Sunday, April 20, 2008

Good Fakes, Bad Fakes, and Frigtards

My first encounter with the disappointment of a fake masquerading as the real thing came early in life. My parents bought me a cheap knock off of the short lived but very popular Patty Playpal doll- a 35 inch tall composite of petroleum byproducts, nylon hair, and combustible clothing. My fake-Patty was the right height, but everything else about her screamed "imitation". Her eyes didn't blink, she didn't "walk" when I held her hand, and while real-Patty's mouth turned up slightly in the hint of an adoring smile, fake-Patty had the bee-stung pout of a porn star and the blank, wide-eyed stare of catatonia.

Even though this unfortunate experience led to a lifelong aversion to imitations, every once in a while I come across an imitation that is so amazing in its own right, it becomes something else entirely. Case in point, the Fake Steve Jobs blog. Written in reality by Forbes journalist Dan Lyons, this blog ("The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs - Dude, I Invented the Friggin iPhone. Have You Heard of It?") is not only a brilliant and affectionate caricature of our man in mock turtlenecks, it's insightful commentary on current technology and business news, delivered with a healthy dose of profanity and irreverence (and he coins spectacular words, like frigtard). It's a great fake and I love it.

Which brings me to the new Chevy print/online marketing campaign, which is the bad fake. As part of their efforts to promote their "greenness", they've begun what they call a "dialog" with consumers. This consists of a micro-site attached to the NY Times' website where viewers can pose questions relating to "fuel solutions", and, in response, Chevy delivers answers to some of the questions in a 1/3 page ad in the Friday and Saturday NY Times Op-Ed page, as well as on their micro-site.

All I can say to them is, it's a fake-dialog, you Nettards! Do they really think that in 2008, when the Pew Internet & American Life project reports that 1 in every 10 adult Internet users has a blog, and where social interaction is the lingua franca of every demographic online, that "ask me a question and, perhaps it will be posted online (as of this very minute there are exactly 10 questions posted online) and answered" constitutes a "dialog"? My "fake" radar (fakedar?) is beeping like mad. Do we all look that dumb and easy, or is it that neither Chevy nor their agency has a clue? Answers welcome.

But, as proof that there is a god of interactive integrity, yesterday's Chevy "Op-Ed" ad was placed directly next to Gail Collins' extremely funny and biting piece on "The Fat Bush Theory", which satirizes GW's transparently insincere vow to curb global warming. Better yet, Collins' piece includes another gem in the catalog of clueless Bushisms, "Climate change involves complicated science.", which parallels so nicely with Chevy's answer to a consumer's question on why the technology to develop new fuel economy standards costs so much: "Technologies such as cylinder activation, Variable Valve Timing, and hybrids do exist, but these technologies add complexity." Bravo, Alan R. Weverstad, Executive Director, Environment, Energy, and Safety Policy for General Motors. You've managed to deliver a spot-on imitation of the one person on the planet with the least amount of environmental credibility. My fake-Patty started disintegrating not long after she arrived in our household. I only hope that Chevy's fake-dialog does the same.

Chevy, Dan Lyons,Fake Steve Jobs, Forbes,interactive marketing, Frigtard, Gail Collins, microsite, Social Interaction


elizabeth said...

I too saw the Chevy ad and was incensed when I read their explanation of how they, in fact, did not kill the electric car (EV1). They failed to mention why they not only stopped making the car - but why they insisted on picking up every one of them and destroying all evidence (save the shell sitting in the Smithsonian)of it. Greenwashing at its worst!!!

hesslei said...

Many fakes, though, are getting so good that even company execs say it takes a forensic scientist to distinguish them from the real McCoy. Armed with digital technology, counterfeiters can churn out perfect packaging a key to duping unwitting distributors and retail customers.