Features
9.24.18: a rebel alliance of quality content
our facebook page our twitter page intrepid media feature page rss feed
FEATURES  :  GALLERYhover for drop down menu  :  STUDIOhover for drop down menu  :  ABOUThover for drop down menu sign in

intrepid media got me laid!
and other lies
by joe procopio (@jproco)
11.3.03
advertising


Imagine you're walking down the street of your own particular metro area during your lunch break when a pretty girl stops you and asks if you'll take her picture in front of your city's most prized local landmark. You're a nice person, thoughtful, if a bit obsessive, and you have no problem lining her up, focusing, and snapping a candid with her sweet little Sony digital camera. She thanks you, together you review the results, and maybe she shows you how her camera does this neat trick that uploads the picture wirelessly to the web. Wow, you think to yourself, that's really cool.

Sucker.

The chances are slim, but you may have just been targeted and solicited by a paid representative of Sony. Stealth marketing is a takeoff on the viral marketing concept - one person tells another who tells another and so on - a concept we at intrepid media are very familiar with. Viral is cheap, for one. Not free, but cheap. More importantly, it produces the best results. Rather than sucking people in with gimmicks or giveaways or taking potshots at search engine placement, we tell everyone to tell everyone and anyone about us. These people know us already, so the people they bring in invariably enjoy the experience more than, say, someone who randomly stumbles here through a banner ad.

But there's viral marketing, which is what we do, and there's stealth marketing, which is what our camera model does. Viral marketing relies on the quality of the product and the reliability of the message. In order for viral to work, we not only HAVE to be good, but we also HAVE to be exactly what we claim we are - no more, no less. If we start convincing people that we'll make them famous, not only will they resent us, but those they have told will have their expectations set incorrectly, and they'll wind up resenting us too. On the flip side, we could be everything you want in a pop-culture website, but if we can't get that message across to you immediately, then it's all for naught.

We have to give you something nice to say about us and a reason to say it to someone else. I can tell you to go tell all your friends about intrepid media, but unless you're really pumped about the experience, why ever would you? To foster passion, you have to be passionate.

Regardless of whether or not stealth marketing is wrong (and it is, but I'll get to that), these viral requirements are where stealth marketing ultimately fails. Sure, the quality can be achieved and the passion can be replicated, but there's one slight problem.

I know about it.

I now know about the concept of stealth marketing, thanks to rumor, urban legend, a 60 Minutes package, and more than one second-hand experience with a botched attempt with new brand of soft drink.

"Hi! I'm incredibly perky! Can I buy you a Fizzy™ Cola?"

"No. Get away from me. I'm enjoying a Jack Daniels."

And like some junkie trying to buy a dime bag from that too-clean dealer with the moustache and the Camaro, I'm always going to be thinking to myself, "Is this guy a narc?" Or rather, "Is this guy who is trying to get me to sample his soup really a paid representative from the Oodles of Noodles corporation?"

The backlash will be ferocious. I don't know about you, but I'm doing everything in my power to avoid advertising. I love the way my digital video recorder can skip commercials. I deny server after server in a never ending quest to destroy spam. I get all horked off when I've dropped eight bucks for a movie and am force-fed a Coke ad on top of it. So to have advertising sneak up on me behind my back makes me absolutely livid. It makes me ever more vigilant in my efforts to vote with my dollars.

Even if the advertiser is never found out, stealth marketing still falls short of viral when the message and the expectations are invalid. Another example of stealth advertising given by 60 Minutes was that of a glove controller, hooked up to a computer game on a laptop, and being played in a coffee shop by a paid rep from the maker of the controller. He subtly pushed the product, waiting for people to come to him and ask about it, and answering with canned phrases like "You really feel like you're in the game."

While this particular practice doesn't necessarily trump up passion for the product, it does intimate an adoption rate that may be not there. Seeing that gamer in the coffee shop might lead me to believe that the controller has a pretty good success rate, and, while this example is sort of innocuous, you know you've burned by high expectations before, if you've ever tried New Coke, seen Chevy Chase's talk show, or stood in line for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

By the time the company recovers from the extra helping of bad press, they may not be able to actually get a good product through those bad vibes. Some will never truly recover, like Mariah Carey after the long-awaited and super-hyped Glitter.

But while that kind of underhandedness is annoying and sad, it isn't wrong.

This is.

