Reserved for the finished article - it is interactive and ongoing until then. We will complete the parts you are interested in first.
=================================================================The OutlineA History of Viral Marketing to the Tech site forums
The definition - Viral vs. Stealth marketing
We should define "viral" versus "stealth" marketing.
Viral is not bad - STEALTH is. We as consumers have a right to know when we are being marketed to
All viral marketing is not bad. Actually most of it is harmless and it can be entertaining as well as educational. Businesses who use Facebook and other social media need to keep their marketing transparent.
Issues arise however when this kind of marketing is taken on by a company’s hidden shills - or employees - posing as upstanding members of a tech forum with the purpose of selling product for a company. This is known as “Stealth Marketing” or Undercover marketing where the people being marketed to do not realize it is marketing. These include Buzz campaigns. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stealth_marketing
An undercover campaign which aims to generate buzz, is economical, and once sufficient buzz has been generated, is almost free, as consumers "market" the product to others, through a network of referrals which grows and grows. Buzz campaigns can reach consumers isolated from all other media, and unlike conventional media, consumers tend to trust it . . . Undercover marketing is used when traditional marketing techniques have been exhausted and investors are looking for a new effective solution for their marketing needs . . .
Overall, the person doing the marketing must look and sound like a peer of their target audience without any ulterior motive for endorsing the product—employees of the company cannot do undercover marketing, nor can celebrities (except possibly to other celebrities).
When targeting consumers known to be consistent Internet users, undercover marketers have taken a significant interest in leveraging Internet chat rooms and forums. In these settings, people tend to perceive everyone as peers, the anonymity reduces the risk of being found out, and one marketer can personally influence a large number of people. . . .
Whatever the risks, undercover marketing only requires a small investment for a large potential pay off. It remains a cheap and effective way of generating buzz, especially in markets such as tobacco and alcohol where media-savvy target consumers have become increasingly resistant or inaccessible to other forms of advertising.
Here is an excellent article just quoted in part: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/l ... ral20.html
Parents wondering where their teen's holiday wish list is coming from shouldn't just turn to their TV sets. Instead, look to their friends and recommendations popping up in instant and text messages, e-mail, chat rooms and blogs.
Parents — and many teens — probably don't realize all these types of advertising might originate with corporations. Rather than wait for cool teens to pick the next "hot" T-shirt (or shoes or new musician or even deodorant) companies are increasingly targeting gregarious teens as underground spokespeople, paid in free products, discounts and cutting-edge cachet.
"Conventional media — TV and print — are not good enough on their own to reach this [teen] audience," said Peter Boyd, vice president of promotions for Virgin Mobile, a pay-as-you-go cellphone service catering to the youth market. "Word of mouth as a marketing tool is absolutely essential for Virgin Mobile.
"This generation, more so than previous ones, gets lots and lots of their brand preferences through peers. ... We need our customers to be our marketers."
ir0x0r and Nigel Dessau could not have said it better for AMD in their blogs about AMD's growing interest in influencing social media with "targeting" - except that AMD can pick from among their thousands of employees who are not required to post their affiliation to AMD by their company as good ethics dictate.
The article continues:
Word of mouth has always been a popular way to share consumer opinion, but critics contend some companies are blurring the line between true buzz and what's really a paid advertisement (even if the "pay" is free stuff).
In other words, is it right for kids to market to friends if it's not clear there's a payoff for their recommendation?
And should companies be encouraging and exploiting it?
Viral marketing "violates the basic principle that a person should know when they're being advertised to," said Juliet Schor, author of "Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture" (Scribner, 2004).
Kids aren't required to disclose that "I get free stuff if I say this." And that's the point: "It's more effective if people don't know they're a target of a viral marketing effort," Schor noted. "Advertisers prefer that. The premise is that it's natural buzz, not orchestrated by the company. That's the basic deception at the heart of it."
The article goes on to describe what AMD may face if their deceptive practices become more known - a consumer backlash - a little taste of which we got with Bulldozer when it failed to deliver what its viral proponents claimed it would.
