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Old 08-22-2007, 04:56 PM
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guerrilla marketing bust: PowerTV working for Holley, Comp Cams, SEMA, GM, and others

UPDATE: FULL DETAILS ON THE POWERTV ILLEGAL STEALTH MARKETING CAMPAIGN ARE HERE: PowerTV Exposed on SpankMyMarketer.com.




A massive guerrilla marketing forum spam campaign has been exposed. It looks like it spans more than 100 automotive forums, and involves some of the bigger names in the industry: Holley, Dynomax, Comp Cams, SEMA, GM, and others.

This will be covered on SpankMyMarketer.com (or a new designated site), but I wanted to break it here first.

It's being run by PowerTV. They're a new "internet TV" company, with much of the same advertiser-driven content we see in the mainstream hot rod TV shows. They're run by James Lawrence, an ex-Primedia guy. They operate the following hot rod and sport compact websites (among others): PowerTVonline.com, NMRATV.com, StreetLegalTV.com, LSXTV.com, PowerPerformanceTV.com, and SportCompact.tv .

They are using forums to push advertisements for Comp Cams, Holley, Dynomax, Turbonetics, SEMA, GM, and others. They film promotional videos for companies, and then advertise those videos by mass-spamming forums.

The main guerrilla marketer for PowerTV goes by the username of "Powermelissa" -- Melissa Lawrence, the host of many of the PowerTV promotional videos. By my understanding, she is the wife of James Lawrence, the CEO of PowerTV. I first noticed her on our forums, advertising for PowerTV. I asked her to stop (via PM and, later, a phone call). She agreed to not post again. Then, she posted more adverts on the forum. This happened at the same time that I got an email spam from someone else at PowerTV. Red flags. So, I investigated.

Melissa has been making the rounds of dozens (if not hundreds?) of automotive forums, copy-pasting promotional posts for her clients.

---------------

First, Melissa introduces herself with a copy-pasted post that is nearly identical on all forums. Melissa identifies herself as a "big-time car girl", and indicates that she "really digs cars of all types, and especially drag racing". Once she plays the "girl" card, she's got her foot in the door. Here are direct links to a few (cough!) examples: 1320Drag.net, 1969Stang.com, 50Tech.com, AllFordMustangs.com, BStuff.com, CaliforniaFords.com, CaliforniaSpecial.com, CamaroV6.com, CarbdFord.com, DFWStangs.net, ElCaminoCentral.com, FordForum.com, GTOForum.com, GTPlanet.net, Hotrodders.com, KYFBodies.com, LincolnForums.com, LS1LT1.com, LVFbody.com, MCRParts.com, MFBA.com, MidSouthDragRacing.com, ModernEngineuity.com, ModularDepot.com, ModularFords.com, MonteCarloForum.com, Mustang.com, MustangEvolution.com, MustangForums.com, MustangHeaven.com, MustangMafia.com, MustangWorks.com, MyFord500.com, NewAgeGTO.com, PontiacPower.net, SCCoA.com, StangCrazy.com, STLMustangs.com, StreetCarChaos.net, StreetCarForums.com, SuperMotors.net, SVTSnake.com, TheChromePony.com, TheSamba.com, ThirdGen.org, ThunderBirdForum.com, TurboBuick.com, V8Buick.com, VintageThunderbirdClub.org, YarisWorld.com, YourCobalt.com, Z28.com.


After introducing herself, Melissa begins to subtly advertise the companies that have paid PowerTV, by copy-pasting PowerTV's video promotions onto numerous forums. For example, Dynomax pays PowerTV to do promotions for them. Melissa's Dynomax pitch starts out like this: "Did you guys hear about Dynomax's new event series?" Some examples of the Dynomax campaign: 50Tech.com, AllFordMustangs.com, ColoradoRacing.net, ForwardLook.net, GoDragRacing.com, GotStang.com, Mach1Mustang.com, MidSouthDragRacing.com, MODernENGINEuity.com, ModdedMustangs.com, ModularDepot.com, MoparChat.com, MoPowerStyle.com, MotownMuscle.com, Mustang-Forums.com, MustangEvolution.com, MustangForums.com, MustangHeaven.com, ProModifieds.com, RacingSouthwest.com, ShelbyForums.com, StangCrazy.com, StangSource.com, StreetCarForums.com, VADriven.com, VintageThunderbirdClub.org.


