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Old 07-10-2007, 05:45 PM
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great news -- Discovery is backing down!

Discovery Communications (parent company of The Discovery Channel and The Learning Channel) is backing down from the legal threats that they made against me and this site, in connection with SpankMyMarketer.com, the website I created to expose and parody the failed "Spank My Monkey" advertising campaign in which Discovery was involved.

While they can "technically" take legal action until the statute of limitations expires (as can I against them), it looks like that's not going to happen.

We never broke the law.

Discovery tried to silence us. And they failed, failed, failed.

Our free speech remains intact. We did it .



====================

First things first -- A huge, everlasting "THANK YOU" to everyone who lent a hand in this situation. I'm not going to name anyone by name in this thread, but it's all there in the original discussions. You know who you are, and you know you did great work. We had significant member support throughout this whole ordeal, both in public and private. Lots of guys lent a hand with research, support, investigation, and handling the numerous marketers and trolls that were sent to our forum in an attempt to cover up and spin this situation.

Thanks also to the legal organizations that supported us with research and guidance, and to the EFF for saving our butts (once again). We are grateful -- without your help, we would have failed.

====================

Anyway, here's the rundown. Sorry it's so long, this has been in play for nearly a year. If you're interested in even more details, you can find them on SpankMyMarketer.com.

Last August, an adult industry marketer posting as "dodgy" placed a marketing promotion on this forum, in the Hotrodders Lounge. The promotional material included a very odd photograph of two guys posing in thongs which were imprinted with the phrase "Spank My Monkey" (slang for "Masturbate Me"), and a shop promo video for Gas Monkey Garage that included scripted hotrodding "badboy" behavior, such as urinating in the street, and drinking and driving. The video also featured an interesting declaration by Gas Monkey Garage shop owner Richard Rawlings, saying that he was "Quickly establishing himself as 'The Anti-Christ of the Hot Rod World'". The marketer said that he wanted our "help" in choosing a "charity" for Gas Monkey Garage to donate to.

Here's the now-famous pic:





In addition to the auto-erotic aspect of the photograph, an observant forum member noticed the unusual rust patterns on the vehicle behind the thong-clad gentlemen. It appears to have been artificially rusted, for that "rat rod" look.

At first it all looked like a weird marketing blunder by the more lowbrow elements of the automotive world. We know that rat rods are the latest trend, and the word is out this year that forums are the next "hot marketing landscape" for the automotive industry. So, I figured these guys could've just messed up a guerrilla attempt at forum marketing for the new rat rod resurgence. However, the promo material involved many of the bigger names in the automotive aftermarket, a significant red flag.

The video advertised an upcoming rat rod giveaway at the SEMA Show in Vegas (SEMA is the Specialty Equipment Market Association, the biggest marketing group in hotrodding). It also mentioned Coker Tire, the largest tire company in the automotive aftermarket, owned by Joseph "Corky" Coker, a recent SEMA Chairman of the Board, and featured an appearance by David Coker, his brother, in an effort to promote his new "old-school" oriented wheel company, Newstalgia Wheel.

The featured shop, Gas Monkey Garage, was scheduled to appear on upcoming episodes of Overhaulin', one of those new breed of scripted hot rod shows that feature shops "building" a car, while really providing a medium for in-show mentions of advertiser products (known as advertiser-funded programming).

SEMA and Discovery have worked together before on SEMA-oriented episodes of Overhaulin', and many of SEMA's executives are the "advertisers" in the "advertiser-funded programming" that is Overhaulin'.

====================

Anyway, I demanded an in-thread apology from dodgy.

He apologized profusely, saying that the "production company" he is with was responsible for the situation, not Gas Monkey Garage. Then, he said that they did not ask him to post the promotional material, and did not know he was going to. I thought it was odd how dodgy tried to cover for Gas Monkey Garage, and the "production company", especially in light of all those other big industry names involved. So, I started researching "dodgy", while, at the same time, creating a "reverse" guerrilla marketing campaign with parodies of the Spank My Monkey photo. I also released some blank speech-comic parody pics of the original thong photograph, and people started joining in the fun.

