Dr Pepper in blog astroturf campaign
March 4, 2003 5:20 AM   Subscribe

Dr Pepper astroturf blog shows that the marketers are coming to blogland. What to do? AnilDash suggest that we create a new format.. TNL follows with a first pass at a fulll disclosure that still leaves too much open. What should we do to fight the marketers when they invade our turf?
posted by Adman (38 comments total)

 
I have none of this turf you speak of.

Truth be told, it's a medium that's quite popular, and it makes sense to me that the advertising vultures would eventually feast upon its carcass.

Nonetheless, as long as they're not spamming the comments on your own site, I say let them. It stunk of pretension, and made me more or less confused to as to what it actually was until I read the news story linked in the comments on the topmost post. Of course, posts like this one just further make a spectacle, this validating their effort.
posted by angry modem at 5:44 AM on March 4, 2003


What should we do to fight the marketers when they invade our turf?

No linky love! People generally only find weblogs in two ways: (1) links from other weblogs and (2) via search engine. You don't extinguish a hyperfire by throwing hyperlinks on it.
posted by iceberg273 at 5:54 AM on March 4, 2003


netwide ridicule. a barrage of nasty email promising to never buy whatever the shit is they are selling. a little dab o' DDOS now and then. of course, when you've got actual clueless teenage morons with webcams holding fan signs, looking like they just stepped out of a GAP ad singing some moldy 60's semi-hit, already used to shilling for the man via the clothes they wear, the wishlists items they lust for and the drivel they publish, it's probably a losing battle. (nicole, YOU make ME go 'moo'.)
posted by quonsar at 6:06 AM on March 4, 2003


actual clueless teenage morons.
posted by quonsar at 6:08 AM on March 4, 2003


Didn't we sort of invade their turf what with the whole 'broadcasting to the masses' thing?

Anyway, the best way to fight this kind of thing is to ignore it.
posted by bondcliff at 6:30 AM on March 4, 2003


Has our turf been invaded? That would imply that there's a limited ammount of real estate and that that these guys could subsume it. Luckily, that ain't the case.

Although I sort of shirked back in disgust when I visited the site, I don't think that an onslaught of "commercial blogs" should do anything to tarnish the quality of the real, quality blogs.

If the kids want Dr. Pepper providing their blog entertainment for them, so be it. I don't think we gain anything by stomping our feet and crying that we were here first.
posted by Pinwheel at 6:31 AM on March 4, 2003


Full Disclosure: Hey that's my site up there :)

It's a common refrain about marketers and online properties. I remember when hotwired set up the first banners and we were all aghast at the upcoming invasion of banners (in a way, we should have been, a lot of commercial pages are getting worse and worse).

Then we were scared when AOL opened up access to usenet for its users, creating a long list of "me-too" messages and generallly lower the s/n quality of usenet.

Then, there were pop-ups, and op-unders, etc...

The growing marketisation of the net is inevitable. Come up with a successful approach to distributing info and marketers will follow.

I think the Dr. Pepper campaign is just the beginning. However, I'd like to modify adman's assertion that this is about fighting the marketers. When I posted the draft of the full disclosure format, my thought was that it would allow for marketers to co-exist with us. Basically, it's an opt-in kind of deal. If you've got a full disclosure xml, you are providing more info about what you will or will not do for money/goods/etc and how much you're getting.

It's all about transparency. I think marketing, corporate, and personal blogs can co-exist but, much like the accessibility statements, there should be a full disclosure statement if you're shilling for something or someone. If there isn't, it's caveat emptor.
posted by TNLNYC at 6:43 AM on March 4, 2003


These will be the TRL of Weblogs.
posted by mkelley at 6:43 AM on March 4, 2003


I think there are some bloggers who would like to get paid for blogging. Cool, here's one way that might happen. I know that as the Internet becomes more ingrained in my life, I want to be able to go on-line and learn more about a company and what they offer. Cool, here's a way that might happen (although the copy on that cow site didn't make any sense to me, and the whole thing has an artificial, forced quality to it that turned me off pretty quick).

Marketing, corporate driven culture, sponsored content -- these things aren't intrinsically bad. They can be very bad, but they don't have to be. You might want to relax a bit. I'd suggest Prozak™.
posted by willnot at 6:52 AM on March 4, 2003


What exactly is the worry here? Not trying to be snarkster but is it that people are worried that unsuspecting people will be duped by the marketing geniuses at BIG COMPANIES into being entertained, and then they will go out and buy products unwillingly. Hey it's the new subliminal advertising!