When the pretty girl asks me to snap her photo, the advertiser is taking advantage of my good nature (well, not mine, but other people's). When the guy in the coffee shop tells me how much fun he's been having with the controller, they're taking advantage of the fact that I trust he's a loyal (read: unpaid) fan of the product. When the guy next to me at the bar is telling me how awesome his Fizzy™ Cola is, they're taking advantage of the fact that I won't punch him in the head and, thus, not submit to being a captive audience for his deceptive marketing pitch.

It's another example of lack of corporate responsibility going too far. In retrospect, the most heartbreaking results from the Enron fiasco happened not because of flat-out lies and deception (although there's no denying that happened), but people losing entire life savings because of the seemingly harmless way the company took advantage of those employees who thought they would be millionaires by sinking their entire retirement into company stock.

Expectations.

And advertisers have never been known to quit while they're ahead. Your good nature will continue to be abused. Your curiosity will continue to be exploited. Your independence and desire to find the new cool thing will constantly be shat upon. The effects on viral marketing, and in turn small-time players who can't afford huge marketing budgets (like an upstart publisher, perhaps), could be disastrous.

Because when you don't know who to trust, you trust no one.


ABOUT JOE PROCOPIO

Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.

more about joe procopio

IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...

stupidity supersized
the big big big mistake of pleasing a few
by joe procopio
topic: advertising
published: 5.3.04


social networking survival guide
six basic rules for do-it-yourself pimping
by joe procopio
topic: advertising
published: 6.2.10





COMMENTS

juli mccarthy
11.3.03 @ 1:17a

Wait -- I'm not gonna be famous?? But I thought you said...

But seriously, people really DO this sort of thing? Other than the fact that I am completely uninterested in videogames, that would SO work on me. Damn.



matt morin
11.3.03 @ 2:17a

Maybe because I'm in advertising, but I don't see a damn thing wrong with any of this.

There's a great quote by a famous ad guy that goes something like "Advertising is what you do when you can't go talk to everyone yourself."

And it's true. You can't go to 10 million people individually and tell them about your great product - so you make a TV commercial. Stealth marketing is just more personal - it's someone talking to you one on one.

Personally, I'd much rather have someone show me the product and let me be impresssed with it (your Sony camera scenario), versus me taking some ad's word for how much I'll be impressed with it. I'd rather have someone buy me a Fizzy Cola that I'd never buy for myself so I could see if I like it.

You say viral marketing HAS to be good. Well so does stealth marketing. If the product sucks, we won't buy it. However with viral marketing, I'm told about something and I have to make the effort to go find it. With stealth marketing, the product comes to me.

robert melos
11.3.03 @ 2:41a

Perhaps I'm just oblivious to stealth advertising, or the salespersons have been so good at their jobs I just didn't notice them. Maybe it's because I'm so self-absorbed that when a guy offered to buy me a drink I turned him down because I didn't find him attractive and hadn't even considered the fact he was offering me something else I also didn't want.

I see the point that word of mouth advertising is in danger of being tainted by stealth advertising. Afterall, if someone is being paid to tell me they love a product, and I don't know they are being paid, I will assume they are being honest. I already don't trust anyone, but I will now be questioning everyone's motives. Not that I don't already do that, but now, given this type of advertising, I'll be more inclined to find out for myself about something before trusting the word of a stranger who may or may not be on a company payroll.

Um, now about that getting laid part. I'm assuming there's a small print disclaimer somewhere, cause all I've gotten so far is some fan mail for a recent contribution to the gallery.

[edited]

sarah ficke
11.3.03 @ 7:44a

Matt, the problem is that the person with the camera, and the guy in the coffee shop, are misrepresenting themselves to the consumer. The consumer assumes that they are people who purchased the product for personal use, but they are just people getting paid to spit out a line who don't give a damn whether the product works or not.

erik myers
11.3.03 @ 8:30a

I think the lesson to be taken from all of this, Joe, is to never try anything new and never trust anybody.

It works for me!

louie b
11.3.03 @ 10:37a

i think i missed something... who got laid??

james wondrack
11.3.03 @ 10:59a

"Smart" people avoid advertising. "Smart" people don't believe advertising. Half truths. Your lives are affected by advertising in ways we don't fully understand.
How did you first hear about Amazon.com, or the car you bought, or why Intel is a better choice? It was a result of deliberate acts from these companies/brands to get their respective word out.

Unfortunately advertising messages are unavoidable in today's media rich culture. Try stop buying advertized brands altogether, you can't. And if you can tell me how Intel's processors are actually better, you're full of sh*t. (Unless you're one of the engineers who design processors) That's brand awareness 101.

