Naked publishes names of the journalists it hoaxed

Naked Communications has stepped up its scrap with the press by publishing a full page ad in The Australian’s Wish magazine listing the journalists and media it fooled with its girl-with-the- jacket-hoax.  

witchery-adToday’s ad features a photo of “Heidi”, the actress who pretended to be looking for the man of her dreams who left his jacket in the cafe. It carries the headline: “Witcheryman would like to thank everyone who helped us spread the word”.

As well as the mainstream media outlets that covered the controversy, it names two journalists on its list – Caroline Marcus of Fairfax’s Sun Herald and Marnie O’Neill of the Sunday Telegraph.

Marcus was the journalist who broke the original story. Naked has categorically denied planting it in the press, insisting that all they did was load the video onto YouTube. However, Monday’s Australian suggested an alternative version of events in which the story was planted with Marcus by a friend, a former journalist who was actually doing undercover PR for the campaign. And O’Neill was the journalist who later wrote one of the most critical articles about Naked.

Naked CEO Mat Baxter this afternoon denied that the advertisement was personal. He told Mumbrella:

“If the journalists want to take it like that, then that’s their prerogative. But I really don’t want to get into this conversation all over again. I’m a little tired of it.”

He added: “It was their right to report what they did and it is the right of the client and the right of the agency to put a page in a magazine. They can interpret it as they see fit.

“The material deadline for magazines is some time ahead. It might have been booked before some of the more personal attacks written by them were there. Some of what they wrote was quite personal and detrimental to the client. But all the advertisement does is celebrate the fact that the coverage was there.”

However, Marcus did not see it as a celebration. She told Mumbrella:

“Of course as journalists, we are always alert to the spin tactics used by marketing companies. However, in my experience, it is unusual for such companies to outright lie at every opportunity. It would become a real shame if the marketing industry felt that this type of journalistic fraud was acceptable. If the CEOs of Naked Communications and Witchery think that the media will forgive and forget being lied to, then the biggest joke is on them.”


  1. Anonymous Media Man
    6 Feb 09
    1:36 pm

  2. 1. Naked, you have just royally f###ed yourselves.
    2. Naked, it is ok to admit you made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes.
    3. The arrogance of Naked is beyond comprehension
    4. Does anyone else in the ad industry find the way Naked have handled this a touch embarassing?
    5. Who paid for the press ad; surely some has access to this information?
    6. Naked, you really have just royally f###ed yourselves. However, now your name is truly deserved, since clearly the emperor has no clothes.

  3. Dave
    6 Feb 09
    1:51 pm

  4. I personally think Naked did a good job in reaching Witchery’s objective. Though I feel it’s a little too bold to expose the journo’s they hoaxed.

  5. James Duthie
    6 Feb 09
    1:56 pm

  6. Deception is in poor taste, so I don’t know how to describe bragging about deception…

  7. Steven Noble
    6 Feb 09
    1:57 pm

  8. Wow. A week ago I was willing to cut them some slack. Not anymore…

  9. Kelly
    6 Feb 09
    2:01 pm

  10. Last week I thought that Naked had done a pretty good job – they had a bit of dignity amongst all the hollers of “die Naked die” and defended themselves calmly. But this is really nuts!
    “I really don’t want to get into this conversation all over again. I’m a little tired of it.” – but just before I’ll pop in a little ad pissing everyone off.


  11. Mel Cullen
    6 Feb 09
    2:04 pm

  12. Bad judgement! Of course the media will take that ad personally.

  13. Ben Phillips
    6 Feb 09
    2:05 pm

  14. While it got great publicity, the original stunt did nothing to build desire, affinity or aspiration towards the Witchery brand. Once people found out they’d been taken for a ride, the level of publicity becomes a double-edged sword; more people exposed = more people lied to.

    On top of this, Im not sure how gloating about the number of media outlets you’ve deceived is going to help??

