The Story of a Bogus Blog” starts an article published in last week’s Adweek magazine about a PR class project gone awry. Last spring, a class of PR students built a blog around a girl who’d had her Coach purse stolen and returned, only to discover the returned one was counterfeit, and then launched herself into a semester long tirade against counterfeit luxury goods. All of this sponsored, of course, by Coach.
When the story broke, PR people got all worked up, academics got all worked up, but so far, the social media people are just standing back and watching to see what happens next.
Social media is a learn as you go mentality. How could it be that wrong to try something new and then have it cause such problems? This is where the movement overall gets a little tricky.
Various people quoted in the article think its a huge problem, the tricking of consumers in order to further a brand. But is it new ground? hasn’t guerilla marketing and viral marketing been kicking in for a while now?
No, of course not. Tricking the consumer has always been part of the deal, for many brands. The morality of advertising has been called into question for decades and generations. The difference is, in this time of social media, the consumer is smarter. And more cynical. What about:
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force guerilla campaign
- Ticketmaster creates fake friends on Facebook
- Does this wrinkle cream really do this?
Seriously, what’s the problem here? Is it because this idea was concepted in an educational, academic setting? Is it because it was a PR campaign, and the PR profession thinks it’s less morally corrupt than advertising? As one student says at the end of the article, “Public Relations people, in general, have very little morals when it comes being completely honest with the consumer…We were supposed to be working for Coach. If there was anybody who should have stopped it, it should have been Coach.” Ouch.