You wouldn't believe how much effort goes into flogging cans of lager. One particular brand of lager in this case, the one that prides itself on being "reassuringly expensive". I won't mention it by name, but a link to the squandering parasites should suffice.
Last Tuesday an intriguing lager-related email popped up in my inbox. It didn't originate from the brewery, nor even from their advertising agency, but from an online marketing agency called goviral. Here, in their own words, is what they do.
Or, in other words, it's their job to try to coerce as many people as possible to talk online about what goviral want them to talk about, and then to try to encourage as many of their net-mates as possible to do the same. Do bear this in mind as you flit around the internet. Not everybody saying nice things about products, brands and services is doing it unprompted. They may be doing it because they've been asked to... or, more sneakily, been influenced to.
So, this email. It came from a lady I'll call Stella, and she had an invite which seemed too good to be true. She was promoting a campaign regarding the recyclableness of the packaging surrounding a certain brand of lager. There was a video she really wanted me to see, and to share, which would premiere online on Sunday. And to persuade me to watch she wanted to bike round a haute cuisine three course meal which I could eat at the same time.
As blogger freebies go, this was undoubtedly one of the more luxurious. My gourmet takeaway would commence with Pork Rillettes, continue with Coq au Vin and be wrapped up with Chocolate Profiteroles (plus, of course, a bottle of the sponsor's lager). A vegetarian option was also offered in case I wasn't partial to meat-munching, and I was asked to send a list of all my allergies so that their chefs couldn't accidentally kill me and get sued.
Terms and conditions, of course, applied. I had to be "aged 18 or over" and resident in "London or the Greater London area of the UK". Bad news there for underage alcoholics in Watford. My TV Dinner would be delivered "on 22nd November 2009 between 6pm and 8pm", so I had to ensure I'd be home otherwise the courier would have to chuck my meal away. And I had to RSVP by 16th November which, given they'd sent me the email on 17th November, meant my chances were surely scuppered.
I emailed Stella to tell her I wouldn't be taking her up on the offer, firstly because I have principles, but also because she'd invited me to take part after the deadline had passed. I refrained from calling her incompetent, because I always attempt to appear civil when telling marketeers to bugger off. Stella replied quickly saying "haha, yes we sent the email out yesterday and another reminder today as we have been given one days extension! Are you still keen to get involved?" Three things I've noticed that online social media PR folk do - they always assume you're receptive to their brand, they always use exclamation marks willy nilly, and they never apologise. I declined, obviously.
I declined in particular because the campaign was so atrociously ill-conceived. The theme of the campaign was "recycling", emphasising the carbon-friendly credentials of the lager in question. And yet the promoters were intending to haemorrhage food miles by cooking a wholly unnecessary multi-course meal and biking it to the four corners of the capital. And then they intended to leave us all with a whole pile of packaging to get rid of, thereby increasing recycling rather than decreasing it. Now there's a rubbish message to be sending out. And people actually get paid to think this sort of thing up.
So watch out for any London-based bloggers praising a certain brand of lager to the skies this evening. They're not genuinely impressed that the six-pack is wrapped in compostable cardboard, they're just easily bought by a freebie meal. Me, I thought I'd have beans on toast tonight instead. And a nice cup of tea.
7pm update: Here's the meal, freshly delivered elsewhere in London, in all its packaging-tastic glory. Looks more airline meal than gourmet treat, and a true bin-filler.