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christopher l. filkins

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Sunday, March 2, 2003

This is a fascinating attempt to use a blog to sell a product. I wonder how many folks and how much money it took to build this site. Normally one would assume a site like this would be crafted by an individual. But the site is obviously an extended fugue to sell some whacked out milk which doesn't go bad for 6 months. Notice how round and fecund Casey's breasts look there. What do they remind you of? Got milk? (Not to put too fine of a point on it ;) Don't think about the milk which goes bad in six months. Look at the cam girl's breasts.

Steven Levy says that Dr. Pepper is using a blog & six volunteers to sell its new product called Raging Cow. Doc Searls is quoted in Newsweek as saying that "It seems ironic that a company would want to manipulate a phenomenon that's so generally bent on exposing things."

Well let's see what can be exposed here:

Raging Cow is registered to former journalist & interactive strategist at Brierly & Partners, Todd Copilevitz who is a Director at Richards Interactive. Richards Interactive prods their potential customers by saying, "Want to talk to teens online? Better get up to speed on instant messaging, since three out of four teens use it." Richards seems to be drinking their coolaid by taking that advice. It appears that Richards Interactive is building a blog network for Dr. Pepper in order to turn teens onto milk.

Raging Cow Network

as of 3/3/3 @ 11pm pst
daypop - 41 links
google - 315 links

as of 3/8/3 @ 1am pst
daypop - 117 links
google - 312 links

News Stories

Tasty Profit Rise for Cadbury Schweppes
Marketing: Flogging on a Blog
Faux-rilla Media
Success of Web Journals Heralds an Even Bigger Future

Richards Interactive is the group which set out to help Chupa Chups a leading European confectioner headquartered in Spain wanted to enter the US marketplace by positioning its lollipop as a fashion accessory for big kids (14 to 19 years of age). The US market was dominated by Tootsie Pops, which targets a younger demographic. This presented the opportunity for Chupa Chups to establish its candy in new ways, as a fashion accessory.

The registrar of choice for the Raging Cow project seems to be Go Daddy Software as well as Bulk Register. The domains which are a part of this project: (Catherine Schachat), (Carlo Roberto Orozco), (Sean Boone), (Kelly Rogers), (Pamela Brearley), (Richards Interactive), (Richards Interactive), & (Nicole D).

Of these Nicole D, Sean Boone, Carlo Orozco, Catherine Schachat, & Pamela Brearley seem to have lives in their blogs before Todd came into their lives. Of course I could be wrong.

As of now Google records no links to Raging Cow. The Newsweek story hits the stands for the March 10th issue. The kids' sites are abuzz with being in Newsweek. Levy says that there were six kids flown to Texas with their parents for the prep on this marketing campaign. They may have met at Richards Interactive's Dallas headquarters at 8750 N. Central Expressway. Looking through the sites I see ages between 18 and 22. Why would they have these ages and have their parents involved?

Andrew Springate, a director of brand marketing fellow at Dr Pepper/Seven Up, says, in Junk Food News, the Raging Cow is an unpredictable and mischievous mascot that symbolizes the independence and enthusiasm of the brand's target consumers. The Raging Cow's primary utterance is a primal moo!

One way in which this initiative makes sense is that by seeding the web with a small network like this before launching the product the search engines, mainly Google, will have time to fill their indexes with the marketing vehicle at the center of the scheme. If Dr. Pepper/Seven Up were to launch a similar type of initiative after the web indexes had had a chance to build structure then the site wouldn't attract nearly the number of visitors. Whether this will build loyalty for the brand I don't know. But I am inclined to watch this to see what happens. The real test in this is whether or not Todd, Andrew, and the gang at Richards decide to open themselves up to the blogging community by opening their own blogs. Richards itself certainly doesn't have a blog that I can find. This is troublesome.

Given these blogs and their links into camsites, it is rather obvious that Andrew and Todd want to hook Raging Cow into the cam girl network. Tony Pierce said we have a lot to learn from cam girls. Perhaps Andrew and Todd were listening.