Your puritan bagage that aethetics and nicely packaged messages are evil and deceptive is just simply crusty. If a company lies about their product or companies finacial situation, that is deceptive. If they build a better presentation/opportunity to try their product, isn't that a more honest way to allow you make up your own mind? I'm perplexed by your stance to fight the very system that invented consumer choice.
Kinda like Billy Bragg embracing his success...

How did we get to this point of stealth marketing?
Thirty years ago you were able to reach 90% of your target audience with 3 prime-time TV shows. Today with that same media plan, your lucky to reach a quarter.
Viral marketing is another strategy to reach greater audiences. Our media saturated lives are full. More and more often we are regecting things not relevant. Stealth marketing can be a more relevant way to be exposed to products, expecially low priority products like cola.

I can't even begin to relate that to the Enron situation. That's just a kooky stretch.

Bottom line people demand function, meaning and pleasure - in that order - in any product or service. Advertising agencies have found a harder and harder time with our current jaded audiences, so they try things like stelth marketing. (By the way Joe, BMW is a big proponent of such practices.)

Bottom line, customer experience will always trump advertising messages. Advertising agencies are in the business of communicating value, not creating it. Product development (design, engineering et al) create value through more relevant customer experiences. See Amazon, iPod/iTunes, GoodGrips etc. The lines between all of them are blurring. It's becoming harder and harder for agencies to create lasting annuity based business models, and rightfully so. It's not a simple formula of frequency anymore. The customer's individual meaning they take away from experiencing a product or services is the best, and more honest, way to make a consumer choice.

[edited]

matt morin
11.3.03 @ 11:00a

Sarah, those people are in no way misrepresenting themselves. Just because you assume they're people who purchased the product for personal use doesn't mean they're lying to you.

They do the exact same sales pitch as you'd find in a store.

Inside Circuit City: "Yeah, this is a really nice camera. I own one myself. Here, let me show you some cool stuff it does..."

Inside a supermarket: "Hi there. Could I interest you in a drink? How about a Fizzy Cola..."

erik myers
11.3.03 @ 11:39a

Yeah, but inside a store you expect it. Eh, I'm with Sarah. It feels dishonest.

You expect it inside a store. When I go to Best Buy to look at cameras, I expect the person to try to sell me, and I'll happily take their recommendation based on what they own, etc., etc.

Looking at Joe's Camera Scenario here? That feels dirty. That's taking advantage of the fact that I'm a helpful person in order to try to sell me a product. If I figured out what was going on, I'd be angry. I don't like being solicited unless my intention is to buy something. It's annoying. It's like having a telemarketer call me during dinner, but worse, because now they're intruding on other parts of my life now.

joe procopio
11.3.03 @ 11:54a

James (and others, but mostly James), I have no problem with proper advertising. What bugs me is that I am being marketed to by a paid representative of a corporation under the FALSE PRETENSE that they are ONLY a consumer and fan of what they're using. I would take a recommendation from someone with vested interest very differently than I would that of an unlinked third party.

Wear a t-shirt, a button, anything. Just let me know it's a pitch so I can politely decline to listen.

Yeah, the Enron thing is a stretch.

enrique casanova
11.3.03 @ 11:59a

After watching that 60 Minutes piece and doing a lot of thinking (being in the marketing business myself and believing that I have an innate sense of fairness often results in some difficult periods of introspection), I came to the realization that there definitely IS a difference between a consumer's reaction to what he/she believes is an independent recommendation (stealth) versus the salesperson's or supermarket-free-trial guy's recommendation. But the difference is what makes stealth marketing so effective as a strategy, so I'm impressed.

Am I going to be disappointed if I learn the truth after I buy a product based on a stealth recommendation? Perhaps. But I will be either:
A. Indifferent to the ruse because I'm happy with the quality of the product, or
B. Very angry with the marketer/manufacturer because I'm not happy with their product and I was duped into buying it.

Either way, it's the product itself that will determine whether or not I contribute to the growth or the demise of that manufacturer/marketer (by voting with my dollars) and not the marketing strategy. In the end, my determination of the product's "value" (my overall satisfaction in relation to its price and/or my opinion of being "duped" into buying it) that will determine my opinion.

