Patrick Lagacé has a column in today’s La Presse (and accompanying blog post) about a fake blog put together by a marketing company to promote Montreal’s Bixi bicycle rental system.
Lagacé chronicles the various methods used to pull the wool over people’s eyes: fake authors with fake Facebook pages and a fake story about how they met. He tries to get professional marketing experts to denounce the practice and cites rules for marketers that prohibit astroturfing like this. Patrick Dion also outright condemns the practice.
But curiously, the company behind this fake campaign defends the blog, apparently suggesting that the creation of fictitious personalities does not qualify as deception. Lagacé rightly tears Morrow Communications a new one for that.
So why go through all this trouble?
The answer is mentioned in passing by André Morrow:
“Si on avait fait un blogue hébergé par Stationnement de Montréal, personne n’aurait été intéressé.”
Think about it: This guy runs a marketing company, and says that if people knew a marketing company was behind this, they wouldn’t be interested, regardless of the content.
What kind of self-confidence problem must you have that you need to create fake personalities because you’re convinced nobody will like you?
Of course, I reject the premise of what he’s saying. I subscribe to plenty of marketing outlets. I get press releases from public transit agencies, official notices from the government, blogs from newspaper editors promoting their content, even some CNW feeds. I do this because I want the official word from the company, and in a lot of cases that’s where the news comes out first.
The problem is that this stuff is informative but boring. It’s not edgy or creative, won’t get you talked about in the news or win any marketing awards.
But you can be creative and still be honest. Even knowing it came from a marketing agency, this video of a bike racing the 24 bus (legally) is still impressive. And there are plenty of other examples of this kind of marketing, even clearly labelled as such.
Morrow Communications needs to grow up and realize that they don’t have to pretend to be someone else just so we’ll like them. Be honest with us and we’ll appreciate them for who they are.
A marketing company being honest … now that’s edgy.
UPDATE: More reactions in the blogosphere:
- Michelle Blanc: This happened two years ago in France
- Normand Miron: This was unnecessary
- Dimitri Gourdin: Social media wasn’t the way to go with BIXI.
- Josianne Massé links to commentary online
- Cycle Fun Montreal: “Bixi: the world’s slowest $2000 bicycle!”
- Michelle Sullivan (one, two): This isn’t like Santa Claus
- Emile Girard: It’s not a scandal
- Roberto Rocha: Marketing has always taken popular things and corrupted them
- Patrick Tanguay: There’s nothing about blogs that inherently implies you can trust one
- Marie-Claude Ducas: All advertisers lose a bit from their reputation here (what’s left of it, anyway)
Le sigh :(
And so the debate will go like this:
One side: highly unethical, not the recommended strategy.
Other side: they got what they wanted: attention and people talking about them.
My perspective: if you can’t earn the attention by adding value, insight and credibility, then what’s the point? It’s sad that a lot of people really do believe that the only bad press is an obituary.
I know, you’re shocked that there’s such a thing as a ethical marketer… I am trying to do what I can :)
Um, yeah. Someone get them on the Cluetrain…
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Aside from the odd mention in news articles, they they seemed to keep quiet the fact that less than half the stations were launching today. They are now saying that all the stations will be up in June.
Just caught this now… Have they changed the site since this morning? It clearly says “le blogue de bixi” and all the tabs and “mot de bienvenue” are about bixi…and there dosen’t seem to be any posts between January and yesterday.
They added the “blogue de bixi” after Patrick Lagacé talked to them last week.
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