PowerTV also advertises SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association, who figured prominently in the failed Spank My Monkey promotion. This time, the mass-spam starts out like this: "It's the 40th Anniversary of the SEMA Show, and in 2006 the show is bigger and better than ever." A few examples: 2005Stang.com, 50Tech.com, AllFordMustangs.com, BadAssMustangs.com, BradBarnett.com, CA-Mustangs.com, Carbdford.com, DFWStangs.com, GotStang.com, Mach1Mustang.com, ModdedMustangs.com, MODernENGINEuity.com, ModularDepot.com, ModularFords.com, Mustang.com, MustangForums.com, Mustang-Forums.com, MustangEvolution.com, MustangHeaven.com, MustangWorks.com, Stangnet.com, StangSource.com.

There are plenty more. I need some more time to do research, and I'm sure others will have fun poking around too.




One of the interesting parts is that, even when asked to stop, the marketers from PowerTV keep spamming, just as they did on this forum. A small number of forums are savvy enough to detect something suspicious about Melissa's posting habits. For example, a member on MFBA.com articulated: "Fudging the line between advertising and entertainment jeopardizes our relationship with sponsors who pay for the exclusive right to advertise": fudging the line. Z06vette.com edited out PowerTV's advertising, saying: "You can't advertise here without being a site vendor": can't advertise here. DFWStangs.net sent Melissa to school. One member said: "It sounds like you are advertising more than anything", with another member adding: "Definitely advertising their new 'internet tv' as well as not being completely candid.": advertising more than anything. On ColoradoRacing.net, Melissa got nailed for posting the Dynomax promotion repeatedly. I won't repeat what was said, but it sure was funny: ha-ha!.

Someone on JeepForum.com really called Melissa out. On JeepForum.com, she slightly changes her opening pitch. Instead of saying that she "digs cars of all types, and especially drag racing", Melissa says that she "digs cars of all types, and especially any type of motorsports or racing". That's a little more appropriate for marketing on a Jeep forum. Ironically, one of the JeepForum.com members hit the nail on the head when he asked: "So, do you have a Jeep or is this a stop in your marketing campaign?": stop in your marketing campaign?.

PowerTV is also posting via guerrilla marketers using the names "nmrajames" (James Lawrence), "powerjon" (most likely "Jon Nguyen", a PowerTV guy who spammed my email), and several other usernames.

This is likely just the tip of the iceberg. Google searches for "powermelissa" plus the names of various companies are yielding some interesting results, and that's just what's directly showing up in Google, under that one username.

I've been calling the companies that advertise via PowerTV, whose brand names appear in the spam posts, and whose products are pushed in the promotional videos. This morning, I spoke with marketing reps from Holley, Comp Cams, and Turbonetics. It's still too early to gauge how much they knew, but, in their defense, they did not seem too pleased to hear what was going on. They said that they'll look into the matter, and they will be getting back to me.


UPDATE: FULL DETAILS ON THE POWERTV ILLEGAL STEALTH MARKETING CAMPAIGN ARE HERE: PowerTV Exposed on SpankMyMarketer.com.

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Last edited by Jon; 01-15-2008 at 03:16 PM.
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Old 08-22-2007, 05:49 PM
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Jon---you have been a busy guy

If I see her at Team Chevelle----I'll call her out.
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Old 08-22-2007, 06:39 PM
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BUSTED! way to go, Jon! Looks like I have a few new companies to add to my "DO NOT BUY FROM" list.
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Old 08-23-2007, 08:01 AM
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there is always an angle with these guys, nice one John,. What is that old saying about believing none of what you here and 1/2 of what you see , and with photoshop out there the 1/2 of what you see now becomes most and is right up there on par with not believing what you here. New and improved.............. Oh yeah I believe it.
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Old 08-25-2007, 08:26 AM
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That's too funny, back in the beginning of the year someone asked me if I knew who that woman was, because of the "Power" part of her name...


