Telstra agency created fake blog, video and music track to promote Trading Post relaunch

Ad agency BWM attempted to promote the Trading Post website through a fake blog and video in a breach of owner Telstra’s own published policies on social media engagement, Mumbrella can reveal.

The fake social media campaign was to tie in with an advertising campaign for Trading Post featuring a talking goat that said “Bargain” and frog that said “Reckon”.

But the campaign – which took place at the beginning of the year – did not find an audience. It only came to light yesterday after BWM uploaded a case study to its own YouTube channel.

Telstra’s detailed rules of social media engagement require staff – and contractors acting on the company’s behalf – to disclose their affiliations.

Telstra has been among the most active of Australia’s large corporations in experimenting with social media. Telstra set out its detailed rules of engagement after last year’s Fake Stephen Conroy furore in which a Telstra employee sent out satirical tweets on behalf of the media minister.

It appears that the Trading Post project took place independently of Telstra’s specialist social media team.

In the case study, BWM said it had created a viral video featuring a man training a goat to speak.

The video has achieved just over 40,000 views since it was uploaded in late December.

The accompanying blog – Talking Goat – purports to be the work of “Talking Goat Man”, who lists his mission as: “If there’s so many videos where goats are almost talking, there must be a way to train them to talk really. So I am going to try.”

It features a series of postings linking to popular YouTube videos about talking goats. The most recent posting was a link to the frog and goat on the Trading Post website. No mention is made on the blog that it was created on behalf of the company.

The goat and frog ad campaign launched earlier this year.

Talking Goat blog Mumbrella

However, there is little evidence that the blog generated much interaction.

It features three comments – one that has since been deleted. The other two were posted within a few hours of each other. One of them was a link to a Trading Post video.

It appears that the published timing of the postings was tampered with to make it appear that the blog was older than it really was. Despite the fact that “Talking Goat Man” only signed up to the Blogger platform in October 2009, the first post is labelled as appearing two months before that.

According to Telstra’s social media rules:

“You are required to disclose that you are a Telstra employee and be clear about which business unit you are representing and what your role and accountabilities are.”

The rules also say:

“You are required to identify yourself as a Telstra employee if you refer to Telstra, its people, products or services.”

They add:

“A disclaimer is required when you refer to the work done by Telstra; comment on any Telstra-related or telecommunications issue; or provide a link to a Telstra website.”

The rules state that those covered include “agency workers, consultants, agents and suppliers”.

The case study also says that over the summer 19 DJs played a song mixed by Sydney DJ Pee Wee Ferris featuring the Word “Bargain”. The case study featured footage of the track being played at the Field Day festival. It is not clear whether the DJs were paid by Telstra to play the track.

According to the video case study, the results of the social media campaign have  been “nothing short of amazing” . It says that page impressions for Trading Post have been up 26% and visits have been up by 15%.

The site is not on Nielsen Market Intelligence so Mumbrella is unable to get independent verification of those numbers. However, Alexa (which is less accurate so should be treated with some caution) suggests that audience reach has shown gradual decline since the campaign launched in mid January:

Alexa Trading Post Mumbrella

Kristen Boschma, Telstra head online communications and social media, told Mumbrella:

We should have acknowledged on the site that it was set up by Telstra. That’s being fixed now. This one slipped under the radar.

That’s what happens when you’re running big campaigns. I don’t know where the slip up occurred.”


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