So in my opinion, in the long-term it's the marketing behind the product - not the strategy behind my initial trial - that will determine the success of the stealth technique, or any other marketing strategy.

juli mccarthy
11.3.03 @ 12:08p

The thing is, word-of-mouth -- and I think that's what Joe means by "viral" -- has long been recognized as the most effective means of advertising. But word-of-mouth should be our choice. If I want to buy a new digital camera, I'm going to ask Joe, Erik and my friend Chris what they recommend. If Joe were to walk up to me and say, "Hey, check out my new camera!" I would pay attention, because I know he's a big geek who knows about these things. A random stranger doing it would bug me, moreso if I realized that they had tricked me into it. However, it's highly likely that I would not catch on - which also bugs me. I always want to think people are what they appear to be.

matt morin
11.3.03 @ 12:08p

So Erik, you'll happily take the advice of a completely random person because they have a store uniform and name tag on, but you'd wouldn't take the advice of a completely random person who demonstrates the product on the street?

Same difference. It's not their fault if you react to it differently.

And Joe, so when you send out an e-mail about your latest column, do you tell everyone ahead of time that you run the site? If not, does that mean you're lying to your e-mail list?

juli mccarthy
11.3.03 @ 12:11p

It's not the same difference, Matt, because I expect to be pitched in a store. If someone asks me as I'm going about my business to be a nice person and take a photo or something, I will usually do it because I am a nice person. Using my good nature to sell me something I've not indicated I have an interest in is sneaky.

matt morin
11.3.03 @ 12:11p

But Juli, that's exactly my point - you take the advice of people you know more than people you don't. So it shouldn't matter if the stranger giving advice has a Circuit City name tag on, or if they seem like some nice college girl who just wants you to take her picture.

No one rushes out and buys anything based on one opinion from someone they don't know. And if you do, then you get what you deserve.

matt morin
11.3.03 @ 12:14p

Ok, so you're a nice person. You take the picture. So? That doesn't mean you have to buy the product.

And what I hear everyone arguing is a perceived difference, not a real difference. You "expect" something different or it "feels" dishonest. I still haven't heard an argument for why what the companies are doing is wrong.

Just because you take something a certain way doesn't mean the other person did anything wrong.

joe procopio
11.3.03 @ 12:17p

Ooh, here's a good one for the pro-stealth side. What if you suddenly found out that all along I was paying people to write discussion posts on all the intrepid columns?

juli mccarthy
11.3.03 @ 12:18p

Once again, though, Matt - if I'm in a store looking at digital cameras, it's a pretty safe bet that I am interested in a digital camera. If I'm walking through the zoo with my kid, I MIGHT be interested in a camera - or I might not. I realize the point is that when I eventually wander into Circuit City I'm supposed to remember the girl at the zoo. The difference is I know to take the salesguy's recommendation with a grain of salt - I know he's being paid to tell me that and I take his advice accordingly. I'd be more inclined to take any random person's unsolicited testimonial as a recommendation, because it is unsolicited, you know? Now finding out that the hypothetical girl was a shill pisses me off.

joe procopio
11.3.03 @ 12:19p

Matt - in answer to do I identify myself in emails about my columns - yes. It says publisher/founder in my sig on every Intrepid email I send out. It also comes from the intrepidmedia.com address. If I were to go into a chat room and say "Hey everyone, I found this cool site..." - that would be deceptive.

juli mccarthy
11.3.03 @ 12:21p

Actually, Joe, I just assumed this place was full of little Joe-minions.

enrique casanova
11.3.03 @ 12:35p

RE: What if you suddenly found out that all along I was paying people to write discussion posts on all the intrepid columns?

Actually, it wouldn't bother me. I'd still be entertained, so I wouldn't care that the entertainers were getting paid, especially if I'm not the one paying. But I'd be asking where my check was.

tracey kelley
11.3.03 @ 1:13p

Truth in advertising is an oxymoron, in whatever form it takes, because it's still a salespitch. Even though it was a half-hearted movie, "Crazy People" with Dudley Moore demonstrated that even in viral marketing, it's still all bullshit. I "owe myself" a lot more than a safe Volvo or a new shampoo.

I have more of a problem with captive audience advertising, e.g. movie theater commercials or toliet stall door panels, then stealth advertising, especially when I've paid for something, like the movie, and they try to shove commericals down my throat. I paid for the movie, not the ads, and I'm not stupid enough to believe the sob story that chain theaters have to accept advertising in order to keep from raising movie prices.

The difference with stealth advertising is not so much your good nature being taken advantage of, but the fact that your time has been taken, like with a telemarketing call, without you having firm control otherwise. There is always a possibility you may never know you just got pitched...

...and for that matter, unless you march right out in the next 24 hours and buy the product, the marketing firm has no qualitative form of measurement with which to gauge the effectiveness of the approach, unless that's the only form of advertising used at all for that product.

