The creepiest marketing story ever told

Barry11If you want to creep yourself out about the future of marketing, one anecdote on the Word of Mouth Marketing Association blog should do the trick. Seems a guy named Tom Coates, who works for the BBC, posts a long item on his personal blog,, about how he hasn’t spoken to his father in 30 years. Among the sympathetic postings is one from a “Barry Scott,” who says he went through a similar ordeal but decided to make amends with his dad. He even says Coates can "drop [him] a line" if he needs further support. But as it turns out, Barry Scott doesn’t exist—except as an alleged spokesperson for Reckitt Benckiser’s household cleaner Cillit Bang. Here’s a link to a blog supposedly authored by Barry Scott—yuck!—and a bunch of speculation as to who Barry might be. While it’s obviously atrocious form for a spokesperson, real or imagined, to comment to someone’s post about their estranged dad, it was even harder to fathom the company’s apology, sent to Coates via PR agency Cohn & Wolfe. It reads, in part, “The Barry Scott character has appeared in a number of spoof websites and weblogs, created by people unconnected to the Reckitt Benckiser brand. The weblog posting on your site was not endorsed by Reckitt Benckiser or any of the advertising agencies that are mentioned and was a one-off error from which lessons have been learnt.” What exactly is that supposed to mean?

—Posted by Catharine P. Taylor