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Monday, February 05, 2007

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, but the hyenas shout "No king" 



Take a gander at this sentence, which appeared in an Ambos Medios ad for Hippie Chick Twang:

This is a guerilla marketing organization that works outside the box to creatively get the message out about books, art, and music to the industry and the consumer market where their work will be loved!

If the ad had only mentioned empowerment of the individual, it would have been a perfect example of New Thinking and the End of Corporate Domination. It would inspire you to use this guerilla marketing organization, in which response is fast, hierarchies are non-existent, and -

Wait a minute. While guerilla marketing organizations have the veneer of New Whatevers, the January 31 (never forget) episode in Boston reveals that there are definite hierarchies in the guerilla marketing world.

Let's start at the top of well-known guerilla marketer Interference Inc. with Sam Ewen. He goes around giving seminars:

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Going Guerilla - A Workshop On Making The Most Of Your Street And Guerilla Promotions

With street promotion, PR stunts, Public Events, Landscape Marketing and Nightlife promotion gaining a bigger share of marketing dollars, it is more important than ever to do it right and deliver the impact that you want with your campaign. This workshop will focus on the nuts and bolts of event creation as well as measurement and maximizing your impact.

A selection of topics to be covered:

What works on/in the field and what to avoid.
Are some markets better than others?
How much should guerilla marketing cost?
How to create guerrilla marketing that stands out from the rest.
How to get Press for your marketing campaigns.
To get permits or not to get permits, that is the question.
How best to define your target and the benefit of live profiling.
How much of your budget should you allocate to guerilla marketing?
Extending the life of your street promotions beyond the event days.

The buzz on buzz continues to build. Find out why and how you can master the discipline in this unique half day workshop.

Workshop Leader: Sam Travis Ewen
CEO and Founder, Interference Inc.

But Ewen's too busy giving the seminars to go out and guerilla market any more, so he has people. One of his people is Adrienne Yee. Adrienne was the contact person for this Interference Inc. job recruitment ad - an ad which shows the levels within Interference Inc.

2006-10-05 20:35:39 - Project Coordinator, NYC

New York, NY

Company: Interference Inc.
Position: Project Coordinator
Position Type: Full-Time
Experience: Proven initiative, detail-oriented, and ability to work in fast past environment
Degree: Bachelors Degree
Salary: $35,000
Location: New York, NY


Interference Inc. is a world-renowned experiential marketing agency specializing in integrated, guerrilla and buzz marketing. This boutique agency’s impressive client roster and highly-touted event marketing programs are leading to rapid growth that makes this a particularly exciting opportunity. Please visit www.interferenceinc.com for further details on the company.


The project coordinator reports directly to the Head of Project Management. Overall role includes supporting the production and client services groups in executing marketing promotions on a local and national scale.


· Support company in planning, budgeting, and executing small and large scale events and street promotions.
· Assist in monitoring events in the field. This position will require some travel.
· Research, resource, and coordinate program development and execution
· Assist in developing, producing, editing, and distributing internal and client correspondence including: emails, status reports, presentations, event recaps, and other communications.
· Assist in the planning of and attend all necessary production, client, and account-related meetings. Meeting examples include: conference calls, brainstorming sessions, recap meetings, program events and other interactions.
· Assist in maintaining budgets (expense reconciliations, budget tracking, etc)
· Inventory management (uniforms, premiums, equipment, etc)
· Staff programs based on staff profile requirements


· Extremely organized individual who is a self-starter and able to learn quickly in a fast-paced environment
· Proficient in all MS applications including MS Outlook, PowerPoint, Excel and Word
· Strong writing and communication skills

Contact person: Adrienne Yee

So now you see that Sam Ewen has project managers, project coordinators, production groups, client services groups, and presumably someone to run to the indie coffeeshop before it closes at midnight.

So are these the guerilla marketers? Nope. Interference Inc. uses one or more levels of contractors:

In a State Police report, investigators say that [Peter] Berdovsky told them he met a man in Brooklyn last November who asked him to participate in a “promotional stunt” and steered him to Interference.

So there's the possibility that the initial person who contacted Berdovsky wasn't even an Interference Inc. employee, but someone who referred Berdovsky to Interference.

So did Interference hire Berdovsky? Nope.

The company promised to pay Berdovsky and [Sean] Stevens $300 each to install 40 of the signs around Boston.

