Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Plague of Flogs: Here’s my hot tip for the big public relations buzzword of 2007: “flog.” A “flog,” for those who have not been paying attention, is “a fake blog typically used as a sales tool.”

Early examples include, most notoriously, the Wal-Marting Across America blog created by Edelman for the giant retailer, which featured a written by a Washington Post staff photographer and his partner, a freelance writer, as they traveled across the U.S. in an RV, parking for free at Wal-Mart stores all across the country and posting conversations with Wal-Mart employees full of praise for the notoriously generous and tolerant retail giant. Unfortunately, the authors forgot to mention that their entire jaunt was subsidized by the company.

The latest example is brought to you by Sony, which shortly before Christmas set up a blog called alliwantforxmasisapsp (it’s now been taken down, but it’s parodied here), written in an “urban patois” by a hip hop artist called Charlie, whose cousin Pete really, really wanted a Sony PSP for Christmas but who couldn’t afford one.

If you haven’t already guessed, neither Charlie nor Pete was a real person. They were fictional characters created by some Sony marketing whiz whose enthusiasm for the blogosphere was matched only by his (or her) contempt for Sony’s customers.

“It’s a stealth marketing practice that’s unethical,” Andy Sernovitz, chief executive of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, tells the Sacramento Bee. “A business pretending to be a consumer is always wrong,” he adds—something that should be obvious but clearly is not. “I don’t think it’ll become a big trend, because they get busted almost as fast as they happen. The blogosphere does a great job of enforcing itself.”

So the technique is both deceptive and stupid. For that reason, I expect to see much, much more of it over the next 12 months.


  • At 9:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Unfortunately you're right.

    But I do like the self-policing that happens in the blogosphere.

    It's still a bit early though. So I think companies will get a little better at faking it as time goes on. Hopefully it will never get to the point where we no longer recognize the fakes, or stop enforcing ethics.

  • At 3:47 AM, Blogger Paul A. Holmes said…

    The blogosphere has made the world even more transparent, obviously. But I suspect what will happen is that companies will get more sophisticated in their attempts to mislead and deceive, the way they have in the offline world with front groups, and the cat-and-mouse game will continue. I hope you're right, and that the ethics police stay a step ahead.

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  • At 6:31 PM, Blogger ms blogger said…

    I completely agree, it is sad that the credibility of actual and legitimate blogs. People are still learning what blogs are, and with flogs and splogs popping up in incredible numbers, it is really detrimental to the rest of the blogging community. There's a list of sites you can use to report flogs, and it's a great tool if you find some truly fake blogs.

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