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Nvidia Accused of Deceptive Forum Tactics

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The Consumerist along with several other sources are accusing Nvidia and its entertainment PR firm AEG of secretly seeding various gaming forums and communities with hired shills:

“Graphics chip manufacturer Nvidia, in cooperation with the Arbuthnot Entertainment Group (AEG), had seeded various gaming and PC hardware enthusiast sites with pro-Nvidia shills. That is to say, that AEG would hire employees to create personas’ in various gaming communities, slowly building up the trust of other members by frequent posting unrelated to Nvidia, to later cash in that trust with message board postings talking up the positive qualities of Nvidia’s products.”

There’s still no proof that Nvidia has actually done this, but where there’s smoke, there’s typically fire and just the hint that this sort of crap is taking place under the guise of “PR” just pisses me off to no end. Especially, when I look at AEG’s website, where they tout a mix of PR and marketing rhetoric, underscoring the importance of community and online engagement and in the same breath touting services that at least on face value, seem to undermine communities and counter corporate participation (e.g., “strategic seeding of viral assets to ensure they are spread far and wide;” “strategic counsel and implementation: fires, misinformation, rumors, leaks”).

There’s nothing wrong with companies wanting to participate in forums and groups, I think it’s a smart strategy, but come on, not this way, do so openly and transparently and forgo whatever perceived short-term spikes you’ll get in popularity and buzz and focus instead on building real longer-term trust and credibility in your brand.

Update: Thomas Hawk has posted a lengthy email exchange between him and Nvidia’s PR director over this issue.

Mike Manuel is the founder of the award winning Media Guerrilla blog. Media Guerrilla is an insiders take on the practice of technology public relations with a focus on the issues, tactics and trends that are specific to the tech industry.

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Nvidia Accused of Deceptive Forum Tactics
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