Are we surprised? Stealth marketing may be becoming the norm but it is not ethical. AMD is better than that and they should not allow their employees to post at tech forums without disclosing their affiliation to AMD. Wrong is wrong.This editor and his tracking it beginning as a poster at ATF
AEG and Nvidia
Rollo vs apoppin – ATF VC&G - Part 1
AMD - early accusations of Stealth marketing '06
Previous Viral attempts http://techreport.com/discussions.x/10847
AMD viral marketing accusations explored
by Cyril Kowaliski — 10:21 AM on September 22, 2006
Yesterday, the guys over at NGOHQ posted an interesting story that pointed to a number of posts on multiple tech forums advertising AMD's Virtual Trade Show. The postings were all put up the same day, all by members who had just registered, and they all looked very much the same. What's more, as forum admins found, the posters' IP addresses pointed to a company called Design Reactor—the very same company that made the Virtual Trade Show site for AMD. NGOHQ sent an e-mail to Design Reactor asking if the firm provided any viral marketing services, and a staff member replied, "Thank you for contacting Design Reactor and your interest in our services. Our company does offer viral marketing services. The strategic approach and the various media employed largely depend on your overarching objectives."
With this information in mind, we decided to send AMD an e-mail pointing to the NGOHQ story and asking if AMD paid companies or individuals to promote its products or services in online forums, or if it employed any other kind of viral marketing, either directly or indirectly. Seven hours later, we received the following e-mail from Design Reactor's Director of Client Services, Kelly Seelig:
Thank you for your inquiry about the AMD Virtual Experience. AMD forwarded your email and I wanted to get back to you about the viral marketing questions you posed.
Design Reactor is very proud of the AMD Virtual Experience, and we have many dedicated and talented employees that have worked countless hours to create this unique environment. I am sure that some of their excitement around this project has spilled over into their personal lives, with various postings to sites that they may visit on a regular basis. Although we as a company do not want to take any acknowledgement away from the great people we employ and the great work they’ve done, we also do not want to create any misperception around AMD’s involvement. AMD has not commissioned us in any way to do any kind of viral marketing or promotion of this site in any venues other than traditional paid media vehicles. Although we are not able to mandate what our employees do in their personal time, and we certainly do not want to curb any of their enthusiasm around this monumental accomplishment, we will assure that if they are posting anything about this project they will not be anonymous in their postings.
If Design Reactor is to be believed, then, the forum postings were simply made by over-enthusiastic Design Reactor employees eager to show off their work. One has to admit, a professional viral marketing effort commissioned by AMD certainly should be more elaborate than a bunch of forum posts by completely new members all put up on the same day. Professional guerilla marketers often spend weeks or even months integrating themselves into online communities before advertising a product, and they're far less likely to be uncovered. However, if these posts were really an independent effort by employees, why did their IP addresses resolve to Design Reactor's domain?
Make sure to follow the links http://www.ngohq.com/home.php?page=arti ... arc_id=112
After that AMD all but announced that Viral Marketing was going "in house" and that is when we met Ir0x0r - one of AMD's viral organizers. Actually he did announce it on ABT and he pointed to AMD's own blogs about "targeted marketing".ABT as a new site
Rollo vs apoppin - ABT Forum - Part 2
AMD's viral marketer tries to make ABT a flogsite
One of AMD's viral marketers tried to make ABT a flog site in 2009 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fake_blog
Notice with whom he got ABT an exclusive interview http://alienbabeltech.com/main/amd-inte ... g-on-intel
Nigel Dessau, AMD' Chief Marketing Officer
ABT never had a relationship until we found AMD had over-optimized FarCry 2 at the expense of textures and this editor met the Catalyst Maker at HardOCP forum who was discussing the article. http://alienbabeltech.com/main/farcry2s-broken-ati-hotfix-drivershttp://alienbabeltech.com/main/farcry2-broken-drivers-follow-up-new-hot-fix-driver-soonhttp://alienbabeltech.com/main/farcry2-new-hotfix-vs-old-hot-fix-benchmarks
Later on we met Ir0x0r an owner of a small shop specializing in AMD systems and who also organized LAN parties offered to write for us. Well, as it turned out he was a viral marketer for AMD and he gave us his play book hoping that we would play along.
