Editor's Blog: Susie Muses on Viral Video and Guerrilla Marketing

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Editor's Blog: Susie Muses on Viral Video and Guerrilla Marketing


Whether you're the type who spends an hour every day chuckling at lolcats, or you were the last person in your office to know what the heck "Lazy Sunday" was, by this point in time I'd wager that most of us are at least familiar with the concept of viral videos and Internet memes. But what happens when these Internet in-jokes are let loose on the real world as a guerrilla marketing scheme, like we saw in Boston? Or when viral videos are used to sling mud from behind a curtain of anonymity during a presidential election?


You may have heard about the American Red Cross's Bay Area chapter's new "Prepare Bay Area" ad campaign. So far it's included a mobile billboard in Justin Herman Plaza showing scenes of destruction and the tagline "What do we have to do to get your attention?", fake "Earthquake Early Warning System" bells (no such system exists for earthquakes, of course), and other tactics designed to startle Bay Area residents into taking steps to prepare for a natural disaster. There was even a fake Craigslist ad (which is down now, but click the link for a screenshot) describing an apartment for rent ("Beautiful rubble floors ... drywall and roof particle counter tops") and showing pictures of a building demolished by an earthquake.


You may have also heard about the "Big Sister" video over on YouTube, which combines footage from the "conversations" pieces on Sen. Hillary Clinton's website with footage from the famous "1984" Mac commerical (although it uses the newer version where the Hammer Lady wears an iPod). It ends with the Apple logo morphed into a O (for Sen. Barack Obama), and the tagline: "On Jan. 14, the Democratic primary will begin. And you'll see why 2008 won't be like 1984."


What do these have in common? In the first case, you have an established, respected organization, the Red Cross, adopting more in-your-face tactics than we may be used to. I'm used to seeing Red Cross ads and PSAs on the bus, on TV, in magazines...the usual. Are those usual channels enough to really grab my attention and shake me into action? Probably not. (In full disclosure, yeah, I do have a "disaster kit" in a closet at home in case I'm displaced by The Big One, so I guess I'm one of the 6 percent of Bay Area residents the Red Cross says are prepared, although I could always be more prepared.) Even if you find these methods too "fearmongery," or even if you agree with me that the Craigslist post is just...confusing, I'd argue that the ads are still effective. They get people thinking, talking, blogging, et cetera -- and they always include the Red Cross's name and website. So even if your initial reaction is "Huh?" you have a place to go for more information.


In the second case, you have viral video with a political bent, advocating one candidate over another. The problem is, no one knows who made it. Obama's side isn't taking credit, of course, even though the URL shown at the end is BarackObama.com. So even though it doesn't actually attack Hillary on any actual issues or positions, it couldn't be fairly discredited or rebutted even if it did. Since we're so early in the primary process, you know that this won't be the last. Candidates and PACs trying to Swift-Boat each other is one thing, but when those dubious claims start floating around the Web and filling up our inboxes, it'd be nice to at least know who's on the other end. There's a reason why political ads on TV must disclose who paid for them -- because they stretch the truth. So knowing whose agenda the ad is supporting is often more illuminating than the ad's content. As the Internet gets more involved with each election (this election is even getting a channel on MySpace), it'd be nice if the same rules applied. But they won't.


Public service announcements about natural disasters, presidential elections: These are serious things. And while guerrilla marketing can be effective, we've also seen it backfire. As it grows more common, do you think there's any line that shouldn't be crossed? Should anonymous videos like the "Big Sister" mashup simply be ignored, and is that even possible in today's "everything everywhere is being blogged about at all times" society? What do you think?


UPDATE 3/22: The "Big Sister" guy has outed himself. A commenter said that he'd been fired by his company, but according to Phil de Vellis's post, he resigned from Blue State Digital because the Internet company does work for several presidential campaigns and he didn't want to harm the company's reputation. I hope his pride of accomplishment is worth more to him than his job, but kudos to him for coming forward.




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All your Apple emails from your Inbox are automatically transfered to the "Apple emails" mailbox we just created. And also all the future emails from Apple will now go to their appropriate mailbox automatically.photography company.


Jim H

He's somebody working for Obama's media firm, who made it over the weekend on his Mac. The firm fired him when they found out, they say. If it was W, would you believe he knew nothing? I didn't when the Swift Boaters were disowned by Bush.

I don't think the ad was a fair shot at all. It was unsigned, which is cowardly. And it was content-free; it's one thing to make a hyperbolic but brilliant ad to sell Macs -- was IBM the "evil empire," really? -- but another one entirely to sell political candidates. If you don't like Hillary, please tell us why. Particularly in the same party, you owe the voters that.

YouTube has a wonderful role in politics. You can air political ads -- which have to disclose who they're by, and who's paying for them -- or you can release actuality and guerilla video like the "macaca" incident, which the Webb campaign disclosed instantly that they had done. That became an interactive, web 2.0 barroom fight, but it was honest. Webb's campaign just posted the video. No FX. No obscure allusions to "1984," which, unless your opponent has actually suspended civil rights and sent people to prison without trial, like you know who, the mention of Orwell should be like bringing up Hitler -- an instant admission of a weak argument.



What scares me more than any of these guerrilla tactics are some of the comments people made to the Obama/1984 video, I even copied and pasted some to send em to my dad so he could be fearful as I was. Lemme just show a few

" Bush is the most HONEST, and they all hate him cuz he is CHRISTIAN, plain and simple...the world hates truth and many Americans have fallen victim to stupidity...they call good, bad, and evil, good"

" Obama, Hillary, what's the difference. They're both socialist collectivists. Our founding fathers would spin in their graves if they knew the collectivist totalitarianism which crouches at our door like wolves in sheep's clothing. Americans are such tools of the liberal media."

Let me end with a collective


On a side note, I love the math question forced line, definetly need that in more places, let's see some multiplication eh? or at least some negative numbers! heh


Laurent Newman

This is an easy management tip for all the Mail app. users who get too much emails, including me. We wound up with an Inbox that gets out of control within 2 days if left unattended.

Start by creating a Mailbox named "Apple emails"(for this example).

Now go back to your Inbox and select a random email from Apple.

Go to Preferences, click on the rule tab, then click on Add Rule.
In the Description box that follows, change Rule # to "Apple".

By default the next drop-down menus will be set on From and Contains. Because we have selected an email from Apple from the Inbox earlier, the next field already has the email address of the sender, Apple in this example.

Next , set the action to "Move Message" to mailbox "Apple emails" and click OK.

Next, click "yes" in the Apply Rules window.

All your Apple emails from your Inbox are automatically transfered to the "Apple emails" mailbox we just created. And also all the future emails from Apple will now go to their appropriate mailbox automatically.

You can create as many rules as you want, so the same process can be repeated for all your regular email senders, thus automatically clearing your inbox and sorting your emails.

The only downside is that the Mail icon in the dock will only show the number of unread emails in the Inbox and will not account for the number of unread emails already sorted. But I think that the benefits of this system make up for it.

A "Smart Mailbox" can also sort out emails by sender, but it does not actually transfer the emails, leaving the Inbox with tons of emails to still sort manually.

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