Guerilla (marketers) in our midst

Ross Miller
R. Miller|09.12.06

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Ross Miller
September 12th, 2006
Guerilla (marketers) in our midst
A fictionalized comment: "Hey guys! I know this is a post about Atari, but I think this is the perfect time to tell you about this super awesome game I played yesterday: Rock 'em Sock 'em Space Wars! You gotta check it out ^_^ k thx bye!"

If only it were that easy to spot an online guerilla marketer -- one who assumes the identity of John Q. Commentor and sells a product to his "fellow posters." In reality, OGMs are a lot more cunning and a lot more clever than we might realize. The Escapist managed to interview one such OGM, a particularly devious soul we'll call Jack. For four years, Jack has been working to infiltrate online communities and earn their trust, eventually pushing them toward titles favorable to his employers.

Jack will spend anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks earning trust in online forums under different avatars -- "my personalities range from a 10-year-old girl to a 78-year-old man and across different ethnicities, stereotypes and ages," he remarks. Each with its own IP address from across the globe (thanks to IP spoofing, Jack can pretend he is a soldier stationed in Kuwait, for example). He even returns to recent posts and continues conversations, just to give the impression that each of his characters are real.

We've caught sleazy marketers before, but their methods are a lot sloppier than what Jack has described. Jack is very good at what he does and claims to have never been caught. He reveals a guilty conscience, which is probably why he agreed to be interviewed, but he isn't quitting his day job. Should we really fault him, though, or should we be angry at the source?

It's an inevitable phenomenon and one people are just going to have to be careful and avoid. The guerillas are amongst us -- many will probably flame this guy in the comments while privately laughing at the irony. Just be careful whose opinions you trust.
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