Al Gore’s Penguin? You Have a Right to Manipulate Me. As Long as You Tell Me You Are.

One of my wife’s tabloids featured an ad for Vitamin Water featuring American Idol star Kelly Clarkson (I guess she lost enough weight that the campaign is live). The ad is made to look like the cover of the tabloid and uses its masthead. Since it appears upsidedown and is marketed by tiny 10-point type as being an advertisement… it looks like the magazine is doing a cover story on Clarkson and Vitamin Water.

Deceptive? I thought so. And I had the same feeling about Friday’s Wall Street Journal article titled “Where Did That Video Spoofing Gore’s Film Come From?” Here’s the video.

Highlights of the WSJ article (written by Antonio Regalado and Dionne Searcey):

  • Al Gore’s Penguin Army,” is a two-minute video now playing on Gore appears as a sinister figure who brainwashes penguins and bores movie audiences by blaming the Mideast crisis and starlet Lindsay Lohan’s shrinking waist size on global warming.
  • The video’s maker is listed as “Toutsmith,” a 29-year-old who identifies himself as being from Beverly Hills in an Internet profile. The WSJ busted him in an e-mail exchange in which it was clear that computer routing information contained in an email sent from Toutsmith’s Yahoo account indicate it didn’t come from an amateur working out of his basement. It originated from a computer registered to DCI Group, a Washington, D.C., public relations and lobbying firm whose clients include oil company Exxon Mobil Corp.
  • As its popularity has exploded, the public video-sharing site has drawn marketers looking to build buzz for new music releases and summer blockbusters. Now, it’s being tapped by political operatives, public relations experts and ad agencies to sway opinions.

Now it’s me talking. I found the video really funny! It has little to do with my political stance and more about the fact that it was irreverent, absurd, topical and sophomoric. That said, it wins DCI the first monthly “WVFF Viral Penicillin” award for making a series of basic errors:

  • First, don’t wear a mask. Tell us who you are. We’ll still laugh and forward it, and you won’t end up on the WSJ as the “poster child for manipulative PR.” Which isn’t a great thing if you’re a PR firm.
  • Second, watch that e-mail thread. How in the world did you get busted for that? Or maybe the WSJ had an inside “deep throat” they had to keep anonymous so they blamed it on e-mail since it’s hard to prove that wrong. I didn’t know e-mail carried secrets about the computer from which it originated. I’d better stop e-mailing YouTube and telling them I’m with the WSJ. 
  • Third, don’t by Google ads to promote your viral flick. It’s a giveaway that it has an agenda. Who can afford paid search to drive visits to a video?

2 Replies to “Al Gore’s Penguin? You Have a Right to Manipulate Me. As Long as You Tell Me You Are.”

  1. I once had dinner at the UNOs in Georgetown with David Spade and Adam Sandler. Want to guess which one was really cool and which was really sarcastic?

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