    Either way, I’ll definitely chuckle to myself if I happen to see some dashing lad wearing a Witchery jacket

  15. chris
    6 Feb 09
    2:20 pm

  16. this is so painful..someone please make it stop !!!! naked are clueless about social media and dare i say’s getting worse and worse by the minute…

  17. nick
    6 Feb 09
    2:22 pm

  18. On the bright side, whilst this stunt hasn’t gone so well at least its a brilliant case study of what social media can do to a brand…or agency

  19. Anonymous
    6 Feb 09
    2:29 pm

  20. As much as I hate to say it – this is brilliant. Well done.

  21. Father Time
    6 Feb 09
    2:32 pm

  22. I wonder if the client has anything to say at this stage?

  23. Steven Noble
    6 Feb 09
    3:08 pm

  24. @anonymous — why?

  25. Mark S
    6 Feb 09
    3:23 pm

  26. The time honoured Internet tradition of trolling ( has hit the Australian ad industry and it’s got everyone hook, line & sinker.

    This saga has already had way more attention than it deserves. Do not feed the trolls!

  27. CJ
    6 Feb 09
    3:32 pm

  28. This campaign has had strong results, according to Naked. Score: CREDIT
    This campaign started with lies, then relied on more lies to succeed. FAIL. NOTE TO STRATEGIST: STUDY FIRST-YEAR ETHICS.
    It positioned itself as a social media viral campaign, but relied on mainstream media to achieve propogation. FAIL. MISREPRESENTS CAMPAIGN
    It has damaged the corporate reputation of Witchery. FAIL. CLIENT MAY NOT RECOVER.
    It has harmed the prospects that its new product line will be accepted by consumers (even Naked’s statistics show a quarter of the target demographic thinks less of Witchery – that’s a hell of a lot of potential consumers). FAIL. PRODUCT HAMSTRUNG BEFORE LAUNCH.
    Now Naked is naming journalists, many of whom asked the right questions only to have received bullshit in return. Does Witchery really think editors and reporters won’t remember what has taken place? Think about it – publications from News Ltd and Fairfax, Australia’s two most powerful publishing houses, have been named. FAIL. HAND IN YOUR SECURITY PASS.
    Naked continues to lie, shows no contrition, and demonstrates appalling arrogance. FAIL. TRY A NEW CAREER – PERHAPS A JIM’S MOPWING FRANCHISE.

    Conclusion: Naked, smart little fellows, you’re digging your own graves here. Any company using Naked for marketing and PR now risks being tarnished through this. Unless they like being instantly seen as bullshit artists.

    Disclosure: I am a former journalist who now works in PR and would NEVER recommend something like this to a client.

  29. A journalist
    6 Feb 09
    3:34 pm

  30. I don’t think that Naked yet understand what they’ve done.

    Journalists are tribal. You screw over a journo badly enough, and it goes in the book. Naked have picked on one from the Sun Herald and one from the Tele.

    Basically they’ve driven up to Fairfax’s house and left a horse’s head in the bed. Then they’ve gone and pissed on the lawn outside News Ltd’s casa.

    With one ad they’ve declared war on the journalists from the only two media companies that count in Australia.

    Like Caroline Marcus says, the media is not going to forgive and forget.

    Next time the agency has a PR blunder, watch the way everyone piles in. This is war.

  31. paul
    6 Feb 09
    3:39 pm

  32. the backlash will really damage the name of Witchery. Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.
    Or was it the other way ? Either way. This naked arrogance is what consumers despise about advertising’s so pretentiously called “consumer psychologists”.

  33. Trent Collins
    6 Feb 09
    3:52 pm

  34. Taking a step back (okay a few steps) from this situation, and trying to look at it with a clear head you can see several things.

    First and foremost, I can understand that the agency wanted to do 2 things (as most do):
    1- do a good job overall and impress the client.
    2- try something different

    Hats off to them for hopefully going into this process with that in mind.

    I can understand that each agency needs to not only stand out, but go the extra mile to impress and retain clients in the current climate.

    The point that I take issue with is that Naked appears to be taking this opportunity to get into a war of words on the back of a client’s campaign.

    Let’s remember that as any agency or entity contracted by a company you are there to serve them (not the other way around).

    It’s possibly some food for thought for Naked before planning the next advert promoting yourself instead of the brand.

  35. mumbrella
    6 Feb 09
    3:56 pm

  36. Hi Trent,

    That’s a fair point. But just in fairness to Naked, only the brand in mentioned in the ad, not the agency. So although those of us in the industry will be aware of the agency behind it, consumers will just have seen a Witcheryman message.



