This is a fake JC Penny ad created that won international advertising award at Cannes this past weekend. The retailer is apparently pissed about it, and are blaming their ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi for it being produced and then leaked onto YouTube.

Personally, I think this whole thing smells of a viral astrotrufing campaign. Everyone is pointing fingers at someone else, and the only ones who seem to be able to answer any questions (the people that entered the ad spot at Cannes in the first place) is stranggely silent. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

Mike Boylson, chief marketing officer for the Plano, Texas, retailer, said he was “terribly disappointed” when he first saw the video Monday, after another Penney official noticed it on blogs that described the video as a Penney ad.

Mr. Boylson said he still was questioning Saatchi late Monday to find out how the video got made […]

In a statement late Monday, Saatchi, a unit of Publicis Groupe SA, said the ad was created by a third-party vendor “without J.C. Penney’s knowledge or consent…Saatchi & Saatchi did not enter the spot and deeply regrets the message this ad presents.” Epoch Films, the New York production company that was listed as entering the ad in the Cannes Lions Awards, declined to comment.

I suspect that JC Penny is pulling an Edelman. After all, by creating an ad that would appeal to a new target demographic but offend (or by offending) their current one and then denouncing the spot, JC Penny gets to cover all its bases. As the WSJ article concludes:

While the ad could anger parents who shop at Penney, it also has the potential to make the retailer seem “sassy, fun and irreverent” to teens, said Alan Siegel, chief executive of New York strategic-branding company Siegel + Gale.

“It’s not going to reflect well on the brand in Middle America, but the ad is nicely done and the people in it are attractive; young people in New York and L.A. will get a kick out of it,” he said.

The reason I think this might all be premeditated is that JC Penny is a very net savvy brand, and they will be throwing a s**t load of cash at their online marketing efforts this year. At the recent IRCE 2008, the same Mike Boylson that denounced the video admitted that:

JC Penney has a budget for $1.4 billion to spend on marketing initiatives and hinted that most of that money would go to

Companies don’t shred that kind of cheddar on online marketing unless they think that they reall get it. Granted, if they really got it, the might know better than to pull off some kind of subversive viral astroturfing stunt, but maybe they learned from Edelman’s example insofar as setting it up so they won’t get caught.

Now, I know this all sounding a bit like a conspiracy theory, and unless it’s all premeditated and they actually get outed for it I’ll never be able to substantiate any of my suspicions. But the great thing about a conspiracy theory is that it’s a lot like the existence of G*d: although it can’t be proved, it also can’t be disproved

Video via Free Williamsburg.

One thought on “JC Penny is Astroturfing?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *