Guerilla marketing and false reality

Engadget had a post today that uncritically described European mobile network provider Orange paying Polish actors to line up outside its store for the iFone launch in that country.  It’s another example of the way that advertising is no longer about product awareness or rationalizing a need, it’s about appealing to emotions and giving an appearance of popularity and “coolness.”

Emotion-based marketing is worrying enough, but by paying actors to pretend they want an iFone, does it not create a false reality for those walking by?  Even if passersby don’t decide they want an iPhone today, they may perceive it to be a socially/culturally important product.

On top of this, advertising now steps out of billboards and TV ads, instead forcing its way into our perception of reality whether we like it or not.  We cannot change the channel or turn the page to avoid the ad.  Instead, the ad may crowd the sidewalk and alter my fate by forcing me to cross the street.  Or perhaps there’s a pretty girl among the actors and I decide to flirt with her?  She may not actually be interested in me, but may feign attraction and convince me to become a part of this iFone crowd without my awareness that I’m participating in a marketing campaign.  A whole new type of prostitution!

This “pretty girl” scenario also leads to another possibility.  My memory may forever be altered to include this product placement.  Perhaps I will begin to associate the iFone with attractive women.  At the very least, when I tell friends about getting a hot girl’s phone number, the iFone will forever be a part of the story.

This type of marketing also may appear in the news for any number of reasons.  Perhaps the crowd gets big enough for it to be considered an “event.”  Or maybe traffic slows due to the crowd and pedestrians crossing the street, causing an accident or pedestrian fatality.  In any case, the news stories will have to mention the iFone.

Maybe such marketing is harmless and I worry too much, but it feels very intrusive and disempowering.  Billboards are bad enough in that they are unavoidable, but this guerilla marketing makes it reasonable to mis-trust other people and question the reality in front of my eyes.  It becomes a part of my life in the way a Billboard can’t because I unknowingly interact with it.  It’s also a takeover of public space by a private company.  At what point do we, as a society, decide that it’s gone too far?


~ by Daniel on 22 August, 2008.

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