  37. Anonymous
    6 Feb 09
    4:01 pm

  38. Naked has hit the nuclear button. Mat Baxter said he is tired of it, but does he not relaise that by doing this he will spark a fresh wave of anti-Naked feeling? Journos don’t like to be made fools of and any future indiscretion by them will be seized on and this story trotted out time and time again.

  39. K
    6 Feb 09
    4:05 pm

  40. @A Journalist

    So you’re saying your profession has no ethics either? That they are just as self-serving as the PR / Media people?

    No wonder you guys are losing your jobs left, right and center…

  41. The Worst of Perth
    6 Feb 09
    4:30 pm

  42. Does seem a little unnecessary to be boasting about it, wot with the lying and all that. If the stitching starts coming apart on those Witchery jackets…

  43. BB
    6 Feb 09
    4:48 pm

  44. The hide of Naked Communications to continue their pathetic, ethically-wrong “PR campaign” is staggering. It appears the coverage – both the initial “story” and subsequent hoax revelation – is considered by Naked to be a great success.
    But for Naked to take it further and name the journalists, and rub their noses in it, stinks. It demonstrates a complete lack of self-awareness.
    The disgust of many in the media and marketing industries obviously hasn’t deterred Naked from outright lies and nasty tactics.
    Lets hope a boycott by the public of their clients, including Witchery, does.
    Furthermore, both the head of Naked and the former journalist who took advantage of her (now ex-) friends should be ashamed of themselves. No-one actually believes you.

  45. The Teaser
    6 Feb 09
    6:12 pm

  46. It’s nice that Witchery trusts their agency completely and still believes the teaser campaign was a hit. So here’s their next teaser campaign, free of charge.

    One business stumble and EVERY media type will be on your doorstep. They’ll be putting faces to the brand – CEO, CFO, marketing manager, retail managers, store managers … one employee redundancy will be turned into ‘failing business’. One store closure will be turned into a ‘chain collapse’. One missed qtr sales target will see ‘impending takeover target’. Two missed qtrs will see calls for the CEOs head. Journos are patient and will apply the blow torch in ways you never thought imaginable. They will scrutinise your business results through ASIC filings, past media stories, random calls, store drop ins, competitor comments…

    Oh and for all those other clients of Naked, they’ll be coming after you too. Nothing personal. It’s just news.

  47. Steven Noble
    6 Feb 09
    6:23 pm

  48. Hey Tim, just wondering: have you tried tracking down Witchery’s PR agency yet? I bet they’re madder than a cut snake by now.

  49. mumbrella
    6 Feb 09
    6:27 pm

  50. Hi Steven,

    My (second hand) understanding is that for this campaign, the PR was handled by Naked, who had someone on a short term contract.

    Anyoen from Naked/ Witchery able to confirm that?


    Tim – Mumbrella

  51. Steven Noble
    6 Feb 09
    6:45 pm

  52. Ah, yes, that’s right, the ex-journo ex-friend of the journo friend. Unbelievable.

  53. Hmmmm
    6 Feb 09
    8:03 pm

  54. Has anyone thought about the fact that Witchery drove the (terrible) full page ad? Despite the ideas and strategies agencyies present to clients on a daily basis, at the end of the day the client has final say (good or v bad). Why is Witchery (and their shitty suit) dodging a bullet?

  55. threebillion
    6 Feb 09
    9:08 pm

  56. Dude, I’ve followed all your commentary and I’m starting to believe that you’re on the Naked payroll.

    I am bored of this story. Give it up.

  57. Liam
    6 Feb 09
    10:16 pm

  58. This is certainly great copy.

    It is unusual to declare war on journalists. We will see what happens.

    Journos are human and humans are punitive. Whether that is ethical is irrelevant.

  59. Don
    6 Feb 09
    10:24 pm

  60. I see how bored and unengaged you are, threebillion. That’s why you’re here, writing comments about it at 9pm on a Friday night.

  61. Anonymous
    6 Feb 09
    10:36 pm

  62. Maybe we should cut Naked a bit of slack. Listing the names in the advert is cheeky – but it’s not war, unless they choose to take it that way.

    Journalists write far harsher things every day. If they give it out they should be able to take a little bit in return.

    Also credit to the agency for sticking to their course (which is the wrong one, by the way). A lot would have chickened out under fire. But you’ve got to admire their single-mindedness.