It is a fact that AMD or Nvidia will hire by recruiting the very best tech writers that do a particularly outstanding and consistent job of explaining their product. Baumann went into ATi Marketing then AMD, i believe. This thread at ATF was about the hire: http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=1888724
However, ABT wasn't an established site. We were just beginning and ir0x0r's intention to make ABT a flog site for AMD only became obvious later when he told us, "we might as well be in bed with AMD". Out he went!
And look carefully at this It was published as an article or blog on ABT by ir0x0r as a contributing editor. The forum thread is still open and you see the two masters of stealth marketing, Rollo vs. ir0x0r, go at each other.
--This is the thread that was automatically generated by a front page ABT news or Blog publication: viewtopic.php?f=10&t=11252
It was actually published on our main page under the ABT contributing editor name of ir0x0r on My 8, 2009. http://alienbabeltech.com/main/amd-gets-emotions
The AMD bloggers, tweeters and FB addicts have clearly overthrown their oppressors known as “corporate”. This is evidenced by the highly emotional nature of many of the posts AMDers are making full in the face of corporate. . . . And it just keeps getting better as more and more AMDers get involved with Twitter and FB. . . .
While AMD is just a company, it is these individuals and many more like them who have risen up against the idea of simply doing their job. These folks live and breathe what they do and make AMD what it is. It is their personal opinions that when combined give AMD its direction . . .
What are we to think about AMD playing in social media? As with anything else, take a look at what they are actually doing. They don’t just get on and post a bunch of marketing crap no one is interested in. AMD is showing us their heart and soul in a truthful and honest way even when that’s a little messy.
In it he identified himself and laid out his vision of how AMD was entering the social media. About that same time he interviewed Nigel Dessau, AMD's Chief Marketing Officer, exclusively for ABT.
Read it carefully .. there we introduced ir0x0r as ABT's newest editor with impeccable credentials, we thought. And now one realizes that there are thousands of AMD employees free to advertise pro-AMD products and propaganda in social media without disclosing their affiliation.
Does this seem right to everyone?
Anyway, ir0x0r had great contacts inside AMD which lead us to wrongly assume that he was legit. He actually got an interview with Niegel Dessau the Chief Marketing Officer of AMD at the time showing how far the viral reach went back in '09.
ir0x0r's credentials are impressive
- Director of Marketing at Palit Multimedia
- Consumer Marketing Manager at Palit Multimedia
- El Presidente at TeamATI
- Director of Marketing at Connect3D
- Sales, Computer Products Group at SAI
Later on we published the first unauthorized look at the HD 5970 and got a rather unpleasant call from AMD's Jay Marsden who first demanded that we take down the article, then attempted to cut a deal by offering to send us one. /viewtopic.php?t=17968
In a polite gesture, we took down a couple of images but left our article intact, And Jay never returned our calls again.
As we got more popular as a tech site, ABT eventually became a media partner with AMD and that relationship still continues to this day. We have been under NDA with AMD from the launch of the HD 5830 all the way through the end of the HD 6000 series and we receive APUs and CPUs from AMD to review.