Turns out the "production company" -- Dodgy Monkey Media, was run by dodgy, AKA Stephen Andrews. Andrews is a wealthy British playboy who knows Richard Rawlings, the owner of Gas Monkey Garage, through the international supercar rally scene. There are these rallies (like the Bullrun, whose logo is between Richard's legs in the above photo, and the Gumball3000, featured in the photo below), where B-grade celebrities and owners of supercars cruise around partying between cities. They are "presented" as races -- in the promotional video, Rawlings says this about the featured rat rod: "we're going to run it in the rally, and we're going to win, no matter what." Really, nobody wins them, they're not races -- everyone just drives around with their cars plastered with sponsors' logos.

I found Stephen Andrews (dodgy) on NobleForums.com, forums for owners of Nobles, British high end sports cars and what would technically be termed "supercars". On NobleForums.com, dodgy discussed the new production company that he was starting, and the now-famous "Anti-Christ of the Hot Rod World" video. More info: Dodgy Monkey Media.

From there, it was easy to trace him around the supercar rally forums and blogs -- especially with the mounting assistance from our forum members. We also found some ties between him and the adult industry. Which wasn't particularly surprising, considering the choice of the original thong photograph. Not that there's anything wrong with pornography per se, because everyone has looked at it. And, if you like wearing a thong, I guess you're free to wear a thong. And, if you and your hotrodding buddy enjoy dressing up in thongs that say "Spank My Monkey", and posing in front of a hot rod, then I guess that's your choice. It is, as they say, a free country.

But sending adult industry marketers to our forum to promote the industry's latest youth-oriented marketing venture is really, really, really out of line.



A big break came when I found an old post by "dodgy" on NobleForums.com, asking if anyone had "a contact at The Discovery Channel". I figured he had probably found that contact, as Gas Monkey Garage was, at the time, scheduled to appear on Overhaulin', which is aired on The Learning Channel, a Discovery network.

I began to seriously consider that Discovery probably knew about the original marketing plan, or was in some way involved.

====================

Meanwhile, I made a parody video ("remix", "mashup") of the original "Anti-Christ" promotional vid. I emailed it to Coker Tire and Newstalgia Wheel, both of whom were mentioned in the original promo vid.

Lo and behold, Corky Coker, owner of Coker Tire, and recent SEMA Chairman of the Board, registered on the Hotrodders Bulletin Board to defend himself and his brother, both of whose companies were featured in the "Anti-Christ" video.

Coker tried to word-game us, and failed. Then, a "mystery" user, named "Man", registered on the board. He tried to "out" me -- he put my full name and town of residence as the title of his post, and then made a "watch-your-back" post to me, full of veiled threats.

A routine IP check revealed that Corky Coker and "Man" had the same IP address, traceable to Coker Tire's network. A Coker Tire manager made a quick post on the board. The threatening "Man" post was blamed on an "overzealous sales representative", which seems, at best, a partial truth. Corky Coker was said to be "out of the country at this time".




I created the web page: Corky Coker is a Jerk, to document the incident. The page is designed to be funny, "marketable", and to come up first in Google when people search for "Corky Coker".

Coker posted again, but refused to make an honest apology for what had happened. In his final statement, he insulted our forum, comparing us to a pile of crap on his grandfather's farm. More info: Corky Coker.

====================

I noticed how Coker didn't mention SEMA, even though the main point of the promotion was to advertise a car giveaway that was going on at this year's SEMA Show. And, at the time of his post, Coker was the outgoing SEMA Chairman of the Board -- deeply connected to the automotive marketing world.

Lacking an honest apology from Coker, I blew the whistle on SEMA's connection to the promotion, and the use of adult industry marketers to target our board. It's also at this time that several new members on the forum tried to spin the situation in Coker and SEMA's favor. Some were posting in threads, some sending large amounts of PMs to members. Many are still here, and will perhaps even be joining us in this thread .

From there, I took the situation to Discovery and SEMA. Discovery handled it internally, through their Communications department. SEMA used an outside public relations firm, Freeman-McCue Public Relations.

====================

Faced with the thong pic, the "Anti-Christ" line, and the adult industry connections, Discovery was forced to drop all episodes of Overhaulin' that featured Gas Monkey Garage from the air. Then, they pulled their logo from GasMonkeyGarage.com. However, when I asked them whether or not they had a relationship with Stephen Andrews (dodgy), or with Dodgy Monkey Media, they wouldn't give me a straight answer. Eventually, their VP of Communications stopped returning my calls.

