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Astroturf : bad

viral marketing : ?

When a company hires someone to go create a new identity on a forum, establish themselves as respected forum members, and then plug the product? That's bad.

On the other hand? When they create a massive distributed online/offline puzzle/mystery that ties in with an upcomming product? That can be hella cool (I'm looing at you I love bees)

In the middle ground? We have electronics companys hiring attactive well dressed people to wander around high traffic areas using their products. That seems more honest than the forum people, but less honest than is desirable. On the other hand, I'd rather see how a piece of equipment works in the field instead of seeing a commercial for it.

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