Are you excited about the prospects for VUDU, the magic peer-to-peer cable-bypass box that allows you to watch thousands of movies on demand (and, sooner or later, presumably, TV shows, YouTube videos, etc.) with minimal hassle and cost and a big heave-ho to your greedy cable operator? So are we.
However! A warning to all those who:
- Get invited by friends to VUDU movie-watching parties.
- Read blog comments written by people raving about VUDU.
- Get free, un-prompted tutorials about VUDU from friends.
Why do you need to be warned? Because those friendly VUDU evangelists may be getting paid by the company to do and say those things–as part of the VUDU Evangelists program…
VUDU was kind enough to invite us to apply to participate in this program–and, in exchange, was willing to sell us a $399 VUDU box for $99 and give us $99-worth of movie credits, for a total VUDU Evangelist Compensation value of $399.
We won’t be applying to partipate in the program: Unfortunately for VUDU, we sell our secret shilling services for a lot more than $399, and we only accept payment in bags of low-denomination bills. (Of course, if VUDU is willing to raise its offer…). But we thought YOU might want to participate in the program (email invitation below), and we also thought this would be a good time to analyse paid word-of-mouth marketing programs in general.
Here’s our take: As long as the Evangelist discloses that he or she is a paid member of the program, we’re fine with it. If our friends want to waste their time scheduling parties and humping products for $399, we certainly don’t want to stand in the way. On the other hand, if we were to find out after the fact that, say, half the VUDU product reviewers on Amazon, et al, were actually paid to write those reviews (or, worse, that our friends were raving about the product only because they were on the VUDU payroll), we would be PISSED–at our friends and at VUDU.
So we’re going to give VUDU the benefit of the doubt and assume that a requirement of the Evangelist Program is that all Evangelists disclose their participation. And we’re also going to make a counter-offer to VUDU:
Send us a box, and we’ll review your product for free. We can’t promise that we’ll like it, but we’ll gladly promise that we’ll try it (Of course, we’ll be especially likely to like it if we can keep it and use it forever at no charge. And if it happens to arrive with a bag of cash…)
YOUR VUDU EVANGELIST PAID WORD OF MOUTH PROGRAM INVITATION
<tt><tt><span style="border-bottom: 1px dashed rgb(0, 102, 204); background: transparent none repeat scroll 0% 50%; cursor: pointer; -moz-background-clip: -moz-initial; -moz-background-origin: -moz-initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: -moz-initial;" class="yshortcuts" id="lw_1196796903_1">VUDU</span> is currently recruiting people to join our evangelist program.<br /><br />We believe <span style="border-bottom: 1px dashed rgb(0, 102, 204); cursor: pointer;" class="yshortcuts" id="lw_1196796903_2">VUDU</span> has the opportunity to transform the way we enjoy<br /> movies at home-in other words, to change the world. Why is this important?<br /> Because today people are not watching what they want to watch-they're<br /> watching what's available to watch. The truth is we deserve an on-demand<br /> experience.<br /><br />To learn more about <span style="border-bottom: 1px dashed rgb(0, 102, 204); cursor: pointer;" class="yshortcuts" id="lw_1196796903_3">VUDU</span>, click here: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.vudu.com/"><span class="yshortcuts" id="lw_1196796903_4">http://www.vudu.com/</span></a> <br />We expect evangelists to:<br /><br />* Educate others about the benefits of getting movies delivered over<br /> the Internet and directly to the TV. <br />* Respond to third-party blog postings. <br />* Participate in online surveys and help us shape the product's<br /> evolution. <br />* Present the product to friends and acquaintances by hosting movie<br /> parties. <br />* Be our eyes and ears in the marketplace.<br /><br />If you qualify, we're prepared to offer you a <span style="border-bottom: 1px dashed rgb(0, 102, 204); cursor: pointer;" class="yshortcuts" id="lw_1196796903_5">VUDU</span> box for $99 (regular<br /> retail price is $399). In addition, we'll credit your account with $99<br /> worth of movie credits. <br /> <br />We have a limited number of units available for evangelists, so I ask<br /> that you respond within four days of receiving this invitation. To<br /> confirm your interest, please visit:<br /> <br /><a target="_blank" href="http://www.vudu.com/aboutus_evangelists.html"><span class="yshortcuts" id="lw_1196796903_6">http://www.vudu.com/aboutus_evangelists.html</span></a>.<br /><br />You will be asked to fill out a short survey, to see if you qualify for<br /> the program. If you have any questions, please email<br /> <span style="border-bottom: 1px dashed rgb(0, 102, 204); cursor: pointer;" class="yshortcuts" id="lw_1196796903_7">[email protected]</span>. This e-mail does not guarantee acceptance into the<br /> evangelist program.<br /> <br />We are excited about the possibility of your joining our customer<br /> advocacy team.<br /> <br />Regards,<br /> <br />Patrick Cosson<br />VP, Marketing<br /><span style="border-bottom: 1px dashed rgb(0, 102, 204); cursor: pointer;" class="yshortcuts" id="lw_1196796903_8">VUDU</span>, Inc.</tt></tt>
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