SEMA's PR firm also wouldn't confirm or deny a relationship with dodgy, or Dodgy Monkey Media. Specifically, they wouldn't comment on whether or not they had a hand in the SEMA "giveaway" which was promoted in the video. The PR firm spit out 12 official words: "SEMA has no plan for a car giveaway at the SEMA Show".

====================

So, more research. With the help of members, we find out that Discovery has a pretty well-established reputation for guerrilla marketing, and that they've even been busted before for using fake identities in forums to promote shows.

I also find out that SEMA's "no plan" line is essentially public relations BS. SEMA could've easily planned the giveaway, then canceled it under pressure. After canceling the plan, they can honestly say: "SEMA has no plan for a car giveaway at the SEMA Show." Then, they can even have a car giveaway at the SEMA Show, saying that, at the time they spoke with us, they "had no plan" to have one.

Get caught robbing a bank? Just put down your gun and say: "I have no plan to rob a bank."

Discovery pulled a similar tactic. They kept saying: "We don't work with Stephen Andrews" (dodgy). Then, when I asked "Did you work with Stephen Andrews?", they wouldn't answer me. Word games.

====================

Then comes the coverup. Weighted articles, spin websites, fake forums, and high-priced lawyers.

At this time, my Corky Coker is a Jerk article was rising in the Google rankings, as were the other pages I made to document the event, in our "Monkey Boys Media Center".

I saw that Coker had registered CorkyCoker.com, and used it to put up a one-page article about Corky's greatness. I also find a user on Wikipedia, named CokerTire, who was writing an article about how awesome Corky Coker is! The article is clearly in violation of Wikipedia's policies against financial conflict of interest. When I point this out, "CokerTire" tries to delete my private comments on Wikipedia, which is even more against the rules. They get busted, and the article gets deleted by Wikipedia administration. More info: Corky Coker.

Discovery was doing the same thing. They went in and edited the Wikipedia article on "The Discovery Channel" to their favor. They removed the information on the fact that they do guerrilla marketing, which had been in there since 2005! Discovery is a little slicker than Coker and his goons, who tried to edit Wikipedia with the username of "CokerTire". But not slick enough, because they left some IP address evidence, which was traceable to their network. Whoops. I request a Wikipedia hearing on the matter, with an official Wikipedia "advocate" (like a wiki-lawyer). Discovery gets busted, and a permanent warning goes up on Wikipedia about their editing practices. More info: The Learning Channel.

But that's not all, folks. In the midst of this scandal, up pops a brand new forum, called OverhaulinForums.com, which had been registered to a "Private Registrant". Over on OverhaulinForums.com, it seemed like folks really, really liked watching Overhaulin'. Like this post from the "administrator": "I love Chip Foose's work, I love the effort of all the team, I love the pranks, and I love the outcome virtually everytime. Thank you TLC for making one of the greatest shows on television."

It looked like Discovery had started their own fan forum to promote Overhaulin'. This may be unethical, but it's not really illegal. However, at the bottom of OverhaulinForums.com was a disclaimer that read "Overhaulin' Forums is not affiliated with TLC's Overhaulin'". If they truly were secretly operating their own forum, such a statement would probably be over the line.

====================

With more research, we found out that SEMA is aggressively pursuing the "lucrative youth market" with their rat rod promotions. This is confirmed in a SEMA press release targeting the new rat rod trend, along with "drifters", and "donks". A New York Times article about the SEMA Show offers additional confirmation. We also discovered that the car being "built" for David Coker in the Anti-Christ video bears a striking resemblance to other vehicles used for "rat rod" promotions. More info: SEMA.





====================

By this time, I had converted the "Monkey Boys Media Center" into a full-blown website to document and parody the original "Spank My Monkey" marketing promotion. I named the site SpankMyMarketer.com.

I also made a simple piece of software for people to use on SpankMyMarketer.com, called "The SpankMaker". I noticed that the original parody comics we made were quite effective, and fun to make. I also noticed that people were having some trouble fiddling with a graphics program to make the comics, and that the comic-creation process should probably be automated to make it easier and more efficient for everyone. With The SpankMaker, anyone could make parody comics of the marketers involved in the campaign. Just type in some text, and the parody pic gets created for you. From there, you can email your parody pic straight to the original marketer. I thought (and still think) that this is a great way to "reverse" a marketing promotion -- an automated subvertisement-creator. Turn the ads into parodies, and send them "back" to the original marketers.





