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Jeremy Wagstaff at the Wall Street Journal has a good blog today about so-called “grassroots” sites that are actually run by corporate interests.

You’re familiar with the faux blog — a blog launched by a marketing company to look like a grassroots blog to promote a product, but actually maintained by PR drones. Naff is probably the word that springs to mind. But how about the faux community site? What word springs to mind when you visit, a website set up by marketing company JWT on behalf of HSBC? Despite all the flash (and there’s lots of it), it seems to be community-oriented, interested in your point of view on gorillas, organic food, sports fans and the like. Your point of view is sought, sort of. Click on a window and another window pops up, letting you select from a drop down list of choices (no, you can’t type anything in) and then you’re taken to another window where you have to register and then offer some personal information (approach to life? realist/optimist/surrealist/pessimist) and then it goes on. Call it a survey pretending to be interested in you, so long as your choices are listed among their choices. So what’s the point?

It’s a classic old PR mechanism to set up “think tanks”, “grassroots organizations” and the like to forward a corporate objective.

While this HSBC site is actually fairly innocuous, it highlights the need to be wary. When you get some “study” or see some advertisement by a group of “citizens”, always check it. There’s a ton of incredibly misleading information out there spawned by corporate interests.

Jeremy’s link here.


Alex Eckelberry