And, if it were really a gadget that captured your interest (Trey, Joe, Erik, I'm staring right at you), I think your curiosity over watching the new whatsit work would placate the way you thought your time was wangled.

matt morin
11.3.03 @ 1:27p

I disagree that truth in advertising is an oxymoron. I've never worked with a client that didn't believe in their product.

tracey kelley
11.3.03 @ 1:31p

Exactly.

But a salespitch is a salespitch.

sarah ficke
11.3.03 @ 1:57p

I think what bothers me the most is someone stopping me on the street to take a picture of them that they don't even want. As a kid, we called that sort of thing a practical joke, not advertising. If you want me to see the camera, offer me a free picture right there.

[edited]

erik myers
11.3.03 @ 2:27p

So Erik, you'll happily take the advice of a completely random person because they have a store uniform and name tag on, but you'd wouldn't take the advice of a completely random person who demonstrates the product on the street?

Yep. Because the difference is that in one instance, I want to buy something and in the other instance somebody's tricking me into a situation where they're trying to convince me to buy something.

matt morin
11.3.03 @ 2:38p

How are they tricking you? It's still a random person who is going to talk to you about the features/benefits of the product. And they'll both say the same things.

They just use different methods of getting you to listen to their sales pitch. That's the only difference.

joe procopio
11.3.03 @ 2:47p

It's a trick because in the store you are aware that they are pitching and they present themsevles as representatives of the company.

It matters in banking and insurance, where it must be identified if endorsers are paid spokepeople.

erik myers
11.3.03 @ 2:53p

Right, exactly Joe.

It's about my intentions, not theirs.

I only want to be sold to when I'm interested in buying. Otherwise, they're wasting my time and theirs.

enrique casanova
11.3.03 @ 3:20p

It seems to me that the sticking point with stealth marketing is that the person that's employed as the "medium" is a representative of the marketer and not just some regular shmoe (sp?) you run into on the street. The fact that they're getting paid to offer you the experience of interacting with their product somehow makes it evil.

So let's pretend that the attractive person who asks you to take their picture/try out their gaming accessory/accept their offer of a drink isn't getting paid by the marketer. Then it's OK, right? It's just a person who's aware of a product and who is offering you, at no charge, the chance to sample their product. You can always refuse that opportunity. It's not a significant intrusion upon your time.

But we're almost programmed to be revolted by the fact that someone is trying to take advantage of us by "pushing their product" on us with a "sales pitch" when we learn that we've been interacting with someone who's job it is to expose us to the camera/gaming device/new brand of vodka. Why is this? Are we just afraid that we can't make our own decisions? Are we concerned that we'll be deceived into purchasing something we don't want? Do we all need a guardian Admiral Ackbar screaming "It's a trap!" into our ears every time we're subjected to an advertisement or a marketing strategy, simply because it emanates from the Evil Empire of Madison Avenue?

Embrace the marketing. Let it fill your soul. I pay for cable TV, I see the ads. I pay for magazines, I read the ads. I step up to the urinal and I smile nice and wide because the ad staring me back in the face gives me something to read for the next 30 to 45 seconds.

There are so many instances in our everyday lives when we're advertised to and we don't even know it. Why get up in arms about someone offering you something?

Scenario A: Yummy Catherine Zeta Jones pitches a cool camera phone in an intrusive 30-second TV ad for T-Mobile by saying "This product is cool. Look what it can do." I can choose to look away to avoid this horrible violation of my time or I can watch her.

Scenario B: Equally yummy co-ed Jane Doe asks me to take her picture with a cool camera phone as I walk down Main Street. She says "This product is cool. Look what it can do." I can choose to avoid this horrible violation of my time by blowing her off or I can take her picture, essentially sampling the product. Additional opportunity to get her number, but those odds are slim.

Why is scenario B so much worse? If it's because Jane Doe is not an obvious product endorser, then I need to revisit my notes from the day they taught "Don't believe everything you're told" in class.

joe procopio
11.3.03 @ 3:39p

Enrique: It's wrong because she should divulge who she is, especially if she's asking me for my help.

It sucks because it's yet another marketing intrusion into a place where I, personally, believe it doesn't belong. James and Matt, on the other hand, do. Two different things.

Again, I have no problem with street marketing. I particularly enjoy (and Erik, oddly enough, can attest to this) the free cigarette and Zippo people at the bars. Also the free booze people. I don't mind advertising in my life. Intrepid needs advertising to exist.

BUT... the point of my column - those who are not up front about their representation, right or wrong, will ultimately hurt those who are.