So, let's follow the trail here. Someone in Adult Swim decides to promote Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and the Adult Swim person contacts someone in Cartoon Network, then either someone in Cartoon Network or parent Turner Broadcasting contacts Interference Inc., perhaps talking with Sam Ewen, perhaps not. Interference Inc. puts the word out on the party circuit, and rounds up $600 in cash for the Boston, Massachusetts portion of the promotion.

So much for no hierarchy. Perhaps the Adult Swim person could have flown to Boston and installed the devices, eliminating the middleman. But he wouldn't have had the benefit of an e-mail instruction manualette:

A marketing company official, whom Berdovsky identified as Adrienne Yee, sent him an e-mail listing the “do’s and don’ts” of where to place the signs. Target areas included train stations, overpasses, “hip and trendy areas, high traffic areas of high visibility.”

Things go well for several weeks, until Peter was watching TV one day:

[L]ate Wednesday morning...the friends saw television footage of police blowing up one of the signs and realized what was happening. The friends e-mailed links to the footage to one another. About 1:25 p.m. Berdovsky e-mailed several friends and said the advertising firm had told him to keep quiet, friends said.

Here the accounts diverge. Here's one version:

Interference did not contact the police. Turner Broadcasting claims that it didn’t hear from Interference about the uproar until 5pm that afternoon. Meanwhile, the city of Boston was paralyzed, federal officials were rushing to the scene, and US Northern Command was monitoring the situation at its Colorado Springs headquarters.

According to the [Boston] Globe, Interference didn’t even have the decency to post bond for Stevens and Berdovsky.

Here's another version, this one from Sam Ewen:

We first received word of the situation when our contracted employee, Peter Berdovsky, called our office to explain that the marketing campaign had become a story in the local news. We immediately informed Turner Broadcasting System of this.

By the way, isn't "contracted employee" an oxymoron? Or was Ewen loath to admit that Interference Inc. doesn't actually do any guerilla marketing themselves? But Ewen then indirectly slaps his "contracted employee":

At no time, and in no way, did we ever seek to hide our involvement in this situation or ask or direct others to do so. Additionally, in no way did we delay our response to the situation. Any statement to that end is completely false. On the contrary, we contacted the authorities immediately in order to rectify this unfortunate situation. We are continuing to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Predictably, the blogosphere is going after Ewen:

Meanwhile, Mr. Ewen (who shut down Interference's website for two days after the incident) added a video on Thursday to the "Favorites" section of his YouTube page that makes fun of Boston city officials for overreacting. (Jackpot321 is Mr. Ewen's standard username. A google cache of a deleted page where he unfortunately refers to "bomb[ing] LA" with the campaign is here.) One assumes he did not add this video on the advice of counsel (or of the public relations firm he has hired to deflect further inquiries)....

So a guerilla marketer not only employs guerilla marketers, but also a public relations firm.

Although the content of Ewen's official statement and that of his most recent YouTube "Favorites" selection appear diametrically opposed, media experts say that self-contradictory psyches are an earmark of advertising and marketing professionals, many of whom are frustrated artists torn between their dual desires to rebel and "sell out." Does Mr. Ewen, whose marketing firm co-opted the methods of tech-savvy street artists for the ATHF campaign and then remained silent while two of the artists the company had employed as contract labor were arrested on felony charges, have issues?

But I guess we'll need a noted semanticist such as Bill Clinton to sort this out:

Those who have been following this story closely understand that what constituted "immediately" at the offices of Interference on January 31st is an open question....

But, more importantly, the dirty little secret is out. You don't need to hire guerilla marketing experts to promote your company, since the guerilla marketing experts don't do guerilla marketing anyway, and it doesn't appear that they are any more expert than you.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to contact a blog promotion consultant.

Favorite U.S. president - Third favorite Finnish figure skater

Hi O.E. - thank you so much for the blog ink!!! Hippie Chick Twang actually IS a little publicity house with integrity. We aren't 'THE MAN' and we do things quite differently. We also depend on the kindness of bloggers who help so much. Our name ends up getting us in blogs (some like this one that uses us as an example of 'something')...but we are just glad you noticed us. Obviously, we three muskateer (sp?)creative types who've decided to open a shop after being burned by a large p.r. firm...have done something right. Blessings to you, and again - thanks for the cyber-ink! -- devon/hippie 2
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