September 04 2006

Yesterday we posted a bunch of bogus-sounding toaster reviews from the Ferrit online mall and today I asked the head of marketing Peter Wogan, if they were genuine or written in-house.

“Absolutely some of our reviews are generated in-house…Ferrit staff, Telecom staff and partner staff have reviewed products that they own or have used – toasters included.

“There are seven reviews of the Dualit toaster that currently feature in our advertising on the site. They were written to illustrate what can be done on the site to provide feedback and generate discussion,” he explains. “Some of the reviews are obviously tongue-in-cheek, as is our advertising style.”

Nice spin, but like the $500 toaster, we’re not buying it.

The whole point of consumer reviews is that they are independent – separate from the paid-for push.

Nowhere did Ferrit indicate these were written by “Ferrit staff, Telecom staff and partner staff”. Therefore, it is fair to assume that something called a “consumer review” of a product isn’t generated by those trying to sell them.

Because of this, it is also reasonable to figure Ferrit were reasonably comfortable pulling the wool.

Research overseas shows consumer reviews sway opinion to buy – why else would Ferrit be doing it?

This complete lack of transparency, blurring the lines between authentic consumer-generated reviews and what is cashed-up hype could easily backfire. No one likes a faker, especially one who tries to weasel out of things.

I can’t help but wonder, if Ferrit are prepared to make-up their own product reviews, then how many people will be paid to provide content for the soon-to-be-launched social networking version, Ferrit 2.0?

Local, Spare Room,

36 Responses to “Ferrit Writes Own Consumer Reviews”

  • Bob says:

    You seem surprised that Telecom’s trying to screw you. Look at everything else they do and you’ll see it follows a familiar pattern.

  • Steven says:

    The real irony is that our Google ads on this post are currently displaying Dualit toasters….

  • Patrick says:

    The real question here is what else do Mr Wogan and his gang of merry pranksters fake?

    That is, do they take their work home with them?

  • Zippy Gonzales says:

    Ferrit is like a dog in that it likes the taste of its own bollocks.

  • David says:

    This is just another example of the way that big corporates just don’t get viral marketing. There have been a number of cases overseas of big companies trying to fake ‘word of mouth’ and viral through the web, but maybe not as ham-fisted as this attempt.

  • Ana says:

    Ferrit’s Peter Wogan, kindly responds: ”I have faith that our users who see those reviews will see that they are tongue in cheek and in support of our current advertising,” he says.
    “We speak with 50 of our users every week on the phone through our research and get daily feedback through our site and this has not been an issue for any of our users to date. If it is an issue then of course we would address it”.

  • David says:

    Is the interviewing over the phone done with 50 real users, or 50 fake users? Does Ferrit actually have 50 real users?

  • Brana says:

    I wonder if this breaches the Fair Trading Act by pretending that the product has been genuinely reveiwed by genuine consumers in an attempt to mislead potential buyers as to the quality and “coolness” of the product? It would be if so-called “consumer” reviews are deemed advertising…

  • lopsided says:

    I guess it’s much easier to manufacture a community than allow one to breed of its own accord.

  • Pong says:

    Arrr, this happens a lot I suspect. I sometimes write an answer for a Q & A column in a mag and often have to make up my own Q to A. Sometimes you have to create dialogue to generate more dialogue. Still wouldnt buy the toaster though.

  • Juha says:

    Very good story ;)

    I take it all these comments are for real, and not generated in-house?

    ONLY KIDDING!

  • Steve says:

    What’s Ferrit?

  • Tim Haines says:

    Ferrit staff posting fake “user reviews” on Ferrit

  • speaks from experience says:

    Hmmm. Happens all the time.

    The skill involved is not to GET CAUGHT.

  • DB says:

    It seems that Telecom genuinely believe that their customers (across the board) accept/expect/assume/enjoy being duped. Either that or Telecom are unbelievably stupid. Or they’re supremely arrogant. Or all of the above.

  • Chaucey says:

    Telecom staff obviously have private lives though, and they might buy toasters and want to review them. I don’t have a problem with people reviewing stuff they’ve used. What I see as the problem is that the potential conflict of interest is not stated on each review, and that the reviews are sometimes tongue in cheek.
    Not everyone shares the same sense of humour and so people might not recognise fake reviews from real reviews.

  • Craig Ranapia says:

    OK, and even if these reviews were real would you take advice on any subject from someone who’d spend five hundred bucks on a fracking toaster? A five hundred dollar pair of shoes, that I get. :)

  • Murray says:

    For $500 it better be giving me breakfast with a “happy ending”.

    Ain’t no shoes in the world that can do that Craig… unless I’ve been going to the wrong sort of bar all this time.

  • Adolf Fiinkensein says:

    ‘No one likes a faker, especially one who tries to weasel out of things.’

    Pity they forgot to tell the PM

  • Steven says:

    What, did she get a toaster too?