The LAST thing I need is someone wondering if they got 100 reads on their column because Intrepid has properly fostered an environment of community where an opinion writer can thus be fulfilled or because I've paid some high-schoolers 5 cents a click.

Of course, you're all doing a fine job of proving the former, and I thank you.

erik myers
11.3.03 @ 3:45p

Well, for myself, I really dislike it when companies feel like they need to convince me to use their product.

Let's take, for instance, Budweiser. They spending millions of dollars making commercials that appeal to my sense of humor very well, where I'd much prefer they'd spend millions of dollars making an 80 cent beer that I don't mind drinking. THEN, when they've developed said product, they can come to me and say, "Here. This tastes good. Try some." and if I like it, I'll buy it. For now, they ads make me laugh, but I'll never buy any because I dislike the product regardless of the ad campaigns.

It's probably just me. I distrust marketing and sales campaigns. I don't like it when commercials for jeans are set in post-apocolyptic worlds with ghost buffalo herds running down city streets because it doesn't tell me anything about the jeans. I only need to know one thing: does it commonly come in my size? I don't care that it will magically protect me against marauding see-through buffaloes. That makes no difference to me.

Now, I'm getting WAY off topic.. but.. yeah, I don't like being marketed to. I'm a bad consumer. I'm not likely to buy a product if you just tell me where I can find a product information sheet. You don't need a yummy co-ed to approach me on the street -- I know better. Yummy co-eds don't approach me on the street. But if a yummy co-ed DOES approach me on the street, I won't give two shits about her camera, either. I'll tell you that.

erik myers
11.3.03 @ 3:49p

Oh, but I forgot -- if I'm in an environment where I don't mind being marketed to? Fine. I'll put up with a lot. Urinal posters and all that, fine.

But don't accost me while I'm walking down the street unless I'm going to get something out of it.

michelle von euw
11.3.03 @ 3:52p

So for years, companies have been setting up their vans at busy street corners, college campuses, putting their cute co-eds in Sony teeshirts and demonstrating the product to interested parties.

In Joe's scenario, the van is missing, the logos are missing, and the upbeat, enthusiastic employee of Sony is replaced by an upbeat, enthusiastic girl with a camera. Obviously, taking away the Sony brandname is a calculated move - its as if the advertisers think it's more effective not to have their name on a product.
And to me, that's why this whole scheme hits me as dishonest.

matt morin
11.3.03 @ 4:09p

"I only want to be sold to when I'm interested in buying. Otherwise, they're wasting my time and theirs."

Then how would anyone ever find out about new products?

When X-box came out, how would you ever know what the X-box is to have an interest in buying it? Someone HAS to hear about it secondhand first, before word or mouth can get going.

Michelle, the advertisers don't take their name off the product. Jane Doe is still pushing the Sony camera. But they're doing it in a way that lets you experience the pitch first.

Think about it this way. Say I was a telemarketer who was just giving away $500 for free. So I call you up during dinnertime and start in with "Hello Mr. Pro-co-pio, I have a great offer to tell you about from my company..."

You'd say "No thanks," and hang up before you ever heard about the free $500.

It's not that you wouldn't want the $500. But you're conditioned to revolt against sales pitches. So all this is, is a way to get around that initial reaction of "Ew, this is a sales pitch" and let you experience the product for what it is.

Nothing wrong with that.

erik myers
11.3.03 @ 4:15p

Yes, I'm conditioned against sales pitches.

If products were represented in an honest, non-intrusive manner perhaps I wouldn't be.

joe procopio
11.3.03 @ 4:22p

Matt - first of all, you'd never get my name right. I'd be Mr. Prosipio, or Mr. Procopo, or Mr. Proawkwardsilence (which I usually let hang).

Again, without looking like a baggage-handling, crusty, aesthetics-monger, Privacy Director from BellSouth is the best thing ever.

*The preceding endorsement was made without solicitation or compensation from the BellSouth corporation.

tracey kelley
11.3.03 @ 4:42p

So that's why I can never reach you at home.

So - you have no problem with the lemonade stand, you just don't want the person behind the stand to be anyone but a salesperson? In other words, you only accept word of mouth from the people you trust, not someone you don't know?

matt morin
11.3.03 @ 5:04p

Personally, yes, I'll take a recommendation from someone I know and trust. If a random person tells me something, it may make me curious enough to look into it further, but I won't take it as the end-all be-all.

greg swanson
11.4.03 @ 12:08a

Disclaimer: Although a friend of the author, I am not paid or compensated in any way for my comments. But I oughta be.