I have no problem with those companies, (it's going to be increasingly hard to "stop" buying from them, as they continue to merge), but I do have a problem with the way they are being promoted..

I see greedy television executives, corporate advertising guys and the people who jump on the television show bandwagon to be at fault for this kind of marketing.


But it requires that people believe their BS in order for it to work. Obviously there is no shortage of people who are willing to follow that shiney rock, where ever it rolls.

I hate TV. It isn't real. The internet is quickly becoming even worse. Like Pepi said, I don't believe any of it.

I had a guy come into my shop the other day who wanted to buy some brakes for his 67 mustang...all he knew is that he wanted them to be "red" ..and then how much it cost.

He wasn't concerned about how well they stopped the car, as long as they had red calipers.

Where do you think that kind of mentality is created? Image is more important than performance...

No amount of information on my part could get him past thinking that he needed red calipers.

You won't stop greedy marketers, until you show the majority of people where the priorities of real performance lie.

That's going to be hard. There aren't many people who want to look that hard at something.

No I have nothing to do with Powermelissa, she isn't my type.


Later, mikey
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Old 08-25-2007, 09:12 AM
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BTW, I'll be doing some marketing of my own,(not for my shop, I have lots of work) if you see a fat guy with a Hotrodders .com shirt at the Goodguys Pleasanton show today, wave and say Hi.

I'll be spreading something real.




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Old 08-26-2007, 03:46 PM
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More info...

----------
Still haven't heard back from any of the companies. I'm uncertain how much they knew, but I'd like to give them some time to respond before this gets more heavily publicized. I think that 1 week is more than fair, after which time we have to consider the responsibility of letting the other admins know what's going on. I'll probably work on sending personal emails to the admins, one-by-one.


-------
Here's how I figured this out. Even after PM intervention, Melissa wouldn't stop spamming our forums. I called up PowerTV, spoke with her, and she agreed to stop. Shortly thereafter, I received an email spam from someone, promoting their new "internet video" service. I put two-and-two together, and realized that they were one and the same company.

August 20th was the 1-year anniversary of the Spank My Monkey campaign. I noticed related parties were working to cover up the failed promotion. So, I sent an email to all of the companies listed in SEMA's public member directory, on sema.org. This let them know what happened, and more importantly, let everyone know that we won. I got positive response from many SEMA members. Anyway, James Lawrence, the CEO of PowerTV, is a SEMA member, and got the email that I had sent out. Out of all the SEMA responses, his was the most negative, and the most arrogant, even accusing me of spamming (not really accurate, as my email was non-commercial, and sent to a publicly-listed contact list). Anyway, I got suspicious when he was so vigorously and arrogantly defending himself. So, I googled for "powermelissa".

-----------
We don't yet know how far powermelissa's network spreads. How many advertisers? How many forums? One site offers a potential clue.

On the SugarCRM forums, there is a user named powermelissa. SugarCRM is software used for "CRM" -- Customer Relations Management. Around the same time as the initial "hey guys" posts are made, the user "powermelissa" makes a post on the SugarCRM forums. She is importing contacts from her old CRM software, into her new software, SugarCRM. How many contacts? She says: "about 300": exporting 300 contacts.

While we don't know for certain whether this is the same powermelissa, it certainly provides one plausible theory.

-----------
Here's what I've gathered, from conversations with the companies, and analyzing the marketing campaign:

--PowerTV is, essentially, trying to bring the same values and structure of "Hot Rod TV" to the web. They want automotive forums to run a "PowerTV" channel, where they can insert advertiser-driven content into web communities.