  • Craig Ranapia says:

    Murray:

    I’ve turned over enough pairs of cheap, painfully badly-made shoes that don’t last six months, to say even the most robustly straight man should swallow hard and lay out serious cash for good shoes that will go for years with a little care.

    But a $500toaster? Please – all it has to do is burn bread to your satisfaction without taking the house with it.

  • Glen says:

    They have updated their reviews and have stated they are all Ferrit employees.
    Ferrit

    As my friend said: ‘You guys have got to check out the reviews now, they are even more funny as they say who they e.g. I’m the guy that makes the ads etc. Amazing that they don’t get point that they can’t review stuff whether they tell you it’s them or not. Reminds me of ad agencies testing their own ads’

  • David says:

    I’m not sure which is worse, the original failed deception, or the new versions ‘fessing up! Neither would remotely influence my purchase decisions (even if I was in the market for a $500 toaster!) Also, why would I use Ferrit when I can buy over the internet directly from the relevant retailer?? I think the management at Ferrit and Telecom need to read Nicholas Negroponte’s ‘Blown to Bits’ on the subject of the devaluation of the role of the middleman in an internet society.

  • The 1% rule within .nz - Menace says:

    [...] With these kinda figures you can see why Ferrit is writing their own customer reviews. « Trademe Job ads on Seek? [...]

  • Hamish MacEwan says:

    Hi,

    Congratulations on the story, and appearing in the NY Times.

  • TrustBite » Ferrit, weasel or rat? says:

    [...] Online shopping forum Ferrit came in for some major flak this week when it admitted staff at Ferrit had themselves posted supposedly random, user-based feedback on a toaster promoted on the site. Head of Marketing, Peter Wogan, is quoted as saying “… they were written to illustrate what can be done on the site to provide feedback and generate discussion…” Why then was there no statement noting this alongside the reviews? Apparently the reviews have since been removed by Ferrit – again I’d ask why, if they were purely ‘indicative’ and innocent? [...]

  • In Today’s Marketing Digest « G2 New Zealand says:

    [...] Opportunity Lost If only Telecom had taken the time, effort, energy and money applied to the Ferrit.co.nz enterprise and directed it to their online Yellow Pages offering! Instead, the Yellow Pages operation is being actively considered for sale, while the Ferrit is being excoriated for faking consumer reviews [as first reported in Spare Room]. How did it come to this? [continues in the newsletter] [...]

  • Diane McCarthy says:

    This is an example of intertextuality. The advertising agency has created a marketing ploy in its tv advertising campaign ( stereotyped geeky Internet shopper guy pulling chicks in pubs with cool designer toasters). Then it constructed fake consumer endorsements, on Ferrit.So the agency has used deception as a marketing tool. And here we all are, for free, raising the profile of that site, by participating in debate about the controversy! Very clever, and if under the Fair Trading Act the Commerce Commission, Fair Go, and the Consumers Institute get in on the act, and genberate more traction for this, so it becomes a main stream media story, then Telecom and its ad agency continue to laugh all the way to their respective banks.
    Playing ‘pick the trick’ is a better way to go. Let’s say how boring it must be to visit Ferrit if so few real people use it, that the ad man cometh! I will certainly continue to avoid it.

  • Real-world reviews blog » Blog Archive » Nothing but the real thing? says:

    [...] Tom Hayes is doing a series of posts on trust. One thing is for certain, on the web trust is hard to gain and then hard to maintain. With the rise and rise of spam, fake reviews and splogging, how long will it be before fake profiles are posted to push products – perhaps these will be called sprofiles. [...]

  • 8 degrees of vaughan rowsell » Can Ferrit pull one out of its… says:

    [...] Telecom has let the world know they have spent 12 million already on Ferrit and was planning another 12 in the next year. I have seen money spent better and got more in return, but by all accounts it seems the majority of the cash has been hosed into the now infamous ad agency that tried to convince the world Ferrit was the uber review site for toasters. [...]

  • MySale would never stoop that low says:

    Its online businesses such as ferrit which treats the NZ public like morons with there blase attitude that “its cheek and tongue” which ruins it for other people launching a web based business with a fraction … wait 0.001 % of there budget. May ferrit crash and burn for treating the NZ public like morons!

  • Who Killed the Ferrit? at Devour says:

    [...] faked it. Right when everyone online was just getting the idea that you need to be authentic they fake [...]

  • 8degrees of vaughan rowsell » Ferrit, an expensive lesson. says:

    [...] COMMUNITY: After the toaster review fiasco, any chance of community fell apart.  At best Ferrit just became a directory of retailers and a [...]

  • The failure of Ferrit - a dire assessment « Make it more Interactive says:

    [...] Ferrit Writes own customer reviews [...]

  • stating the obvious says:

    if telecom staff can afford a $500 dollar toaster… I am applying for a job there tomorrow.

  • Because « Rowan Simpson says:

    [...] Generally poor judgement, represented most famously by the fabricated toaster reviews. [...]

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