My guess is that the extreme lameness of the content will perform it's own labeling.
posted by jeremias at 6:53 AM on March 4, 2003


Marketers invading "our" turf? Give me a break. The blog "turf" already includes everyone from clueless teenagers whining about their angst to ubergeeks discussing arcane issues that only a few dozen people in the world actually understand. The teenagers and the ubergeeks are able to coexist because they ignore each other. Similarly, the people who care about commercial product blogs will link to those sites, and the people who don't, won't.

And TNLNYC? How about all the people who go to tech conferences and blog about the wonderful new toys from [insert company here], without bothering to mention that between the company-provided travel, lodging, and giveaway goodies they've received between hundreds and thousands of dollars for their "unbiased" opinion? (I especially love it when those same people talk about how much more independent and trustworthy they are than traditional journalists.) Anyone who thinks Dr. Pepper is the first company to use blogs for marketing hasn't been paying attention.
posted by kewms at 7:03 AM on March 4, 2003


"What should we do to fight the marketers"

I think the best way to nip this in the bud would be to link them on a major discussion forum which is read by lots of webloggers who will in turn link it on their sites. That will show them. If we just ignored it and they eventually got bored with the idea because no one ever visited........

Bletch... Whatever..... Invading our territory? Time to get some perspective.

"The growing marketisation of the net is inevitable."

Not. I've been hearing this for eight years. I'd say the percentage of no ads, private, not-for-profit websites is higher than ever. Sure, lots of sites are "marketised" (big words make things sound authoritative - woohoo) but most aren't. Same prognosticating, different day.
posted by y6y6y6 at 7:14 AM on March 4, 2003


kewms: How about all the people who go to tech conferences and blog about the wonderful new toys from [insert company here], without bothering to mention that between the company-provided travel, lodging, and giveaway goodies they've received between hundreds and thousands of dollars for their "unbiased" opinion?

That's why I've got an entry field. I guess this would go into the compensation part (instead of goods, should it be goods and services?) and attach the info to the one entry about the show.

As far as thinking Dr. Pepper is the first, I don't think it is but I think it's going to get worse (it's the pessimist in me). Besides, some people will decide to shill for something (I run banner ads, which pay for my hosting) but if they do not, they might want to advertise that fact too. That's what I'm trying to accomplish with my approach.
posted by TNLNYC at 7:15 AM on March 4, 2003


Speaking of raging cows... We had a bull when I was a kid that broke into daddy's meth lab. It not only ate all of the sudafed but also got cranked up on the speedball he kept out there to "take the edge off" when the monotony of the plowing got to him. Anyway, the bull, Ol' Moses, as we called him (because the heifers would part like the Red Sea to let this fine stud pass by), so, Ol' Moses sets off into the barn and ultimately busted up the artificial insemination equipment pretty bad. Squirrel, our best technicians, lost three gloves before he could really grip Moses' prostate for milking. That's none too purty.
Long story short, Squirrel ended up with the head injury that changed his nickname to Twitch, Moses ended up suffocated under a pile of feedcorn, and with all of the money lost from the meth, the crank, and bull-milker, I had to drop out of St. Smibbens Academy and forfeited my scholarship to Sacramento State.
posted by putzface_dickman at 7:18 AM on March 4, 2003


I may have missed this point somewhere, but what is the incentive for marketers to include this data in their feeds?Or conversely, what are the punishments for not including this data?

Why would a company want to advertise the fact they are advertising if they don't have to?
posted by jeremias at 7:36 AM on March 4, 2003


There was a post in there that consisted of just a graphic: a hoof raising a pitchfork in defiance of... something... and the slogan, "The Revolution Will Be Homogenized!"

O irony, thy name is cow.
posted by RylandDotNet at 7:39 AM on March 4, 2003


That reminds me of a certain period of fark.com -- which I used to frequent, but no longer do -- which began, innocuously enough, with a "survey" as to how fark could offer some advertising "space" to Dr.Pepper while avoiding the use of popups, under the reasoning that popups were annoying.

Officially, it was said that no solution was reached, so apparently the matter died on the vine, or so it seemed.

For the next month after that, or "way beyond the point where it was still funny", it seemed that every discussion on the site had at least one post which went to the effect of "well, I'm going off to drink a refreshing Dr. Pepper". It was really campy IMHO. Every photoshop had what seemed to be an obligatory "someone holding a bottle of DP" entry, the drink made its way into even the most obtuse of threads.

In the end the pointless mentions turned out to be FAR more annoying than any popup -- especially for a Mozilla user such as myself, who doesn't see popups anyway.

