Are You for Real?

| January 8, 2003 Issue

Has anyone ever told you about their favorite brand of dog food, leading you to later buy it at the store? Ever hear someone rave about a particular brand of drink and think, “I should try that next time”? You may have been the target of marketing group Big Fat, Inc., which specializes in “real life product placement” to plant brands in the consciousness of a generation that’s become less receptive to mainstream marketing tactics.

By employing real people who enthusiastically promote products to their target demographics, Big Fat may be the beginning of the next wave of advertising, writes Natalie Alvarez in Maisonneuve. Since its inception, Big Fat has come under serious scrutiny for cornering individuals in settings where they least suspect a product pitch. Another reason these operatives cause concern is that they “blur the boundaries between conning and advertising, authenticity and illusion, seeming and being, (which) eats at the very heart of existential insecurities” that date back to the days of Plato and Nietzsche.

In defending his company’s marketing methods, Big Fat CEO Jonathan Ressler invokes the nostalgia of simpler days, when friends swapped shopping tips with friends. Of course, these ‘”friends” are employees paid to “act themselves” and promote a brand. As an employee of a rival advertising firm noted, this may be the beginning of The Truman Show come to life: “Did your wife marry you because she loves you, or because she wants you to buy a certain brand of soap?”

--Erica Sagrans

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