Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Shifty email marketing 'banned' - but is this oversight or clever buzz generation?

Shifty is a new British film described as 'a thriller charting an action packed 24 hours in the life of a young crack cocaine dealer on the outskirts of London.'

Shifty'Shifty' website header

There are various online initiatives to promote Shifty (social network pages, soundtrack mash ups, embeddable trailers etc), but the Shifty email campaign has run into trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority who have pronounced it 'banned.'

Shifty email Frame A FriendShifty email 'Frame A Friend'

The Shifty email campaign allows fans to 'Frame A Friend'. This functionality allows people to upload a friends face into a compromising photo and then have an email sent to that friend telling them that the police are investigating them for drug misuse.

According to Media Guardian the ASA received a complaint about the Shifty email campaign and have ruled that it "'could cause alarm and undue distress' to some recipients that could be exacerbated if seen by an employer, friends or family. The regulator also said the campaign was misleading as it did not indicate that the email was marketing material."

However, whilst this is controversial it has generated buzz for an edgy film covering controversial subject matter. The ASA ruling has increased exposure for Shifty and as far as I can see the email functionality is still available on the Shifty website. People are now discussing the Shifty email campaign on blogs / Twitter etc and as a result of this 'free publicity', today will probably see an increase in visits to the Shifty website and general discussion of the film.

Rather than being the result of unfortunate oversight / questionable execution, the Shifty email campaign could therefore be another example of a brand driving The Conversation to increase social coverage of their product (albeit in an unsavoury way.) Things that get people talking fuel buzz and awareness - anything from a Trafalgar Square flashmob, to naked people on the streets, to U2's new album 'leaking' through an illicit mobile phone recording can work, it just has to capture the imagination of the target audience.

So is this a genuine mistake or a deliberate buzz generation around the film release?

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