Here are some of the reviews in 2010/2011 that ABT published under NDA with AMD or with cards that we received directly from them - starting with the latest; in that list is also an exclusive interview with AMD:
AMD’s FX-8150 and CrossFire Scaling – Bulldozer Part 2, the Conclusion http://alienbabeltech.com/main/amd%e2%8 ... conclusion
AMD’s FX-8150 vs. Core i7 & Phenom II – Bulldozer Arrives! http://alienbabeltech.com/main/amds-fx- ... er-arrives
The Passive Gigabyte & Overclocked HIS HD 6770 meet the EVGA GTX 550 Ti http://alienbabeltech.com/main/the-pass ... gtx-560-ti
Introducing the New Phenom II 980 BE vs. Core i7-920 – value meets performance again http://alienbabeltech.com/main/introduc ... ance-again
Introducing AMD’s “Turks” – HD 6670 and HD 6570 http://alienbabeltech.com/main/gtx-520
Introducing AMD’s HD 6790 http://alienbabeltech.com/main/hd-6790
Introducing “the World’s Fastest Graphics card”, AMD’s flagship HD 6990 http://alienbabeltech.com/main/introduc ... ip-hd-6990
GTX 460 (768MB) vs HD 5830 Performance Shootout http://alienbabeltech.com/main/gtx-460- ... e-shootout
AMD Radeon 6000 Series Image Quality Analysis http://alienbabeltech.com/main/amd-rade ... y-analysis
AMD Radeon 6850 Bottleneck Investigation http://alienbabeltech.com/main/amd-6850 ... estigation
AMD Radeon 6850 Performance Test http://alienbabeltech.com/main/amd-rade ... mance-test
Introducing AMD’s HD 6970 and HD 6950 http://alienbabeltech.com/main/gtx-460- ... galaxy-soc
“Our basic strategy is unchanged” – ABT’s exclusive interview with AMD http://alienbabeltech.com/main/our-basi ... w-with-amd
Introducing AMD’s new HD 6870 and HD 6850 http://alienbabeltech.com/main/introduc ... vs-gtx-460
ABT’s first look at Eyefinity’s New $30 active DP to DVI adapter http://alienbabeltech.com/main/eyefinit ... first-look
Axle AMD ATI Radeon HD 5450 Video Review http://alienbabeltech.com/main/axle-amd ... deo-review
Visiontek ATI Radeon HD 5670 Review: In pursuit of 1GHz http://alienbabeltech.com/main/visionte ... it-of-1ghz
GTX 480 vs. HD 5870, 8x AA Performance Analysis, Part 3 http://alienbabeltech.com/main/gtx-480- ... sis-part-3
GTX 480 (825/1100 MHZ) vs. HD 5870 (975/1300 MHz), Overclocked Performance Analysis, Part 2 http://alienbabeltech.com/main/gtx-480- ... sis-part-2
ATI Radeon HD 5450 & HD 5570 Review http://alienbabeltech.com/main/ati-rade ... 570-review
ATI Radeon HD 5450 Preview: DX11 For The Masses http://alienbabeltech.com/main/ati-rade ... the-masses
i am sure there are more articles. And i am not counting the cards that we received from AMD's partners, including the HD 4890 from Diamond.
Clearly ABT is a media partner with AMD since the HD 5000 series. AMD new change to embrace targeted social marketing
AMD's signaled their change in 2009 to adopt targeted viral marketing .. notice "who" - Nigel Dessau, Chief Marketing Officer of AMD http://blogs.amd.com/corporate/2009/03/ ... deo-views/
When Nigel Dessau joined AMD about a year ago, he drove a shift in our marketing toward activities designed to strike the bull’s eye of an intended target. For the launch of the AMD desktop technology PC platform codenamed “Dragon” and AMD Phenom™ II processors, the bull’s eye was people who like to build their own PCs for video editing and gaming. I refer to this crowd as “Those Who Know” (TWK, pronounced “tweak”) in that they understand how to build a world-class system for their specific pursuits without spending world-class amounts, and many of them like to overclock a processor to get even more performance than its official rating. I’m a level 1 TWK: I build my own systems, but you might not want me to build yours. . . . AMD's Stealth "Playbook" - the "how to" recruit and target a tech forum
. . . So, web marketers, which would you prefer? Several million whimsical views that abstractly connect to your product brand? Or 500,000 views that hit your bull’s eye audience with a concrete message?
