Marketers weigh efficacy and ethics of guerilla efforts

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Tattoo artists, acupuncturists and rabbis are some of the people targeted by Johnson & Johnson's McNeil Consumer & Speciality Pharmaceuticals when it comes to putting together a guerilla-marketing campaign for its Tylenol brand. "We find out who the influencers are. The last people we go to are the end users. What they say is often not what they mean," said Ashley McEvoy, the company's VP-marketing.

Ms. McEvoy-who was part of a panel organized by the New York chapter of the American Marketing Association on how guerilla marketing has gone mainstream-talked about other ongoing projects such as targeting African-Americans at church groups in the South with promotions for St. Joseph's aspirin.

Todd Apmann, director of grass-roots marketing at Viacom's MTV and MTV2, also discussed some of his tactics. MTV organized a $2 bill concert back on Feb 2, 2002 which enticed big-name bands to small-time venues to reach the 18-34 demographic. Mr. Apmann was also involved in a promotion for "Newlyweds" in which the company partnered with Time Inc.'s Teen People to send readers spoof wedding invitations containing show-related freebies.

When asked by an audience member whether any of the guerilla tactics were employed to help social causes, Brian Bolain, national sales promotion manager of Toyota's Scion, described how the company targeted urban communities by having graffiti artists decorate the cars, which were later auctioned off for local charities.

However, the panelists were split on the ethics of stealth marketing. "We are not squeamish, but I have a real issue with stealth. You break the trust if people don't know who you are," said Drew Neisser, president and co-founder of independent shop Renegade Marketing Group.

no apologies

John Maron, former marketing communications director for Sony Ericsson, defended his involvement in a promotion that saw unsuspecting tourists handed camera phones and asked to take pictures of other ordinary folks. The stunt landed him on CBS's "60 Minutes," but Mr. Maron was unrepentant, saying that it was accompanied by a public-relations blitz.

The American Marketing Association plans to release the results of a small survey on guerilla marketing. One surprising finding was that 94% of respondents felt marketers will use alternative-marketing approaches more frequently in the future. Thirty-seven percent thought guerilla marketing was just as measurable as traditional marketing approaches, while 66% felt big ad agencies were able to deliver the goods.

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