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Cybernaut

The copywriter has awoken

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Guerilla marketing has gotten a little out of hand as of late. There are stories going around of companies paying popular high school students and fashionable urban young people to walk around and sip the newest soft drink, wear various hip brands of clothes, and listen to the latest music players. The marketers always pick the cool kid, or the beautiful girl, or the supermodel guy – the people that naturally attract the most attention.

The problem is that most people are overwhelmed and inundated by conventional ads, and don’t necessarily trust commercials anymore – but they just might trust the guy on the bus who’s chugging back the latest blueberry sports drink like it was the nectar of the gods.

Unless that guy is wearing an "I work for a marketing company" t-shirt, this kind of marketing is dishonest – whether the walking billboard actually likes the product or not. When you can’t see the strings, how do you know you’re watching a puppet show?

Not content to believe ads or sales people about any product anymore, I’ve recently turned to the Internet for opinions. There are forums and review sites for just about everything, and I’ll visit a dozen or so before I’ll make any big purchase – what any sane, sensible and, yes, frugal person would do.

I’ve always suspected that not all of the reviews I’ve read were honest and accurate – something about the way they were worded triggered the long dormant advertising copywriter in me. There’s a whole B.S. language that’s unique to the cult of marketing. Of course the review writers were always trying to sound like normal people, but they couldn’t quite pull it off.

My worst fears were confirmed last week when a few consumer websites outed a company called Hype Council. Most of what HC does is completely legitimate – website marketing, online PR, web design, etc. – but it seems they have also been going into chat rooms and forums to push products (probably what they refer to as their online "Ambassador" program).

You have no idea who these people are, or the fact they’re being paid by video game and entertainment companies to rave about products. Other forum members can only assume they’re talking to ordinary teens and adults that sincerely enjoy said games, CDs, DVDs, whatever.

That’s why it’s always a good idea to read a lot of reviews – HC reps can spew as much positive verbiage as they want, but they can’t stop people who hated a product from doing the same.

Unless…the company’s competitors are paying another secret guerilla marketer to slam their products! Now that would be ironic.

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