Friday, February 10, 2006

Shady advertising

Yesterday, Nvidia made the news (well, the blogs at least) due to some allegedly shady advertising practices. Apparently, their PR firm (or one of them) AEG may have been hiring actors for the purposes of talking up Nvidia products on web forums as part of the "strategic viral seeding [of] viral assets."

This caused an uproar, as is to be expected. It didn't take long Nvidia to respond by doing some damage control on Joystiq and The Consumerist, indicating that the program is not as disreputable as once thought. AEG's Stephanie Schopp posts:
The program, I assure you, is far less nefarious than your rather damaging article/blog above claims it to be. These members were not "paid in hardware" as your article states, but sent hardware to give us (NVIDIA through AEG) feedback, positive or negative, regarding their experience with it. They were never told what to say, nor did they sign any document forbidding them to discuss their relationship with NVIDIA or AEG. They are not actors: they were real, informed, hardware enthusiasts that could help us further understand what it was the community wanted from hardware vendors.
I suspect that the truth lies somewhere in between, which is unfortunate for Nvidia. Joystiq goes on to make some good points about how a little more transparency could go a long way:
While Nvidia's program may fall short of the worst abuse possible using this sort of focus group program, it would benefit from increased transparency, if only to remove the appearance of impropriety. It's full disclosure: if you're handing out free hardware to test, those who receive it should be compelled to acknowledge their benefactors.
Well said.

Links:
Did Nvidia Hire Online Actors to Promote Their Products? (The Consumerist)
Did Nvidia hire an army of message-board sock-puppets? (BoingBoing)
Nvidia's "Manchurian Fans" shill for gear (Joystiq)

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