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Are You Bored?

How to put on the marketers

YOU HEARD THE RUMOR here first: there's been a rash of abuses on Evite.com, yet another UBH (useless bandwidth hog) whose ads have been appearing on taxicabs and boarded-up warehouses (soon to be startups!) all around Silicon Bay. Evite.com is a service on which you can sign up for free, with no background checks whatsoever, and create "online invitations" to parties, anniversaries, pet funerals, whatever.

When you're evited to something, you get an email that links you to a web page that explains the nature of the celebratory event. Subsequently you are allowed to do things that no partygoer should ever do, such as find out who else has been invited and whether they've accepted or declined to come.

According to gossipers on the digital grapevine, people have been using Evite.com to commit cruel pranks, inviting "losers" to fake parties with forged guest lists, sending them to non-existent locations on dark streets, and then taunting them by showing up with digital cameras and posting their "stupid guest" pictures on the web the next day. Even more disturbingly, these pictures--taken out of context--appear to portray actual parties. And thus the cycle continues, with the Evite.com bogus party mafia using pictures of old pranks to lure new, unwary game to the next fake party. So watch out when you hear from Evite because you might be the next victim of the fake party prank.

Evite CEO Josh Silverman says there is no truth to the rumor. "We have not received any complaints from individuals with regard to prank Evite invites. If we were to receive such complaints, they would be taken very seriously."

Speaking of pranks, I know just what to do to stop those idiots at Evoke.com from torturing us with this month's most brainless example of market sloganeering. Evoke is the moronic UBH responsible for advertising the fact that it has a new name (is that really a selling point?) by using weird, random images of screaming women on its billboards. Can you imagine that marketing meeting? "Sure, your customers really want to see screaming women. That will make them remember your cool new name!"

Even better, though, is what you get when you go to Evoke's website. Here's the slogan: "Until there's telepathy, there's Evoke." Does this mean ANYTHING AT ALL? Are they selling some form of proto-telepathy implant? Mind-control cookies? Psychic routers?

So my pal Lou Cabron and I, looking over this utterly rank business vision, decided something must be done. And you can help. We need to spam every telepathy newsgroup, website, chat room and mailing list with Evoke's website address, along with a note explaining this is a new telepathy web service and encouraging people to write in. If Evoke is trying to target the telepathy audience, let's give it to them! This is viral marketing at its finest.

In other news, I've decided to blame Ben and Jerry's ice cream for a press release I received from the aptly named Formula PR Corp. As a geek, and an admitted Kozmo.com addict, I consider it my duty to sample every new Ben and Jerry's flavor. But lately, B&J has been getting lazy. All of its new flavors are just mixes of old flavors--so you get Cherry Garcia crossed with Chocolate Brownie, or some other random combination of "smashed together" flavors.

B&J's new flavors are obviously behind for the creation of eFind.com, a UBH that combines "the power" of my beloved search engine Inktomi with "the lure of Internet sweepstakes." Yes, it's a search engine that enters you into a sweepstakes where you can win prizes that are targeted to you, the consumer. I feel like calling Kevin, the marketing director at Inktomi, and screaming, "WHY, Kevin, WHY????" It's like using scientific instruments to measure the diameter of a Hostess Ding Dong. Isn't Inktomi better than this? Aren't online sweepstakes stupider than this?

The idea, of course, is that smashing together the "search" flavor with the "win prizes" flavor will inspire customer loyalty and stickiness and blah, blah, blah. But really all it does is turn a robust search engine into something faintly evil, or maybe just deeply kitschy.

Of course, who am I to protest the kitschification of science? It's just that I'd always imagined the future of science would resemble Dune--you know, all sleek and imperial and full of drug-addicted mutants. Maybe science kitsch is what I've secretly wanted all along. Bad taste is, after all, better than fascism.

Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd who is having a nice day, thank you very much.

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From the April 27-May 3, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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