  63. Neville Thompson
    7 Feb 09
    11:27 am

  64. Is she cute ?

  65. Neville Thompson
    7 Feb 09
    11:40 am

    If our government advertising department used the same tactic it would save Australia a sqillion on fee’s and kickback’s ,saving the country financially when it comes spreading the bullshit they want us to believe

  67. The Teaser
    7 Feb 09
    2:20 pm

  68. Anonymous, It’s a bit like calling your wife fat. It’s not war but your balls will be gone if you fall asleep.

  69. fred
    7 Feb 09
    2:46 pm

  70. this whole witchery campaign is just terrible…the first and golden rule of trying to create a community around your brand is AUTHENTICITY…especially with young consumers, they want honest, real and transparent brands to engage with…not brands who hoax them, lie about it, then go after journalists who were just trying to do their jobs…shame on naked, they really are the bastard child of the australian comms industry….at least baxter has his ferrari to drive round

  71. anon
    9 Feb 09
    10:20 am

  72. “That’s a fair point. But just in fairness to Naked, only the brand in mentioned in the ad, not the agency. So although those of us in the industry will be aware of the agency behind it, consumers will just have seen a Witcheryman message.”

    Exactly right! Journalists and media types are getting their knickers in a knot about the whole debacle, but do you think Joe Consumer cares? He probably didn’t even know about it until they bothered publishing this ad.

    Witchery have probably done themselves out of some media industry discretionary dollars, but meh. I prefer my blokes in something a little less off the rack anyway.

  73. Ostin
    9 Feb 09
    12:37 pm

  74. Is it just me or are all the ‘anon’ comments having a similar feel? If you are from Naked or Whitchery, why not say so – don’t hide behind anons. Your input would be valuable.

  75. mumbrella
    9 Feb 09
    12:49 pm

  76. Hi Ostin,

    In defence of Naked, I’ve taken a quick at some of the anons’ IP addresses (which I’m not disclosing). They are geographically varied, so it isn’t one person sitting there.

    And when it comes to debate on this site, they have been pretty open in coming out and stating their case with the names attached to it.

    You’re right though – everyone’s entitled to a view, but putting your name to it does give your views more weight and credibility, although of course anyone is welcome to comment.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  77. The Teaser
    9 Feb 09
    1:38 pm

  78. Dear anon,

    So relationships with journalists are just ‘media industry discretionary dollars’? Wow! I guess you also believe Joe Public just buys the paper to read the ads.

    Maybe give Eddy Groves a call and ask him why one interview with a journo ended his childcare empire. Or if he’s busy, try HIH, FAI, Babcock & Brown, etc.

    A little respect for journos goes a long way.

  79. JG
    9 Feb 09
    1:46 pm

  80. I remember the old phrase “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”, and I think it applies to this campaign.

    Also, to claim that the campaign is a success because of the awareness is like saying Hitler is a top bloke because he still has 100% awareness. The good news is that very few people buy his racist facsim anymore. Though maybe their could be an angle in there for Witchery – a nice range of men’s stormtroper jackets … maybe “Heidi” embroidered on the lapels.

    The one thing I do agree with Mat Baxter is that I also am getting tried of it. Oh damn, I’ve just helped perpetuated it. Forget I said anything – just like most of Joe Consumer have about the brand.

  81. TB
    9 Feb 09
    2:30 pm

  82. I think Naked did a stella job in this witchery campaign – like we need another self-proclaimed boring advertisement. Naked thought outside the box and delivered a viral campaign that demanded attention. This campaign created interest and intrigue – what more can you ask from a PR campaign. I fell for it and thought it was true – then once revealed it was a PR stunt i thought it was very clever.

    I really don’t understand why people get annoyed by being fooled? Advertising is all about the illusion of trickery and making your brand top of mind. That is exactly what Naked did for Witchery – people now notice and recognise the brand, I know that I will be keen to check out the new store and if thats not good PR then I think we need to reaccess why we are in marketing?

  83. Tony@TacticalTV
    9 Feb 09
    2:52 pm

  84. OK, so all that matters is grabbing attention?

    Why not wear a Witchery branded T shirt, throw faeces at the Prime Minister and put it YouTube? It’ll go viral AND get heavy media coverage.

    This ‘new media’ thing is pretty easy once you understand the rules!