I had found pics of Discovery's Board of Directors, on their corporate website. I combined all of their pics into one comic, so, with The SpankMaker, you could make your own comics of Discovery's Board of Directors. Once made, you could email your comics straight to the CEO of Discovery, whose email address I had figured out.

====================

And so, the CEO of Discovery started receiving these emails that said: "Congratulations, you've been spanked!". And, the emails included a link for him to click, so that he could see the new comic which had been made of him and his Board of Directors. Stuff like this:



I guess Discovery's Board of Directors wasn't too pleased to see parody comics of themselves on the web. And, I guess they really weren't too pleased to see a software tool that was designed to make countless parody comics of them.

So, rather than, say, apologizing, abandoning their cover-up attempts, or taking down OverhaulinForums.com, they sent in a lawyer to try to scare me into abandoning our free speech.

====================

Discovery was claiming (quite incorrectly) that the parody pics constituted defamation, and infringed on their copyright. I knew we didn't break the law, and so do did Discovery's lawyer, reputed to be one of the top intellectual property lawyers in the country. The fact that we hadn't broken the law didn't seem to bother him.



At this point, I figured the smart thing to do was to contact the people who are smartest about such things -- the Electronic Frontier Foundation, AKA the "EFF". The EFF is the net's leading free speech protection organization, and it was them who helped us out with Ozrodders.com, the Australian hotrodding forum that we saved from a takedown over a similar free speech issue involving the mainstream Australian hotrodding media.

The EFF volunteered a free lawyer to defend me from Discovery, in connection with The SpankMaker.

At that point, several computer industry publications picked up the story, and SpankMyMarketer.com was being written about in the press.

Shortly thereafter, the disclaimer on OverhaulinForums.com which read "Overhaulin' Forums is not affiliated with TLC's Overhaulin'", was removed.

====================

Discovery and SEMA got slammed in the press. Nobody who wrote about SpankMyMarketer.com would side with them. A lot of journalists, bloggers, and people in the online legal community recognized exactly what was going on, and shined a nice bright light on Discovery and SEMA's failed marketing ploy, and on Discovery's attempt to silence us.

That pretty much sealed Discovery's fate. Any additional legal action would now result in an additional round of publicity in the media.

The marketers made a lot of mistakes here. Discovery, SEMA, and Coker should never have worked with Gas Monkey Garage or Dodgy Monkey Media. Corky Coker shouldn't have tried to spin us, and he should've offered a real apology for the threatening post. SEMA shouldn't be unethically targeting rat rodders as the next "lucrative youth market", along with "drifters" and "donks". Finally, once everyone got caught, they shouldn't have tried to abuse Wikipedia or create fake websites in a pathetic attempt to sheepishly cover up what had happened.

Most of all, Discovery shouldn't have used corporate legal tactics to threaten our free speech with baseless legal claims. That was a monumental error, and it will not soon be forgotten.

====================

So, Gas Monkey Garage got spit out the bottom of the industry. We even saw an eBay selloff of their vehicles, and it looks like nobody will touch them with a 10-foot thong.

Dodgy Monkey Media's debut was its demise. DodgyMonkey.com, the site he had advertised in the video, has been taken offline. It's difficult to get people to admit that they ever worked with him.

Coker is getting plenty of negative PR in Google. Try searches for "Corky Coker" or "Coker Tire". His Wikipedia ploy failed, and it looks like some serious effort has been put into developing CorkyCoker.com. Nevertheless, we still outrank him. Interestingly, other tire companies have been most generous in their volunteering of information regarding Coker's antics. This might be due to his questionably legal monopoly of the vintage tire industry, as demonstrated in an antitrust lawsuit against Coker Tire.

The fate of Overhaulin' remains uncertain. Rumors posted on OverhaulinForums.com indicate that it may be moved to another network, or "re-worked", or that Discovery may be working with Foose to create a new show independent of the Overhaulin' brand. An article in USA Today said that the show had "wrapped" -- meaning that no new episodes were being made, although already-filmed episodes will likely be aired. However, these rumors could be being intentionally spread to artificially create tension in the Overhaulin' viewership. In my discussions with BCII, the producers of Overhaulin', they wouldn't confirm the statement in USA Today, and seemed uncertain about the future of the show. Ultimately, they hung up the phone on me. When I called back, they said that their lawyers had told them not to speak to me.