OK - I'm a first time post-er. Welcome me, damnit.

Those of you opposed to this are just being a bit bitter, I think. You're upset that marketing might have figured out a way to actually influence you - and you hate it. Stealth advertising doesn't seem like anything ne to me...

Have you ever purchased a shirt or jacket because you saw it in a movie? Did you have to buy that single because you heard it on Smallville (it's the music that all the cool, young superheroes are listening to). Or maybe you bought a Coke at the fair because you saw someone else drinking one and it sounded good. Obviously, drinking of soft-drinks in public should be done discretely from non-descript containers so as not to influence your thirst.

There have always been the puppets who are influenced by what they see on TV. But there has always been that market segment that isn't. We geeks who know we aren't the 'beautiful' people and that the shirt and music won't help.

So they find another medium that might slip past your BS-detection. They aren't brainwashing you - if you blindly follow this random person's recommendation, that's a bonus. But they just want to get your attention long enough to get you to notice. And you are free to ignore this just like you do commercials, spam, and everything else. The only person who suffers is the chick who really just wanted her picture taken...and if she's good looking enough, you'd take her picture even if you knew she was an evil-stealth-agent, wouldn't you? Admit it.

We're banning spam. We have a national do-not-call registry. We can FF past commercials with our TiVo/DVR. You have your pop-up-blocker installed. So what do you want?

This sounds like the perfect plot for Demolition Man 2: Stallone as John Spartan, the cryogenically restored man from the 21st century - the only man who can resist advertising in a marketing-free world. Although all forms of advertising were banned after the Mass-Mailing-War of 2050, Ricardo Montalban has been freed from his cryo-prison. Can John Spartan resist the temptation of the Corinthian Leather long enough to defeat Ricardo and his henchmen with the movie-trailer voices?!


juli mccarthy
11.4.03 @ 12:49a

Those of you opposed to this are just being a bit bitter, I think. You're upset that marketing might have figured out a way to actually influence you - and you hate it.

Yep, I think that pretty much nails it for me.

Oh yeah - welcome to IM :)

matt morin
11.4.03 @ 1:36a

So here's a question. What's the difference between Nike telling you that you should buy their shoes and Steven telling you that you should buy his comic?

sarah ficke
11.4.03 @ 7:34a

None. Except that I like comics more than shoes.

erik myers
11.4.03 @ 8:30a

I like Steven and I don't like Nike?

james wondrack
11.4.03 @ 8:57a

For all you wanna be unibombers out there, get over it, stealth marketing is happening more often than we'll ever realize. Hence, the name. Our radar can only detect the poorly executed or when it's overt or irrelevant. We are exposed to over 3000 marketing messages per day. Which couple thousand were 'real' and whitch thousand were 'stealth?' I have no idea either.

Your mad because you sick of irrelevance and don't like being manipulated. Fair enough. I'm sick of it too.

Where do you draw the line between a coined term like 'stealth' and other forms of selling a product? How about the 'stealth' samples at the supermarket, how about 'stealth' product placements in movies and TV shows. How about the 'stealth' goodies bag at the Oscars? How about any video on MTV, that's just a 3:43 minute stealth advertizement for pushing CD's. Yes I understand payola is illegal, but how do you think these videos actually get played, out the creative excellence or the bling P.Diddy's flashing in order to push album sales that month? That's the foundation of FM radio. A channel for selling albums. Isn't that stelth markekting? Last time radio was free and CD cost money. Boy do I feel duped now. FM radio is a business to fill the air with advertising messages 24 hours a day. Andy Warhol and Marshall McLuhan are rolling in their graves laughing their asses off.

(MTV even has a tough time with where to draw the line when they refused to play that sweet Nike bball ad/video from a couple years ago of the guys streetching and bouncing in rhythym-that was originally pitched to MTV as a video.)

EVERYTHING we see on TV is there because someone wanted it there and paid a TON of money to get it there. (Or they have political agenda's like a Peter Jennings et al). I fail to see where we draw lines between all these forms of messaging and persuasion.

While we're at it, how about political lobbying, isn't that stealth marketing. Hallmark pushes for another official holiday so they can sell 'suck-ass middle management's day' cards. Bill Lumburg's signed on as the spokesperson.

sandra thompson
11.4.03 @ 6:37p

I didn't get my check yet this week, Joe.

