How the blogosphere views Naked’s fake video episode – and YouTube viewers start posting their responses

Tomorrow will probably see the news agenda move on, but the biggest Australian marketing story of the year so far has come after two brands got caught misleading consumers on social media.

Last week came the girl getting a tattoo to win the reef job who actually worked for Cummins Nitro. This week, it was Naked Communications’ turn after their hoax viral of a girl trying to find a man who lost his jacket was exposed.

Today has probably generated more (mainly negative)  blog postings about the behaviour of an Australian agency in one day than ever before. Here’s what Australia’s marketing community has to say.

Communications expert Tim Longhurst describes Naked’s staff as “The ponytail people”. Telling how he came across Naked when they were involved in faking blogs ahead of the launch of Coke Zero, he says:

“Whenever I hear “Naked Communications”, in my mind’s eye I see a guy in a ponytail. Slick, confident, out of touch, total contempt for the audience, a liar.”

He adds: “Naked Communications seem to come out every once in a while to show that they’re not afraid of damaging a client’s reputation – as long as there’s a few column inches in it. Does Naked have a Code of Ethics at their office? Are they using it as a mouse mat?

“Being socially destructive – eroding people’s confidence in each other – isn’t a simple by-product of this kind of dishonest marketing, it’s the main outcome. When you’re wrapping a fresh elastic around your ponytail, ‘Any publicity is good publicity’ probably feels like a smart thing to say.”

The acidlabs blog argues that the idea was a valid one, saying:

“I think the concept, which borrows heavily from real life, is very clever. But there’s one problem. It told us fibs. It pretended to be real. It’s not. It aimed deliberately to deceive. The whole campaign sock puppets as reality. And that’s where it breaks down.”

But it adds: “This campaign is disingenuous at best and a PR disaster at worst. My view is that it might just lose Naked clients.”

However the acidlabs comments thread offers a different take, with a member of staff from Stickywood, a branded content firm that Naked is part-owner of, saying the stunt has already brought clients through the door. Kate Richardson, who works part time from the Naked office, says:

“Funnily enough, I heard from one of their staffers today that not only have they taken calls from a few nutters slagging them off, but also two new clients who’ve called after seeing the campaign unfold!”

And still with acidlabs, a representative from Naked client Telstra, also has a say. Big Pond’s senior social media adviser Mike Hickinbotham posts that the stunt “only further stimulates mistrust in the online environment and adds unnecessary barriers to transforming social media’s potential into reality. he goes on:

“While I support Australian corporations getting more involved in social media, my personal appeal is that corporations do so in a manner that’s transparent and honest.”

Defamer Australia gently suggests that Naked managing partner Adam Ferrier may be getting ahead of himself to compare the hoax to Orson Welles’ War of the World classic:

“Let Naked Communications show you the art of the brilliant retort as they respond to claims their recent attempt to start a YouTube phenomenon was ultra lame and terribly misleading. I love Naked Communications so hard right now. Comparing that half-arsed attempt at YouTube trickery to War Of The Worlds is like the advertising equivalent of the ‘Tusk’ film clip.” 

On B&T’s blog, managing editor Kevin Johns compares the traditional 30 second TV ad to the hoax technique, saying both are seduction techniques:

“Which is better? The guy you can spot easily and avoid or the one who deceives you and draws you in a little – depending on how suspicious you are. Either way, it’s the latter guy rather than the former who stands the biggest chance of getting a slap, although at least he had more interesting things to say.”

And Naked’s Adam Ferrier, offers a response on his own blog:

“I think people with a history in social media who want careers in marketing and communications should get educated in the broader aspects of human behaviour and marketing. Please. Some of the comments people are making in this space are at best naive.”

As Mumbrella has previously posted, Brendon Sinclair of Tailored Web Services was highly critical: “These clowns are screwing the Australian digital media landscape and giving everyone a bad name with their amateurish attempts at viral campaigns and use of social media.”

 A blog by market researcher kelpenhagen, who says she works for a company affiliated to Naked although she’s “never cared much for them” warns that there are far worse sins going on in business every day:

“I am not sure what people are upset about. That consumers are being ‘fooled’ by ads? Sometimes the naivete of “social media experts” is exacerbating.”

Nick Ellery of Marketing is a Dirty Word is more scathing:

“So many campaigns end up with companies / agencies being dicks to their customers. Conversation and substance are the name of the game in this new marketing world that we live in, yet  cheap tricks pulled in order to ‘go viral’ continue to pop up and (a) sully the name of marketers everywhere and (b) make Internet users more cynical by the day.

“The line is to be drawn when you deliberately try to deceive your audience, with no real intention to cause dialogue, but simply to deceive in order to create traffic. This is no different to spamming it sucks that this campaign is proceeding and that I will never buy anything from Witchery man, or hire Naked as a strategy firm.”

Marketing Magazine says there are lessons to be learned:

“Once the anger and berating has ended and the dust settled, it is important to look at the reasons why ‘viral’ campaigns go wrong and learn from it,” says assistant editor Matty Soccio.

Cheryl Gledhill also refers back to Naked’s previous mis-steps with Coke Zero. Writing on her Moltn Core blog she says:

“It doesn’t matter what technology we develop, advertisers are going to find a way to ruin it. People are switching off ads and putting their trust in social networks – ooh let’s pretend to be one of them and push our cola drink while we’re at it. They are just forcing consumers further and further underground and creating a cynical and jaded target market. “

Arguing that not all viral is good viral, Paul Baiguerra of  PABA Media says that people are being a bit too harsh towards Naked:

“Naked and their client Witchery have been hauled over the coals on-line for lying and being deceitful, which I think misses the point entirely (to be fair to Naked there has been some overt chest beating around what social media is and isn’t, but there has also been a lot of fair criticism for the failings of this work). I think their sin is having done it so poorly and without any regard as to where to from here.”

At The Content Makers, which focuses on journalism, Margaret Simons writes: “The media has been had – again – by a stunt in which an advertising agency posted a fake YouTube video.”

Chris Bishops writes at Beyond Digital Media that Naked should have got advice from colleagues in sister companies:

“Perhaps the Naked strategy team could have called on the expertise of Julian Cole from sister agency, The Population, who has repeatedly warned against faking social media messagesand advises full disclosure. Last time I looked, Naked’s CEO Matt Baxter was a non-executive director of The Population.”

Tony Richardson at AdNotes said:

“Too many industry players are disconnected from the real world. If Ferrier really knows no one who felt deceived, he needs to get out more. The builders, accountants, IT people, HR people, and teachers that I discussed this with feel VERY deceived.”

Paull Young warns on Young PR of “worshipping at the false church of viral,” saying:

“I’m dumbstruck as to why so many advertising and marketing folk feel the need to put deception at the center of a search for the Holy Grail of viral.”

The lovedigital podcast also tackles the subject.

One of the more amusing takes so far comes Matt Moore on the Engineers Without Fears blog where he warns:

“Jesus, Heidi, that’s a really ugly jacket you’ve got there. I mean the a guy that wears that kind of jacket is probably a woman-bashing closet alko or something. Of course the jacket ‘smells good’, he had to get the blood and puke dry-cleaned off it. You’re better off staying away from him.”

 And while it  may be a little early for Naked to claim a vindication of its strategy, comedy responses to the original video have started to appear on YouTube including an American who claims to have lost the jacket after attending a Jewish aboriginal wedding :





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