--We know that, on television, the hotrodding shows follow the Advertiser-Funded Programming, or "AFP" model. Essentially, this means that the shows are written to push product for the sponsors. For example, "PowerBlockTV" (apparently not affiliated with PowerTV) is one of the largest producers of hot rod shows. On their site, they attract advertisers by saying: "From cams to lubricants, exhaust systems to seat covers, the producers of Powerblock TV can tailor show content to benefit your bottom line!". PowerTV's info for advertisers is very similar. Advertisers pay, and they tailor.

--First, PowerTV struck deals with a bunch of parts companies. The parts companies paid them for promotion. Then, PowerTV made promotional films for those companies, and they spammed forums with the promotional films. AND, on the side, they're spamming admins with a deal to make a "PowerTV" channel on their forums. They want hotrodders to upload their own videos, and they can intersperse them with PowerTV promo vids for sponsors. They've told the sponsors that, once the network grows, they will be able to show advertising targeted to specific user videos.

--The promo videos that PowerTV has made are BLATANT advertising and product-pushing. At the far end of the line, even when compared to what's on TV. Little to no tech info.

--There's really no good reason for hotrodders to not use YouTube for this functionality. It's easy to upload vids, and make themed "channels" for related vids. Also, YouTube was started by people wanting to host videos on the net, not by companies wanting to push their products.


----------------
A while back, there was a similar incident, when a spammer named "mandyc19" mass-posted to forums. She was speaking in defense of a recent performance by Ashlee Simpson (sister of pop singer Jessica Simpson). This led to the use of the term "Ashleeturfing" -- a combination of "Ashlee" and "Astroturfing" (starting a fake grassroots campaign).
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Old 08-26-2007, 04:07 PM
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almost peed my pants when i saw the photo of Melissa .. LOL



I bet she does not own a Jeep or hot rod... probably a Prius and a well worn tree in her back yard for hugging...

not that a Prius can not be a hot car.



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Old 08-30-2007, 01:51 PM
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"Big-time" claims aside, my chief concern is that she's advertising for these companies, without letting people know that she's working for them. That's not going to sit well with a lot of admins.

Secondarily, it's all being done to turn forums into the new "Hot Rod TV", which is probably the exact opposite of what most forum members want.
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Old 09-26-2007, 06:32 PM
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Talks with Holley, Comp Cams, and other companies have broken down completely. I even had a conference call with what seemed like Comp Cams's entire marketing department. They refused to put a stop to this. So, I've been notifying the admins of the involved forums, to let them know what's going on.

It takes a while to individually email all of these admins with a uniquely-composed email -- I can see why PowerTV resorted to spamming !

Anyway, I've just finished another round of emails -- I've emailed or otherwise contacted 35 of the listed sites so far.
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Old 09-26-2007, 06:56 PM
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Come on, everyone knows Melissa
drives a broom.

rich
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Old 09-26-2007, 07:35 PM
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You've obviously worked very hard on this. As a member here and of other automotive forums, (and as a moderator on one of them) your efforts against such practices are greatly appreciated by me. And I'm sure they are by all who read this.
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Old 09-26-2007, 08:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Notorious
You've obviously worked very hard on this. As a member here and of other automotive forums, (and as a moderator on one of them) your efforts against such practices are greatly appreciated by me. And I'm sure they are by all who read this.

x2
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Old 09-26-2007, 08:46 PM
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The depths some will stoop to for a buck never cease to amaze me. Even more amazing is that it is passed off as chasing the "American Dream". Somehow, I don't think greed is what the dream was supposed to be about...

The main thing I like about this forum is it is really about passion of the enthusiast - real American dreams. It's almost mind-boggling to see how much work it takes to keep the vision pure. Thanks

No offense intended for those of different national origins. Just speaking from my too narrow, stuck in the States, point-of-view. I really need to travel...
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Old 09-29-2007, 07:41 AM
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This is very iteresting. Lots of boards I read and stop at have seen this. That list is too short. The work is great that you did to give us the HU.
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