We met Ir0x0r, an owner of a small shop specializing in AMD systems and who also organized LAN parties for ABT. i saw his blog, contacted him and he offered to write for us. Well, as it turned out he was a viral marketer for AMD and he gave us his play book hoping that we would play along. http://www.tweaktown.com/news/12178/thu ... index.html
And he had great contacts which lead us to wrongly assume that he was legit. He actually got an exclusive ABT interview with Niegel Dessau, the Chief Marketing Officer of AMD at the time showing how far their viral went into the company. And as you can see, Dessau is responsible for "targeting" AMD's viral marketing. http://blogs.amd.com/corporate/2009/03/ ... deo-views/
So, web marketers, which would you prefer? Several million whimsical views that abstractly connect to your product brand? Or 500,000 views that hit your bull’s eye audience with a concrete message?
Although viral videos are fun but stealth targeting of tech sites and posters is not. ir0x0r used to post as "AMG_Guy" on ATF forum. He told me that,
If I could say, “Just talk to this person and here’s their contact info”, things would be much easier and more straightforward. But my friends at various manufacturers would really hate it if I started outing them and their comments to the general public.
And he worked actively with AMD to change their presence in the blogsphere, as he called it:
I’d like to write something about what AMD is doing in the blogosphere. Some people think it’s just marketing and doesn’t mean anything and some people don’t even know they are doing it. Intel doesn’t play in that realm in any meaningful sense at all like virtually every other manufacturer. What’s important is that AMD has worked themselves into a very dangerous corner. By blogging and allowing feedback they amass a great deal of info on what consumers want. If they fail to then produce on what consumers want their blogging activities will be exposed as a fraud.
Let's see what ir0x0r, David Makin at Palit, used to do according to THG. http://www.tomshardware.com/news/lan-pa ... ,5005.html
San Jose (CA) - Beginning LAN party organizers often struggle with mind-numbing business details, but that's about to change with Palit's launch of what it calls the "ultimate LAN party resource". The Palitlan.com website, which went live this Saturday, aims itself at helping small LAN parties by providing advice, backend credit card processing and even loaner equipment. Organizers can also apply for valuable prizes for their attendees like shirts and graphics cards.
Palit's David Makin tells us the site is specifically designed to help LAN parties with fewer than 100 attendees. Those events will receive marketing materials like stickers, shirts and graphics cards through the site. "Every party, even if you only have 10 people in your garage, gets something," said Makin.
In addition to merchandise, the website will have an event calendar along with a registration system that can take credit cards. Smaller events often cannot get a credit card machine and spend tremendous manpower on registration, but organizers can now offload that task to the website. There will also be a "party builder" flash application that lets LAN parties draw up table, seats and power requirements. Attendees themselves can register with PalitLan and then upload pictures of their gear and sign up for other LAN parties.
It's not going to be just Palit that is giving away merchandise, other hardware makers are invited to participate. Makin tells us he will share banner space and will match up sponsors to LAN parties. "No real LAN party failed because of the lack of prizes," Makin said, but of course some people attend just for a chance to win a shiny new graphics card.
Companies also want a decent return on their investment - were the prizes actually given out to attendees or taken by event organizers? Did the companies get proper product placement? The PalitLAN site will try to keep LAN organizers honest by requiring them to upload at least 5 to 10 photos of the event and products. . . .
So here is where ir0x0r and AMD worked together to devise their targeted stealth marketing. He is very experienced at organizing these kind of parties and was well-known for organizing many AMD LAN events. The perfect fertile breeding ground for budding shills.
And ir0x0r made sure to ruin ABT's relationship with Intel with his interview with Dessau. When we asked what was happening, he said this:
I vote . . . for taking the obnoxious road and getting as much exposure as possible. Intel won’t be helping us financially so we may as well get into bed with AMD.
By then we had figured it out and he was shown the door. But not before he gave us his viral playbookThe AMD Viral Playbook according to ir0x0r
According to ir0x0r, the perfect candidate for a shill was a young college student. Someone who already was a big AMD fan and someone who was already active at the tech forums. Someone who was "respected" as an alpha male. He would scout them out especially at LAN events which were his specialty and he would give the deserving guy something; perhaps a mid range video card or a CPU.