Kinda makes you wonder now if it was really a joke, or if this constituted some kind of ad... after all fark's mods have since gone all rabid with excising threads and posts with seemingly no rhyme or reason, but I'm not aware that anything was done to stem the tide of pointless DP worship. Satire or shill? It's getting hard to tell these days.
posted by clevershark at 7:43 AM on March 4, 2003


jeremias: Or conversely, what are the punishments for not including this data?

Why would a company want to advertise the fact they are advertising if they don't have to?


Well, the thought is to post a caveat emptor kind of sign. If you have that xml file, you've disclosed that you have a relationship/conflict (or not). If you don't post, it's up to the readers to exercise their judgment.

The approach is one of giving more information. In an ideal future (one can dream), this would be automatically read by browsers and/or rss readers. If there is a conflict, the entry or blog would be marked with a little symbol (maybe a $ sign by the entry) or color (if anyone has suggestions on this, they are more than welcome :) )

The idea is that the line between marketing and regular entries is getting murkier. If you post your full disclosure statement, you are saying "this is what I will and won't do for money." As a result, a reader will be more informed and could "trust" that blog more.

The problem with my approach, though, is that it doesn't have a certifiying authority. If I say "I'm doing this and that but not the third thing" and yet I do the third thing, how will readers tell. I don't have an answer for that one yet.
posted by TNLNYC at 7:59 AM on March 4, 2003


There's one modest solution here: a Blogme '03 credibility button or web ring (in the spirit of Dogme '95). Something sort of similar to Creative Commons that affirms an individual blogger's desire never to become a marketing tool. Sites that contain this button essentially agree never to kowtow to Madison Avenue, never to become part of a test group, never to link to Amazon when mentioning a book or a movie. The linking effort must be one that involves a certain purity. If you mention a product on your blog, then, unless you are commenting upon the manner in which it is being advertising, a class action lawsuit in place, or the product is so hard-to-find that it possibly deserves a link, it is your obligation to link objectively, while remaining unapologetically subjective about the topic.
posted by ed at 8:03 AM on March 4, 2003


From anil dash: Indeed, the site says, "This isn't advertising" and "We will not tell you what to write." That's obviously not true ...

From the page I get no impression that Anil has signed up for this. Also there is nothing to suggest that he has talked to any who has done.

Therefore given the above and the fact it doesn't appear to have been running long enough for a judgement to be made, I fail to understand how the fact that they say that "This isn't advertising" and "We will not tell you what to write" can be immediately dismissed with "That's obviously not true" without any other proof.

I'm not a marketing fanboy nor do I accept everything I read, but isn't it a bit harsh to dismiss this company as liars before any evidence to the contrary has been displayed?
posted by ralawrence at 8:18 AM on March 4, 2003


ed: do you have more info on that Dogme '95. It rings a bell but I'm not sure of why. And it seems like you may have a good idea there. Maybe taking a technical approach (as I did) is not the right approach...
posted by TNLNYC at 9:25 AM on March 4, 2003


Heh. Don't know what you guys are getting so het up about. Dr Pepper's a groovy cool drink - and it tastes great too. I'm drinking a refreshing can pulled from the fridge right this moment. You know - it's one of those new red-pull ones you can win great prizes with, and it's sure tastes nice too.
posted by seanyboy at 9:47 AM on March 4, 2003


TNLNYC: Well, you can start here. Basically, Dogme '95 was a movement initiated by Danish filmmakers to demand a more organic and "purer" form of filmmaking. Films produced under this credo include Vinterburg's The Celebration, Lars von Trier's The Idiots and (here in America) Harmony Korine's Julien Donkey-Boy. Filmmakers take a vow of chastity to use preexisting locations, no props, on-location sound, no opticals or filters. The result? Daring, badly photographed, performance-based films more attuned to the human psyche. And even a comedy.

Dogme '95 was high-profile in the late '90's before its concepts waned a bit in American film journals sometime under the Bush Administration. (Coincidence? I think not!) Even Spielberg was talking about making a Dogme '95 film at one point.

Under a hypothetical Blogme '03 movement, bloggers could agree to a similar vow of chastity, which they could link to from their blogs. A return to more innocent and organic blogging days, before warblogs, before A-lists, before referrals, before boring and relentless technical talk, before Google-Pyra mergers. They would agree never to link to Amazon, not to give into the referral incentives used by avaricious online retailers, or to become essentialy a one-man focus group.