  85. dude
    9 Feb 09
    3:28 pm

  86. Thank You, Thank You Thank You!

    At last someone has reduced all of us in the ad industry to a pack posers and liars that care more about self gratification then their client’s business. You win the – head up your own ass – award!
    If you really cared about your client, you would have simply been trustworthy to never tell.

  87. Zoe Scaman
    9 Feb 09
    4:44 pm

  88. I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

    They didn’t lie about ‘the girl with the jacket’ it was simply interpreted by other people to be something that it wasn’t.
    I thought the campaign was clever, engaging & ultimately achieved the objective to raise awareness of the Witchery Mens brand therefore wasn’t it a success?

    Yes it was a bit of a ‘F**k you’ to the journos to publish the full page ad but why the hell not? it’s not as if the journos cut them any slack, Naked were completely ripped apart in the press (unfairly so) because they bruised many a journos ego.

    No journo is going to sit back and allow their investigative techniques to be called into questioned especially when it’s such a public story – they were duped and they didn’t like it so they lashed out and questioned Nakeds competency.

    I hardly think people writing for the Daily Telegraph & Herald Sun are well placed to offer decent commentary & opinion on brand advertising….

  89. reevesy
    9 Feb 09
    5:45 pm

  90. wow, I miss the old days when an errant banner ad accidentally ran on a celebrity skin site and the entire industry crowded about like gawking tourists at a crash scene.

    Oh wait, its the same.. just a social media wreck

  91. A soc
    9 Feb 09
    9:59 pm

  92. Zoe,

    They did lie.

    The girl was asked if she was an actress. She denied it. She lied.

    The agency was asked if it was involved. It denied it. It lied

    After they were busted they were asked if they planted it with the reporter. They denied it. They lied.

    I agree that this is a big row over not very much. But let;s get the facts right.

  93. Rochelle
    9 Feb 09
    10:03 pm

  94. Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb. Arrogance and ignorance. A scary combination.

  95. Zoe Scaman
    10 Feb 09
    8:31 am

  96. I still think the whole thing is completely blown out of proportion and somewhere along the way people have built a mountain out of a molehill.

    It’s just an ad campaign…..

  97. rob barnett
    10 Feb 09
    4:34 pm

  98. I can’t believe people are still talking about this. Naked were just doing their job and they wouldn’t be very good at it if they didn’t go to this sort of effort.

    The campaign in itself is entertainment, not deceit. If you bought into it and feel like you got sucked in for the ride, that’s just part of the game. I think that there are just a few loud people who are embarrassed that they got caught out in the “hoax”

  99. Muse
    10 Feb 09
    11:46 pm

  100. News for Naked and the rest of these ad poseurs: Good PR is INVISIBLE …

    That’s PR101

    This stunt is crap promotion from an agency that has no ethics or conscience or clue. Journos have your number now … you blew it.

  101. inspiredworlds
    12 Feb 09
    9:28 pm

  102. why would you put an ad like that? that’s just plain arrogant.

  103. Lesley White
    13 Feb 09
    10:16 am

  104. Just to clarify something: From my reading of this situation it was a journalist who provided the so-called PR advisory for this campaign, and not a PR professional.

    Some journalists make excellent pr strategists, but it’s by no means a given. Many of the core skills are very different.

  105. BG
    17 Feb 09
    12:43 am

  106. And we wonder why Baxter is out..

    One of the most spectacularly stupid moves in 2009, and it’s only Feb.

    As for Naked just doing their job? Somehow I don’t think the middle of the conservative road Witchery was forcing this campaign upon them to execute.

  107. Con Frantzeskos
    19 Feb 09
    10:11 am

  108. There’s such a thing as ethics, transparency and building a trustworthy and accepted brand.

    This campaign has demonstrated none.

    Column inches are a weak measure of a campaign’s success – this campaign is a complete failure of the Honesty ROI: Honesty of Relationship, Honesty of Opinion and Honesty of Identity.

    Awareness is only one factor in the public adoption and acceptance of a marketing and communications campaign – and a product. Trust is more important.

    What’s all the column inches in the world if you can’t trust a thing they’re saying?

    …and don’t get me started on the “cult of personality” – how this campaign has gone from being about raising the client’s awareness to raising the agency’s awareness?!


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