Interestingly enough while these blogs link to cam sites they also link to Christian sites such as the Internet Faith Fellowship Crew so it seems Dr. Pepper/Seven Up have their bases covered in the saint/sinner categories in their weblogging initiative.

(Isn't Casey cute!)

UPDATE Anil points to Project Blogger which appears to be the skunk works of Richards Interactive blog project. Apparently these folks are not too observant as I have seen no comments on this issue from any of the participants. I would think they would be all over this.

UPDATE Todd Copilevitz is all over this and accepts my offer to interview him. There are two parts. I'll post the first part and then take down this notice when I get both parts up. Please note I have edited some punctuation, spelling, and syntax in selected spots. It is all incidental and improves the readability.

Todd Copilevitz - Shoot me the questions. I'll answer what I can, but I have to be mindful that we are just starting with a campaign and don't want to tip our hands too quickly. Fair enough?

Me - Too be honest I am not that interested in where the campaign is going. I am however interested in the genesis of it. So hopefully my questions won't impinge on any of that. If they do feel free to defer until a later date. If you are interested in such a later interview?

First question: do you or anyone of the primary architects of this campaign have your own personal websites or blogs?

TC - Several members of the staff have blogs, albeit very odd ones. More to the point, we've been watching, reading and learning from blogs for more than a year. This wasn't an overnight process. We are constantly watching the Net, trying to understand where it is going next. How to be part of it, not a roadblock.

Blogs intrigue me. They hearken back to the first days of the web, when everyone who could write code had a page. The link you had to an old story of mine is a great example. Two bore college guys create a pizza generator. No biggie. Someone see it, passes it along to me. I wrote about it and they get famous, kind of.

When we started following blogs early last year it was with an eye toward understanding what various groups were talking about, how they viewed categories of products.

In relatively short order it became clear there were several key communities of blogs. Some are manifesto sites, geared towards a cause. Others were more personal portal sites. But a big section were kids, living their lives on line. The degree to which these kids expose their lives and share details with the world is amazing.

In marketing we always talk about reaching opinion shapers. Yet when it comes to marketing to teens, few companies acknowledge that teens themselves help shape other teens opinions. Think about it. How much advertising on MTV or elsewhere acknowledges the thoughtful opinion of teens?

In blogs we found a strikingly fresh voice, teens of every stripe and attitude, articulate, often thoughtful, and reaching an audience far beyond their local friends. Once we met some of them, and their parents, I was even more blown away by how sharp these guys are.

With that in mind, when this project came along, the guiding principle was to respect what they've created. In simplest terms, we give them the product. If they like it, they'll say so. If they don't, I'm sure they'll say that too. But, we have no role in what they say or how they say it.

Me - Can you give me links to these blogs of the staff?

TC - Sorry, I've intruded enough on their personal lives during the research phase. I promised not to pass those around.

Me - How did you choose these individuals as "tastemakers" or as Andrew said "those in the know"? I assume that your task was not to choose the target demographic, or was it? If so why did you choose this demographic as the source material for your bloggers?

TC - As for the teens already selected, I can't go there, except to say we screened more than 300 blogs. Once we weeded out the good from the bad, we applied a strict set of criteria to the people we recommended to the client. DPSU has said previously, this is a drink for 18-24, so yeah, they had to be in the target market.

Me - What was the criteria that you used to pick the 300 blogs? Any chance of sharing that list? What was the criteria you used to winnow down the 300?

TC - Here, check this out. The Dallas Morning News just posted a story from tomorrow's paper.

Me - I would still appreciate answers to my questions but I'll augment those with questions from the Dallas Morning News story. It reads, "With Raging Cow, the company is looking to the Internet to drive its marketing plan. In addition to the Web logs, or "blogs," Dr Pepper/Seven Up plans to run a lot of ads on major sites. "

Does this mean these "major sites" are not blog sites? Or do blogs get included in the major site category for the purposes of this comment?

TC - No the major sites are not the weblogs.

