Following Wal-Mart, McDonald's Caught With Fake Blogs


Perhaps directing some of the attention away from Edelman who was behind the Wal-Mart fake blog (flog) thing, are two new blogs for McDonald's, but not labeled as such. The co-promote with Monopoly. The Consumerist points to 4railroads and McDmillionwinner (link goes to Google cache as someone inside McDonald's apparent said "oops" and pulled the blog) and explains how the two sites are inter-related. Even though they carry dead giveaway copy written not by bloggers but by copywriters, the two blogs do not mention any association with McDonald's or Monopoly.

It's not that the blogs were launched in a clandestine manner. In fact, an October 19th press release makes reference to the 4railroads blog. It's just that things should be marked as they are. There's nothing wrong with cute, teaser campaigns but to pass something off as something it's not because it's thought slapping a brand name on it will lessen it's effect is, well, just not right.

Written by Steve Hall    Comments (13)     File: Brands, Opinion, Weblogs, Worst     Oct-31-06  
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Contiki Tours has been doing this as well.

Scads of college students "blog" about their experience on a Contiki bus tour of Europe and then plant links to their blogs on travel websites.

Posted by: static on October 31, 2006 02:10 PM


Posted by: Angela Natividad on October 31, 2006 02:18 PM

Edelman should be fired over this!

(Wait, what? They didn’t do this one?)

They should STILL be fired!

Posted by: makethelogobigger on October 31, 2006 03:40 PM

Why this rigid standard with blogs? If it's clearly advertising or fictional does it really need the disclaimer? After all, we don't require all TV spots to carry a disclaimer saying, "This is an ad." Why are blogs held to a different standard?

Posted by: InteractiveGeek on October 31, 2006 08:46 PM

There's a difference between real people blogging about stuff under the guise that they're real and other people pretending to be real.

And I believe TV spots do mention if real customers are used as SOP.

Posted by: makethelogobigger on October 31, 2006 08:59 PM

And blogs are a medium unto themselves. Not an ad within a larger medium such as a tv spot in a TV show o an ad in a magazine.

Posted by: Steve Hall on October 31, 2006 09:16 PM

(mistake. shoulda been: There's a difference between real people blogging about stuff and other people blogging pretending to be real.)

Posted by: makethelogobigger on October 31, 2006 09:40 PM

I do think TV spots "announce" themselves before appearing on your screen (otherwise, what's the meaning of the "after this short break" phrase largely used on television?).
On print is the same thing: whenever an ad looks too much like the editorial content of the magazine, the editors stamp a nice and clear "advertising" disclaimer on the page.
Nothing wrong with brands using whatever they like to get in touch with their consumers (wherever they might be), as long as they keep it honest and transparent. Otherwise, it's just a marketing scam, and brands are precisely the ones who shouldn't be doing this kind of things.

Posted by: G.Aleixo on November 1, 2006 04:24 AM

I'm not defending blogs that are intentionally misleading (e.g. the Wal*Mart/Edelman fiasco). I'm just questioning whether or not we should presume such a low level of sophistication that every marketing blog has to bear an obvious label.

In the case of print ads, that G.Aleixo raises, editors stamp an advertising disclaimer on ads only when they look like they're designed to mimic editorial copy. When the ads are obviously ads, presumably the editors don't feel the need to apply such a stamp.

WOMMA guidelines state that explicit disclosure is not required for an obviously fictional character. So what constitutes an "obviously fictional character?"

Posted by: InteractiveGeek on November 1, 2006 09:56 AM

IG - I guess that's like defining what's funny and what's not. If someone can't tell the difference between real and fictional characters, they shouldn't be looking at ads I suppose.

State Farm has a series of ads out now with people in various scenarios - guy drives car into lake, couple with baby yelling at insurance agent on phone, etc., but they're obviously actors except for what appears to be real agents. They get around it by flashing the word 'Dramatization' for two seconds at the begining, then the agent comes on and says this is a 'true story'.

Geico on the other hand has a new series out with a cya disclaimer about 'real customers' next to a famous person. But just one look at the customer and you know they're obviously real. No actor could pull off how stupid, bland and lifeless these people come off as.

And I'm not really sure WOMMA should be looked to as the authority on anything related to credibility as of late. They seem to have enough trouble getting people to follow their guidelines for blogs, let alone print or TV. By law, the FTC/FCC regulates what's allowed in ads. WOMMA is a self-described work in progress that sure seems to base its guidelines on what the FCT requires, as well as input from WOMMA members.

Posted by: makethelogobigger on November 1, 2006 10:50 AM

I follow InteractiveGeek on this one: how are we supposed to judge fictional/not fictional on Advertising. If you stretch the concept to the very end, McDonald's could have found/hired someone to try and win the Monopoly Game, while writting a blog about the experience at the same time. This person would "really" exist, so no fictional character there...

The bottom line, for me, is consumers' perceptions and attitudes towards brands' communication. It's quite clear to everyone by now that blogs, and their lot, do not work as bradcast media. Consumers have it their way over there, brands need to respect that.

Perhaps the day will come when brands will freely use "fictional" characters to edit blogs as a form of advertising. Like they do today with all sorts of product placement, which consummers learned to accept (or ignore?).

But for now this is surely not the case and that, at least for me, is the important thing to understand and keep in mind.

Posted by: G.Aleixo on November 2, 2006 08:37 AM

"...hired someone to try and win the Monopoly Game"

Not sure I get if that's a joke or not. By law and definitely by all sweepstakes rules, employees and their agents, blah blah, are prohibited from participating in any agency-sponsored game/contestjust for the reasons you mention, in that people suspect brands at times from being up to no good. Paying an entrant would totally reinforce that, no?

"Perhaps the day will come when brands will freely use "fictional" characters to edit blogs as a form of advertising."

Yes, possibly, but like the State Farm or Geico examples above, the story still needs to be true or have some relevant connection to the buyer/consumer. Otherwise, I'm just reading fiction from a brand? I must as well go read The Onion or Wired in that case.

I buy Pepsi� because I like the soda, not because they write well on blogs.

Posted by: makethelogobigger on November 2, 2006 10:44 AM

How sad to see companies with such excellent brands and devoted customers thinking they have to fake enthusiasm and loyalty to their products and services. They just don't get it.

The McChronicles is proud to remain THE true, unadulterated McDonald's comsumer blog. And we've never accepted even as much as a free order of small fries.

It is so easy to see how these major corporations could generate tons of passionate and true consumer energy. Instead of facilitating a groundswell, they seem to be driving their brands into the ground.

Posted by: McChronicles on November 9, 2006 10:40 PM

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