A terrible viral marketing idea goes wrong
I’m going to stick my neck out and say that this Guardian Travel blog, is a Viral Marketing stunt to promote E4’s teenage drama, Skins.
In short, plucky 19-year-old, Max Gogarty is writing a blog about his travels to India and Thailand. The introduction casually notes that he writes scripts for Skins, which is interesting. As a stand alone blog post, the 450 comments agree it’s rather rubbish and well below the quality of the Guardian’s other travel writers. Naturally then, angry readers did a little digging and discovered that Max is the son of Paul Gogarty, a regular contributor to Guardian Travel.
But they have taken the wrong track. Yes, the "Who’s your daddy?" debate is getting the most attention after the Conway scandal, but what many missed is that the URL ends with Skins_blog.html. But really, his blog post is far too tedious, and Max far too similar to a Skins’ character, to exist (I’m not denying Max himself exists, just his online persona).
I really hate these sorts of marketing ideas. Any idea based upon deceiving people is a bad one. Worse, it makes all marketers look bad. I didn’t like these mysterious stones, nor Lonelygirl15 for this very same reason. No matter how much attention you get, when you lie to a lot of people (or even just 1), they’re going to be peeved. And the Guardian readers are furious.
The other problem with this campaign is that it’s awful. Really, why choose the Guardian instead of setting up a blog? With promotion from the Skins MySpace page this could have easily got a lot of attention. How about "Max goes to discover the India’s Skins"? And what were the Guardian thinking? Did they really let let such a promotion slide as ‘content’?
Surely the best Guerrilla marketing works when a company can deliver a great message, to the right audience in a refreshing way?
Update: A mysterious contributor points to today’s editor’s response.
"No one snuck Max through the backdoor. I called him purely on the strength of his track record. On the back of his writing at his comprehensive school, he was invited on to a young writers’ group at the Royal Court theatre, and since then he has worked as an occasional writer on the TV series Skins. I think that’s pretty impressive for a 19-year-old.
I can also see why you might think this was a promo for Skins. It says skins_blog in the url. This was put in as a working title, and we forgot to change it. My fault. No one from Skins approached me in order to get a bit of free publicity for the show."
I hope, for the Guardian’s sake, that’s the truth. It still hasn’t stopped the angry comments.