Think of this in phases. For now we're working with the blogging community. But at some point the campaign will move into a more vocal role and use more traditional online advertising.

The question is, how does one form of communication affect the other?

Me - Back to the questions:

What was the criteria that you used to pick the 300 blogs? Any chance of sharing that list?

TC - No, I won't go into detail. But the rough cut was easy. We looked at the tone and content of the blog, how well it was kept up, was there any content that would be inappropriate for our client's product to be in proximity to, such as porn links, etc.

It's just like doing sampling events. You pay close attention to where people gather and make sure the environment is a natural place for you to be. We weren't about to force this into corners of the Net where it would be out of place.

Me - Sorry to double up on you here. But the mind continues to wonder.

Aimee Deep said 2 days ago that if Arista record execs paid attention to song downloads on open networks they would know much better whether an album like Whitney Houston's newest will sell well or not.

In the article it says " If they've got a loser on their hands or even a few people don't like [Raging Cow], they're really going to be dissing it," said Gary Arlen, president of Arlen Communications Inc., an interactive media consulting firm based in Bethesda, Md. "

How do you square these two things? If the blogging community doesn't "like" Raging Cow will this effect the roll out of the product itself?

Do you have criteria in place to measure any perceived affront from the community because of the way this is being marketed versus what folks might actually think of the product?

TC - Wow. I think Aimee is dead on. But how do you effectively measure that?

I can't speak to the measurements we do for the client. I think if people will take the time, like you did, to really look at what we're doing, they'll realize we're not telling anyone what to say about our product. We're giving it to them and hoping they pass the word. No one is getting a ton of money so they have no reason to lie on their site about the drink. As Andrew Springate said, it's the magic of word of mouth. That's the oldest form of marketing there is, just coupled with a new technology.

Me - You say you pay close attention to where people gather. That is what I am looking for. It appears as though these kids come out of some gathering place. I suspect that your 300 potential blog list came from a particular community, or subset, of the blogosphere. Can you give me some representative sites from within that "gathering". For instance do they revolve around the technology they use, for instance the live journal community?

TC - I wish it were that organized. We have a great staff, with varying interest. So for months, in their spare time, they collected sites. Ultimately we started seeing intersection points. Given enough time you can figure out who's influential in any community.

Our first bloggers came from a wide cross-section of the net. But, ironically they all knew of each other. It was interesting to see them meet for the first time.

But to your point, no we did not focus on any one community or publishing platform. And realize, this group is only the start. We plan to invite hundred more into the project. If they want in, we'll find them a place.

UPDATE Part 2 of this Interview

3/2/03:6:44:42 PM PST    

with Turkey denying United States troops, the United Nations surely not supporting a war in time for George Bush's war, Saddam destroying his weapons, popular opinion in the United States against a war it is looking more and more like the administration is going to implode.

I have been under the impression for several months that Bush was impaling himself on Iraq. It seems others are starting to say the same.

3/2/03:6:13:07 PM PST    

In interviews, Republican politicians and their aides said they agreed with the strategist, Frank Luntz, that it was important to pay attention to what his memorandum, written before the November elections, called "the environmental communications battle."

In his memorandum, Mr. Luntz urges that the term "climate change" be used instead of "global warming," because "while global warming has catastrophic communications attached to it, climate change sounds a more controllable and less emotional challenge."

Also, he wrote, "conservationist" conveys a "moderate, reasoned, common sense position" while "environmentalist" has the "connotation of extremism."

President Bush's speeches on the environment show that the terms "global warming" and "environmentalist" had largely disappeared by late last summer. The terms appeared in a number of President Bush's speeches in 2001, but now the White House fairly consistently uses "climate change" and "conservationist."

3/2/03:5:19:15 PM PST    

decides the rhythm method is the way to curb population growth.

3/2/03:2:07:46 PM PST    
Yesterday I discovered the video for Sigur Rós' vidrar vel til loftárása. This is an astounding and effecting piece of work. It is essentially a love story between two school boys. Truly haunting.

