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Fake Blogger Disappears In Poof Of Logic

Jason Lee Miller
Staff Writer
Published: 2005-10-13

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After an emotional weblog post about reaching his estranged father after nearly 30 years, BBC Radio's Tom Coates received a heartfelt message in the comment thread from one Barry Scott. A long cyber-drive later, Coates learned that commenter Barry Scott didn't really exist, and this was a tale of bad e-marketing judgment.

Coates said the emotional story about contacting a father he hadn't seen since he was five years old took him weeks to muster up the courage to write.

Three comments down the thread, Barry Scott writes:

Hi Tom,
Always remember one thing. Life is very, very short and nothing is worth limiting yourself from seeing the ones you love. I hadn't seen my father in 15 years until 2 years ago. I was apprehensive but I kept telling myself that no matter how estranged we'd become there was no river to wide to cross. Drop me a line if I can be of any more help.

The very next comment posed this question:

Er.. Is Barry Scott of Cillit Bang fame trying to promote his blog site by offering advice to a guy trying to get in touch with his dad?(Barry Scott is a fictional character from a UK TV commercial.)

Cillit Bang is a cleaning product, apparently heavily advertised in the UK.

The name Barry Scott wouldn't be a terribly uncommon name, except that the link provided with the comment led to http://www.barryscott.blogs.com, a "barely disguised viral marketing" site that has since been taken down after the ensuing bad press. Bizarre as it is, a link and a name aren't exactly proof of guilt.

This led Coates to an investigation, his Internet sleuthing skills being severely underestimated. After some IP tracking, a string of redirecting phone calls and denials, he gets in touch with representatives of a company called Reckitt Benckiser, the creator of a viral web-based campaign for Cillit Bang.

To review, a cleanser company's fictional icon left a heartfelt message about his father on a BBC Radio employee's weblog after he poured his heart out about finding his own father.

To her credit, Reckitt Benckiser's representative, Marva Carty, did express the appropriate disgust at the news, replying that the company's foray into blogging was new for them and "this is not what we're trying to achieve." The following Monday, the Cillit Bang team issued an official apology and took down faker Barry Scott's weblog.

Fake blogs set up as marketing ploys to generate product buzz is a relatively new (and slightly perverse) method. In August, we reported on Blogoriented, a company (or possibly a hoax) openly recruiting writers for a type of new outsourcing concept. The idea is to create several fictional characters (unadvertised of course) posing as teenagers, college professors, or other "standard Americans," and have them work products into their everyday blog life.

It would appear the idea is catching on.

Thanks to Erin at SearchViews.com for the tip off.

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About the Author:
Jason L. Miller is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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