Remember the wolf wrapped up in Grandma’s nightie? He’s now a role model for top marketing droids. As they spread their slick prose out over the Web, imagining we’ll all imagine they’re “just plain folks”– let’s imagine instead we’re Red Riding Hood checking out someone who claims to be Grandma. Marketing droids may not have great big teeth, but they do make some very obvious mistakes:
- Droids ask for trust but dodge verifiability. The author of Microsoft’s “I just switched from Apple” story (outed by Slashdotters in October 2002) larded her prose with “personal” details and cute little interjections like “Girl Scout’s honor.” She also kept her identity secret, used a stock image as if it were her own photo, and turned out to have been promoting Microsoft products for years.
- Droids love fake ultra-amateur effects. Check out the scrawly “graffiti” on Dr. Pepper’s faux blog for Raging Cow. OK, handwritten scrawls on a piece of paper might be the work of a real amateur. But to get such a scrawl into a 4K gif with a transparent background…Grandma, is that you? Who went out and bought you an art department?
- Droids can’t resist adding stuff that Grandma wouldn’t. That Republican canned-letters-to-smalltown-papers campaign reeked of obvious spoilers. You can picture a non-droid Grandma writing “President Bush is demonstrating genuine leadership”–a little pompous, maybe, but it’s possible. But how likely is she to cite average tax cuts to four significant figures? The fake “Microsoft switcher” couldn’t resist urging readers to buy, right away, Microsoft’s most expensive package. She also jumped schizophrenically, back and forth, between oh-so-sincere gushing personal memoir and complex step-by-step switching procedures.
I notice, since starting this story, that Dr. Pepper has stopped pretending their ragingcow.com page is a blog. It’s now a webpage that admits it’s an ad. I give lots of credit for this to webloggers who protested their original deception. In this case we bloggers played not only Red Riding Hood but the woodsman with the ax. Both roles are needed, with all those wolves out there.
Betsy’s quote of the day for earnest droids: “The most important thing is sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” Jean Giraudoux