In short, the focus would be on commenting reasonably on the world around them in the purest possible form. It would entail a commitment to keeping the weblog medium pure.

Or something like that. It could be as "intricate" as an XML file or just a simple commitment, a piece of code to paste on a page, for those who aren't nearly geeky enough to go beyond CSS1. Ultimately though, this pledge would involve self-discipline and personal integrity on the part of the weblogger.

While the Blogme '03 participants can allow their content to be used for an RSS feed, they would also agree never to allow their content to essentially become another company's property (aside from Creative Commons licenses), a possibility in a Pyra-Google universe, given Google's recent crackdown history.
posted by ed at 10:00 AM on March 4, 2003


ed: Thanks for the link. That sounds like a good idea. Anyone here interested in taking a first pass at writing it? If not, I'll try to get something together later on this week. Here's what I think might work:

1. A public declaration similar to Dogme about the purity of one's blog.
2. A set of categories (ie "I support all points except for point #19..." or "I carry textads on my page because, since the acquisition of blogger by google, I have to in order to get the free service" or something along those lines. )
3. If needed, we could then generate an XML file that would offer all those rules in a consistent manner so machines (ie RSS readers or browser) could read it and present it accordingly.
4. If we do #3, there might be a need for an easy to use XML file creator. It would be a web-based form with radio buttons. At the end of it, an xml file will be generated. You'll just have to cut and paste the cost on your server and you'll be done.

How does that sound to other mefiites?
posted by TNLNYC at 10:36 AM on March 4, 2003


It sounds like the first thing I would sign up for if I were a marketer. You guys need to learn to ignore this stuff and realize that it won't subsume your brain.
posted by owillis at 10:49 AM on March 4, 2003


TNLNYC: Okay, you talked me into it. I'll see if I can take a stab at a Blogme Vow of Chastity by the end of the week. :)
posted by ed at 10:55 AM on March 4, 2003


Yeah, a blogging vow of chastity, that's a great idea. A marketing person would never sign up for it, because that would be dishonest.
posted by RylandDotNet at 12:11 PM on March 4, 2003


I've been banned from posting comments on the blog now.
posted by angry modem at 12:44 PM on March 4, 2003


Well, here's my first attempt at a blog vow of chastity. Thoughts? Comments?
posted by TNLNYC at 1:14 PM on March 4, 2003


They should have asked Rys to be one of the Dr Pepper bloggers. Not relevant, I know, but the idea made me smile.

@Monday
Woke up - Work Awful - Life Rubbish - Wore Dr Pepper Baseball Cap - Was mugged.


etc...
posted by seanyboy at 1:44 PM on March 4, 2003


On the way out the door, so I'll need to come back to this thread later, but my somewhat lengthy rant from a couple of days ago about this is here, if you're interested.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:48 PM on March 4, 2003


Not that this DP stuff will do anything to me... the stuff tastes like battery acid passed through a monkey's kidneys.
posted by clevershark at 5:17 PM on March 4, 2003


Did anybody really not see this coming? I sure did.
posted by dogwalker at 7:20 PM on March 4, 2003


I wrote a whole bunch on this last night and even interviewed one of the architects of the campaign. Part one of the interview is posted. I hope to have part two up sometime in the next couple of days. Here's the link.
posted by filchyboy at 8:09 PM on March 4, 2003


I shouldn't have to say this, but apparently I do: Take it to Blogroots.
posted by jjg at 9:02 PM on March 4, 2003


How is this any different than our classic Web shils like Harry Knowles or anyone under a ad-based hosting site?

The Web rolls on.
posted by Down10 at 2:47 AM on March 5, 2003


Or sites with text ads? :-)

Come on people... bandwidth costs money. Time spent working on a blog costs money (it's called 'opportunity costs' in economic terms). Internet access, necessary if a blog-writer wants to update his/her page regularly, costs money.

We can all argue until we're blue in the face that all blogs should be as pure as a certain unnamed soap bar, but then all this will succeed in doing is restrict the "legitimate" blogger market to upper-class folks who have both time AND money.
posted by clevershark at 7:40 AM on March 5, 2003


I shouldn't have to say this, but apparently I do: Take it to Blogroots.

Personally, I disagree. I haven't been under the impression that blogroots was designed to move a certain class of discussion off metafilter, and I'm not certain that everyone here reads both sites. Quite apart from the irony that you're asking us to move the discussion to a site which exists at least partially to shill a book. Thanks for the link though. I always enjoy the quality of discussion over there.
posted by walrus at 8:46 AM on March 5, 2003


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