One recent (and significant, in terms of size and who the players are) example of this is the black carpet service from MySpace. By adding “Black Carpet Screenings” as a friend to your MySpace profile, you join 82196 (and counting) other MySpace users in opting in to receiving marketing messages from the studios about premieres at local theaters.
I have to say I’m conflicted about the whole phenomenon. I can understand the enthusiasm of those who see this as a major validation of social networking and opt-in marketing is certainly better than the alternative.
But is the metaphor in which “Black Carpet Screenings” needs to accept me as a friend the best we can imagine?
It reminds me of early attempts to use instant messaging for marketing: just add the AcmeCorp Robot to your Buddy List, and you’ll get the latest info!
I liked then, and still like now, the concept of using the new medium, but why do I have to pretend to be friends with some abstract corporate shill in order to get the info?
Will “BlackCarpetScreenings” have more personality than the average corporate marketing voice?
If it does, does it matter that it isn’t a real person?
I suppose MySpace has always played pretty loose with the “friend” relationship. The only reason I even have a MySpace profile and account is to get access to the bands who use their profiles to post music, announce tour dates, and the like. These bands aren’t actually people either – but it doesn’t feel so odd to list them as “friends” since they’re typically small, indie bands, and the person actually working on the MySpace page is likely in the band or close to the band.
It doesn’t help that Black Carpet tells you nothing about who the proverbial man-behind-the-curtain is, or what they’ll be doing. When the person behind the profile is a committee of studio executives, or label marketing folks, it triggers my authenticity meter and becomes a turn-off. Illogical perhaps, but that’s human.