Yesterday morning, we reported that Gawker Media had acquired a blog called BloodCopy. This “news” turned out to be false, part of a viral ad campaign for an HBO show called “True Blood.”
We apologise for the error. We’d also like to explain how it happened, because we imagine others came to the same conclusion we did. We also think that HBO, Gawker, and the marketing agency crossed a line, and we’re not surprised that they are now withdrawing parts of the campaign.
First, we received an email from a marketing firm announcing that “BloodCopy has joined the Gawker Media Network.” The email was an invitation to a party to celebrate this event. The email didn’t say that what Gawker was actually doing was throwing a party for a sponsor, not adding a new blog (assuming th
e party is real). Gawker is usually quite upfront about its sponsor relationships and has never misled us before. (Full disclosure: I used to work there).
Here’s the email:
After receiving the email, we Googled “Bloodcopy,” which we had never heard of. The search turned up a site called BloodCopy.com. At the top of the site, we found a post which stated, “as of next week, we will officially be under the Gawker umbrella, joining sites such as Gawker, Gizmodo, Kotaku, Jalopnik, Lifehacker, Deadspin, Jezebel, and io9.”
There were no disclosures on Bloodcopy.com — that we saw — that explained that Bloodcopy.com was actually a promotional vehicle for True Blood owned and operated by CampfireNYC, the marketing firm hired by HBO to market True Blood (the email came from them as well). There were no disclosures that the site also will not be “officially under the Gawker umbrella.”
Below, we’ve pasted a screengrab of the post as we saw it. It’s since been removed from Bloodcopy.com.
In hindsight, we could have gone further to be certain that Gawker was, in fact, welcoming a new blog to its network. We could have known, we suppose, that the whole True Blood ad campaign has been all about creating fake news and events. We apparently should keep closer tabs on HBO vampire-show marketing strategies. (And, yes, we feel a bit sheepish and stupid.)
That said: HBO and Gawker have crossed a line here. We’re all for experimental online advertising, viral marketing, etc. In our opinion, however, this campaign is designed to trick people to coming to the same conclusion we came to. And we imagine that others, too, did not immediately realise that it was “a joke” (as one Gawker insider now puts it).
The campaign, of course, wasn’t “a joke.” It was an ad campaign designed to sell a product, and HBO paid a lot of money to produce and distribute it. That’s a marketing tactic, not a “joke.” And it’s a highly misleading one.
Update: Re-tweeting some critical analysis from Rachel Sklar, Nick Denton just offered something of a mea cupla.
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