ask really pointed questions about their opinion before considering it.

Re:The age of the cynical bastard (1)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230040)

I guess I just wish that more people would question these things and take a stand against them, because that is the only way they'll go away. But most people just don't seem to care.


Most people's innards aren't being eaten out by caring themselves to death about minor things. Most people can not care about these things one whit, and their lives aren't ruined.

I heard about this... (2, Funny)

Clever7Devil (985356) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229684)

...And let me tell you guys: This new program from the FTC is excellent. Don't listen to what those Capitalism(TM) and Free Speech(TM) fanboi's tell you.

Updates on TechCrunch (1)

otisg (92803) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229810)

Yeah. Look for updates to this over on TechCrunch - here [techcrunch.com] .

De Beers, Viral Marketing Since 1888 (4, Insightful)

Ranger (1783) | more than 7 years ago | (#17229828)

I'm shocked, shocked I tell you to find that deceptive advertising is going on. I mean it's not like they, as in the ubiquitious they, think people are malleable [jesuscampthemovie.com] , easily led astray [hannityisamoron.com] , brainwashed [xenu.net] , etc [perkel.com] , etc [wikipedia.org] .

De Beers [theatlantic.com] has the longest running viral marketing campaign in history. It started in the 1880's and is still going strong today.

Half the people here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17229850)

Okay, start 'fessing up to it - about half of you are M$ shills, aren't you?

Isn't Viral marketing... (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230032)

I thought viral marketing meant that you use your product to advertise your product. For example, Yahoo mail always has a link at the bottom allowing the recipient to sign up for their own yahoo mail account. If you get a geocities webpage, it will have a link for your website viewers to sign up for a geocities account. In other words, the service provider is using you to advertise their product as you move around in your online world (via email, or websites, avatars, or whatever. It is the electronic equivalent of having an alligator on your golf shirt, or a swoosh on your shoes.

Divided Opinion (1)

twifosp (532320) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230108)

I'm torn.

Part of me wants to think this is a good thing. That consumers don't deserve to have products shoved down their throats and be saturated by advertisement all day long. This part of me also thinks that if companies could, they would advertise directly into our dreams ala that one Futarama episode: http://www.futurama-madhouse.com.ar/scripts/1acv06 .shtml [futurama-madhouse.com.ar]

Fry: So you're telling me they broadcast commercials into people's dreams?
Leela: Of course.
Fry: But, how is that possible?
Farnsworth: It's very simple. The ad gets into your brain just like this liquid gets into this egg. [He holds up an egg and injects it with liquid. The egg explodes, covering him and Leela in yolk.] Although, in reality, it's not liquid, but gamma radiation.
Fry: That's awful. It's like brainwashing.

Allthough the other part of me thinks that you get what you deserve. If you aren't smart enough to make your own purchasing decisions and are easily swayed by ANY marketing, be it on the Television, Radio, directly in your brian, or some hobo on the subway telling you how bad ass the new PSP is; then as a fool, you deserve to be parted with your money.

Looks like all the shills are coming out... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17230194)

What's with all the negative reactions? Are all the shills coming out, worried that they'll have to get a real job instead of being paid to post on slashdot, or what?

Deceptive advertising is deceptive advertising no matter what medium carries it. The government is right to crack down on this kind of fraudulant business practice, because it damages the free market by denying people the ability to make informed decisions regarding their economic activity. Remember, the free market works on the principle that individuals know best (certainly better than government) how to allocate their resources, and that these individual choices will, in aggregate, result in a more efficient distribution of resources/wealth than any command economy. This breaks down if deceptive marketing tactics prevent individuals from knowing best. A corporate command economy is no better than a government command economy.

crap, will I get fined? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17230260)

in a lame attempt at humorous viral marketing I earlier wrote a comment on Slashdot that Republican hackers were threatening to delete my mp3 collection unless people read my blog [blogspot.com] .

you can find that comment here:

http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=211606&cid =17228420 [slashdot.org]

suppose a lot of people start passing that around by email and in blog posts and it "goes viral" - will I get in trouble?

Protect Me, Oh Federal Government (5, Insightful)

ml10422 (448562) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230274)

I'm a grown-up. I don't need the Federal government to protect me from viral advertising.

For my entire life, I've been exposed to celebrity endorsements, and the only effect has been to fine tune my bullshit filter.

Please refund the portion of my taxes that is going to paying these guys salaries.

PR, Advertising, Lies, & Universal Deciet (1)

b.burl (1034274) | more than 7 years ago | (#17230284)

We have created a system that institutionalizes lies and deception and has created universal suspicion. The public relations industry, and thats what this story is really about, reaches into EVERY aspect of our lives. One of its fundamental tenets is that good pr is totally invisible. If the mark knows he is being fed pr sh1t, his defenses go up. It is truly an insidious profession. Anyone remember the Hill & Knowlton Kuwaiti/Iraqi war effort? If not, they invented the story about the iraqi soldiers removing premature babies from incubators and leaving them to die on the cold floor. They even had people testify before congress. It was the single most emotional reson that swung public opinion behind the war. Yet no one went to jail because of it. Then there is pr news stories that are broadcast as news stories, etc etc.

To see how a jounalist dissects a pr movement, you might want to check out the excellent book: Secrets and Lies: The Anatomy of an Anti-Environmental PR Campaign. It is quite sobering.

I'll leave you with a quote from Orwell: "In a time of universal deception, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." And we are currently drowing in bullsh1t.
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