I also identified one of the guerrilla marketing firms that Discovery is using. They're called Interference, Inc, and they claim "alternative internet marketing" as one of their guerrilla tactics. Judging by the case studies and featured marketing promotions on Interference, Inc.'s website, it looks like they do a lot of work with Discovery. Interference, Inc.'s website even displays the Overhaulin' logo. What a surprise. This offers a possible reasonable explanation for OverhaulinForums.com, as well as some of the other shenanigans used to market and eventually cover up Discovery's share of the failed promotion.

Thanks to the press provided by Discovery's attempt to threaten our free speech, SpankMyMarketer.com has earned a permanent place in internet history. There were several high profile articles, blog mentions, and discussions on other forums about the failed promotion. I even found The SpankMaker being studied in a Harvard Law School class wiki.

To date, we have not received an apology from Gas Monkey Garage, Corky Coker, SEMA, or Discovery. Realistically, we shouldn't be expecting one. We will most likely witness similar unethical marketing on our forums in the future, and similar attempts to twist the Constitution in an effort to silence us. When future incidents of significantly unethical marketing occur here on Hotrodders.com, we'll simply research every company responsible, and place their highest-ranking executives in The SpankMaker. This should provide an enjoyable, effective, and legal means of demonstrating the simple fact that we won't be exploited for commercial gain.

Or, at very least, it should clear up the confusion as to who is the monkey, and who is the spanker .

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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 07-10-2007, 06:15 PM
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Spankin' the spankers

Congrats on a well fought, thought out, battle Jon! Kudos
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Old 07-10-2007, 06:19 PM
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Great read, Jon

A co-worker just asked me a few days ago what ever happened with this.

I think I will send him this link.

Bryan
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Old 07-10-2007, 07:22 PM
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Well done Jon funny how it never seems to sink in to these types that admitting they are wrong and giving a simple apology works better then trying to bully the little guys.
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Old 07-10-2007, 08:03 PM
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Great work, Jon. I too had all but forgoten about those guys. Chaulk one up for the little guy!

Oh, your post has got to be the biggest ever! Great read!
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Old 07-10-2007, 08:45 PM
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I'm very impressed, Jon. Thanks for all of your work.

454 RATTLER
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Old 07-11-2007, 02:45 AM
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an interesting end of a subject! the "bullying" tactic using overpriced lawyers and guerrilla-like tactics has never worked against me neither... glad to see that everything has worked out!
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Old 07-11-2007, 05:35 AM
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I can only think of one word:

WOW!!!
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Old 07-11-2007, 05:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tfeverfred
Great work, Jon. I too had all but forgoten about those guys. Chaulk one up for the little guy!

Oh, your post has got to be the biggest ever! Great read!
It may be the longest, but it's also the best! Congrats Jon!


In a while, Chet.
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Old 07-11-2007, 06:56 AM
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"Freedom of speech", definitely something worth fighting for..

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Old 07-11-2007, 03:28 PM
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Well done Jon.

Just think, if they had offered an apology instead of a bluff, they wouldn't have had to go through all this "Fun"

If you or anyone else wants to find out just how well (or badly) these people are doing, then go to this little one page website called Googlefight :-
http://www.googlefight.com/index.php...corkycoker.com

You put in the URL of any two websites and press "make a fight" and up comes the monthly page views of those two websites.

I put in OverhaulinForums & Corkycoker.com, Overhaulin had 5 visitors and Corky had 3, probably himself making those. The numbers speak for themselves especially when I read that Hotrodders now has 60,000 members.
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Old 07-11-2007, 04:48 PM
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well done!! for sure will not be buying coker tires or even looking at the catalog .... Sema well I will read, cause they do keep an eye on hotrod legislation, BUT! I sure will be asking what is their motive. lots of fake stuff going on, thanks for highlighting another one of them. Good work Jon and you all.
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Old 07-11-2007, 05:05 PM
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Congrats Jon!
Im glad to hear this whole ordeal is turning out well.


Brad
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Old 07-11-2007, 06:27 PM
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That is awesome Jon!

So much of what I like most about this forum became clear reading your post. Thanks!

You also altered my opinion of several major corporations. So much for fat whitewalls on the Rambler!
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Old 07-12-2007, 08:13 PM
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David vs. Goliath, part two, David wins again!
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