About forty years ago there was a whole big spread in the old "Ramparts" magazine with the premise that all advertising is immoral because its purpose is to create a desire for something we don't need, and therefore appeals to our "covetousness" which is a sin. How's that for being picky? In a capitalist economic system things have to be sold. Oh, and BTW I found out about Amzazon.com from my grandgeek who needed a book one time many years ago for some paper he had to write and being the doting grammy I am....... you know the rest....

robert melos
11.4.03 @ 10:00p

I don't like the idea of stealth advertising. The more I read the discusions, the more I find the idea revolting. I guess I'm an advertisers worst nightmare. I'm conditioned against salespeople and marketing come ons, I never watch the commercials, and usually snap at sales people I do solicit advice from when in a store.

I'll admit I have purchased several CDs because I liked a song I heard on a television show, but I don't see that as marketing as much as the fact the material had a quality I enjoyed and that was enough to sell me on buying the CDs.

I'm really getting the impression any marketing will work on some people. I can guarantee if the stealth marketing person were someone I would find attractive, I would probably be more inclined to listen and perhaps even by what they are selling, even if I am preconditioned to ward off sales pitches.

If I were planning a stealth sales pitch of a digital camera I'd insist on it being sold at a beach and the "salespersons" be wearing skimpy bathing suits, be blond, and in general use their sex appeal to sell my product. If this could really work for selling books I'd have done this already. It seems technology has a built in attractiveness assisting the stealth salesperson.

Let's see 'em do it with coffins.

tracey kelley
11.5.03 @ 12:12p

I'm just now reading Fast Food Nation. You want to talk about sleazy advertising, nail the companies who pander to children, trying to make them "brand loyal" at two. Monsterous.

[edited]

james wondrack
11.5.03 @ 3:47p

You're all individuals right?

Make your own mind. Make you own choices for the most part. Especially when it comes to purchases that make up your every day lives.

What cell phone do you have, what car do you drive, what's your drink of choice? What sneakers do you where?

Why?

You all have good reasons. And that's my point. You all have your reasons. Because you've intellectualized it on some level and made a relevant choice - to you. You choices make up your identity.

That degree of identity and the choice you made means you had to understand the context in which you compare your choices with others. That is a very complex and meaningful environment that you have (1)observed, (2)processed and (3)regected all but one of the choices. Advertising and marketing creates this environment of choices.

We're all callous and cynical of all this, but you have to comes to acknowedge on some level consciously or subconsciously.

I'm not condoning one practice or another. Explotation is wrong.
Unethical behaviour is wrong. Overt marketing should take care of itself if its not relevant.

We have evolved physically for ages, and in our informational age we must intellectually.


nor mal
11.5.03 @ 6:01p

About the girl with the camera:
I think that's pretty sneaky, any way you look at it.
I mean, pretending to need help when you really don't just makes it harder for someone that might have an actual photo emergency. But on the other hand, grifters say that "marks" always get what they ask for (like a chance to assist a pretty girl) so maybe it's not so karmically incorrect.
I would probably figure that she was just trying to pick up a few bucks, and be glad she wasn't robbing me, straight up, with a shotgun.
That's why I might be inclined to suffer a twinge of compassion when I told her to piss off.

joe procopio
11.7.03 @ 12:32p

It's the lies! Well, the held truth anyway. It would all be kosher in my mind if, at any point, they revealed they were a paid representative.

lisa r
3.31.04 @ 1:26p

I really hate I didn't get in on this sooner. I'm with the general masses that stealth marketing is insidious. Furthermore, it bothers me that they haven't figured out from the fact that consumers demand features that allow us to bypass advertising on television and by phone that we simply are tired of being cornered in our own space. Joe's argument is a sound one from the standpoint that the girl approached him first.

When I pay my cable bill every month, I do so with the understanding that I'm going to be subjected to advertising sold by Comcast. That's fine, I have a remote with a functioning mute button. When I pay my telephone bill, however, I'm paying for something that's for my own personal use, not for some company to beard me in my own den with an unsolicited pitch for aluminum siding.

When I pay for my magazine subscription, I do so knowing that next month's Southern Living will contain ads from the magazine's advertising partners. Since those advertising partners make it possible for the magazine to produce some really fine idea houses and recipes without my subscription costing more than a year's subscription to the Wall Street Journal, I'm okay with that. After all, I end up benefiting from their expertise whenever I tackle a project or recipe from their pages. If a magazine sells an ad from a perfume company that inserts one of those attack perfume samples, though, I feel violated. At least with the department store perfume diva I get a chance to wave her off from her bombing run.



Intrepid Media is built by Intrepid Company and runs on Dash