3/2/03:1:20:23 PM PST    
To plunder, to slaughter, to steal, these things they misname empire; and where they make a wilderness, they call it peace.

Very interesting take on the current state of US strategy in Iraq. I disagree completely but compelling nonetheless.

3/2/03:1:04:24 PM PST    

Well I finally got a chance to listen to t.A.T.u. And indeed I love it. Trevor Horn continues to amaze with his facility to create pop music which both soothes and reaches for some kind of emotional connection. While I agree with many commentators that the Russian versions are stronger I have been listening to the English language release now for the past week or so. As for pop music these girls can touch on some subjects, such as their lesbianism and this yearning between young girls, that I find very compelling. When they sing Malchik Gay it seems the anger and joy are being loaded into the song in equal parts and I find myself identifying so well with what these girls, and Trevor, are doing. It will be very interesting to see if they can keep this up into another disc worth of material or if this will be all she wrote. Highlights include: How Soon Is Now, Not Gonna Get Us, All the Things She Said, & Stars.

3/2/03:12:00:42 PM PST    
Mandela On The AIDS Epidemic
"They don't want you to talk about it. I told them we have got this epidemic which is going to wipe out our nation if we don't take precautions," he said.

He once told an audience that they must tell their children to delay having sex as much as possible and when they do, they must use condoms.

"I could see I was offending my audience. They were looking at each other horrified."

Apparently Mandela was then advised not to talk about AIDS because it might endanger his election campaign.

Mandela also said that in his term he had little time to concentrate on the Aids issue because he had to prevent a civil war, which could have led to nationwide chaos.

But in the interview the former president accepts the criticism about his handling of the AIDS pandemic. "Its no use crying over split milk," he said.

3/2/03:11:54:37 AM PST    

So even though I have supposedly been removed from being permitted to use my traffic stats app because of the sheer volume of visitors to this site it is still working. This past months stats show that approximately 215,148 individual users came by to check out what I do. I want to thank every one for stopping by. At this rate I'll have 2.6 million visitors this year. Pretty amazing considering I am just one guy with a computer and a bit of skills.

3/2/03:11:37:18 AM PST    
You mean as a separate issue from the lies and deceit perpetuated among the United States voting public?

3/2/03:10:58:08 AM PST    
First things first: Note to self don't ever find yourself trying to drive across the route of a marathon. I found myself this morning coming into the office to a bit of work. Naturally the course for the Los Angeles Marathon bisects my path and so I was forced to take almost an hour to make my way into this part of town for what is a normal Sunday morning trip of about 15 minutes.

You've been warned.

Speaking of the marathon I discovered recently that someone I know will be participating in the marathon today. He detailed at great length for me the type of training schedule which is needed to prepare for such an event. It seems as though you must devote a good three to four months of your life to meet the rigors of such a one day event. Considering how nadly I hurt my right foot yesterday, doing something quite uninvolved in running, I can't even imagine putting that much effort into running a marathon. But I am not a runner anymore so that should not be surprising.

What is surprising is that my associate who is running the marathong went on to tell me in great detail about his trips to Russia to find a wife. Apparently he has traveled there at least a half a dozen times to find the right girl. Lately I am getting great gobs of spam from firms wishing to set me up with a Russian mate. In my experience Russian women are beautiful and gracious and well mannered. They can talk at great length about lots of very interesting topics and generally are amiable companions. I must admit I have thought at times how much fun it would be to find a Russian wife as a sort of thumb in the eye to L for what happened with our marriage. I know it burns her up that K and I are still living in Los Angeles after she was forced to move away because she was unable to make a living out here. It turns out I am not quite the lazy coward L made me out to be. Every time I receive one of these Russian bride spams (everyday now) I think about finding one but I am afraid that I would be doing such a thing not because I truly want to travel half way around the world to find a spouse but because it would satisfy my desire for revenge.

Hopefully my friend running the marathon today gets both a good standing in the event and the Russian bride of his dreams. Life is so strange sometimes.

3/2/03:10:37:39 AM PST    

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