After the event, he would exchange emails and after second contact was made, would suggest that he "tell his friends" about the experience. He monitored the new potential recruit's posting very carefully to see if their return on investment (RoI) was paying off. If the new guy was just a blabbermouth and bragged about his new prize, he was dumped. If instead, the new recruit started enthusiastically posting about his new AMD hardware, then the email/PM contacts would continue and there would be (mostly) promises of future hardware.
Entire viral "campaigns" were carried in this stealthy manner. And the example of the current one at the time were exemplified by the postings that showed up at several tech forums all about the same time - "My $100 Quad-Core CPU" was their stealth campaign. Several posters started to post at different tech sites almost simultaneously about their success at unlocking the Phenom 550-X2 (and 720-X3) turning it into a Phenom II QuadCore. They actually cut this campaign short when ABT tossed ir0x0r out.
You can see today that the same poster will post here at ABT; post at ATF under another name as well as at HardOCP and OCN (for example). Yet they are pretty obvious by their system specs, the manner in which they post, and the fact that these guys at a higher level are organized. They communicate by email and PM.
It's a simple playbook. Seed the forum posters with hardware and encourage them to talk about it. They made it a science and now Edelman - already experts in Viral marketing and caught making fake blogs - have teamed up with AMD - and their former employees are now Edelman employees.Today - AMD and Edelman
Edelman is AMD's PR company and many of AMD's recently-fired marketing department now works there doing PR for AMD in San Francisco and in New York. https://old.edelman.com/index_01-22-12.asp
ABOUT EDELMAN: ...
Edelman is the world’s largest independent public relations firm, with wholly owned offices in 60 cities and 4,000 employees worldwide.
They specialize in Viral marketing: http://edelman.com/expertise/practices/ ... solutions/
Grassroots: To cultivate relevant connections with key audiences, the Diversity Solutions team employs grassroots strategies, including viral/guerilla marketing, participation in community festivals and events, local market media tours, internet presence, and retail partnerships. This allows us and our clients to connect with consumers by participating in their daily experiences.
Want a job with them? https://tbe.taleo.net/NA1/ats/careers/r ... 1&rid=1350
As an account supervisor, here will be some of your qualifications required and your duties there
- Be able to develop online marketing and issues management campaignsEdelman has been busted for breaking their own code of ethics with Walmart flogs http://www.intuitive.com/blog/edelman_s ... _blog.html
- Have a solid understanding of online blogger and influencer outreach, being able to apply experience and initiative in developing appropriate online strategies
- Have previous experience with website builds and social media campaigns
- Social media marketing program management (e.g., community management, contests, websites, campaigns, videos, etc.)
- Blogger and influencer engagement
- Online conversation monitoring and reporting
I'm just amazed at what an easy ride Edelman is getting with this significant and notable error of judgment on their part. It's not about apologizing for a screwup, it's being accountable to a code of ethics, having consequences for violating it, and having a sufficiently transparent internal management structure that lets experts like Steve Rubel at least know about all the blogging initiatives happening at the firm (Rubel explains in his comments that "Edelman has 2500 employees worldwide and I've never even been to Arkansas to meet with Wal-Mart").
Since we are talking about ethics and transparency, what does it say about the Word of Mouth Marketing Association that its members are apparently free to violate their agreed-upon ethical standards, with not much more than a light smack on the hand?
I want to highlight that we're not talking about Steve and Dick, garage bloggers, making a dumb blunder with some little firm that doesn't know much about marketing anyway, we're talking about one of the preeminent PR agencies in the world, one of the largest companies in the world, and one of the best bloggers in the PR space who should have been in the middle, ensuring that things didn't explode as they've done.
So, no, I'm sorry, but a three sentence apology doesn't mean that all is well again in the world of PR blogging, it doesn't excuse the unacceptable gaffe of Walmarting Across America, and I would like to see more from the players involved than a one-time apology and more business as usual.
Rather than just complain, however, can we agree that between this and the recent tempest in the PayPerPost teapot that it's time to create a Blogging Disclosure Best Practices so that we can at least all have similar expectations and maybe move forward without this sort of problem arising again and again?