The Inevitable Next Step
I am assuming (and, I believe, rightly so) that you are already aware of Sony’s transparent, insulting, idiotic, and ineffective campaign in support of the Playstation Portable. Unwilling to let an increasingly savvy portfolio of titles speak to gamers directly, they chose instead to bring aboard guerilla marketing gurus Zipatoni to do irreparable damage to their brand. You might have heard about it via The Guardian, a story based on a nice catch by the legendary Something Awful forums, but there are many points of entry. We might have let it slip, secure in the knowledge that a story this massive would find you of its own accord, but yesterday’s announcement that the FTC would be taking this sort of chicanery seriously made our path clear.
I actually couldn’t watch the "rap" all the way through the first three times I attempted to. Gabe had only caught about seven seconds of it when he began to bleed freely from the nose and mouth. Was this some haunted video, then, like the one in The Ring? Would I soon die? I have wished to; since I took in the vile width of this thing thoughts of my own death are the only salve. There is an especially demonic portion of the video - let us say thirty-one seconds from the hated beginning, which was the end of all pleasure on Earth. Their Godforsaken stooge begins to wave around a PSP faceplate he has printed out, but they have sped up the footage so that by thirty-six seconds in there can be no doubt: the man has been lobotomized. There is no man left. In the video, the meat continues to twitch, electrical accidents birthing grotesque jerks in the unknowing beef. It speaks! But it is not language. It is like the wind blowing through a pile of skulls.
We need to distinguish between "viral" marketing and "guerilla" marketing. The reality is that no agency can create viral marketing, this is the sole domain of the consumer. Viral marketing is what happens when a campaign works - when we allow their message to travel via our own superefficient conduits. Perhaps it is entertaining on its own terms, divorced from the message. Perhaps it is a game or a story, like I Love Bees or other ARGs, where we take ownership in it. What distinguishes this from Guerilla Marketing is that we are aware of the message. When we are not aware of the message, or when the agents of the message misrepresent themselves, we call this "deception."
Initially, my cohort was reticent to discuss it at all, lest we give our foe the exposure this campaign was designed to generate. I stand by my prior claim: that there is such a thing as bad press, that we are the authors of the aforementioned, that there are times when newspapers must be rolled and then vigorously applied.