Advertising Goes Undercover

It’s happy hour, and Julia Royter, a pretty 26-year-old actress, flirts with a well-dressed man in a midtown bar. After a few minutes, she relents and hands over her BlackBerry Pearl for him to enter his number. But she’ll never call. It’s all a crafty promotional trick called stealth marketing.

According to The New York Daily News, Royter is being paid to flirt. She’s part of a covert ad campaign for BlackBerry that attempts to drum up interest in smart phones by putting them in the hands of attractive, gregarious young women who push the product without the public’s knowledge.

For companies who do it, the risks of stealth marketing outweigh the benefits, says Jonathan Margolis, CEO of the Michael Alan Group and co-author of “Guerrilla Marketing for Dummies.”

“It might work if the product is good enough, but ultimately the consumer is being duped,” he says. “It’s risky to stage something that people think is a natural occurrence.

“There is a potential for backlash. Consumers don’t like being deceived, and brands don’t want to look bad.”

Photo by Sabo/News.

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