Rage Against the Machine (RATM) UK Christmas Number 1 is exposed as a viral scam

Update

I have to put this first as it’s the most important part of the story. I was convinced that I had found something that proved a conspiracy was afoot with Sony funding the viral campaign to get RATM to the coveted UK Christmas number one position.

But I was wrong.

It was never my intention to cause offence to Jon, Tracy and their family, it was to uncover a story that I thought was very interesting.

So I want to say sorry to Tracy and Jon Morter unreservedly.

I saw the response below here from Tracy and it got me (very) worried that my facts may be a bit out of line, so I mailed her and asked her to give me a call, which she did. We have just had a good chat with her kids running around in he background shouting for their tea.

The first response from Tracy Morter

Which she followed up a few minutes later with this

The second response from Tracy Morter that got me really worried

I offered to remove the entire post, but Tracy asked that I leave most of it in place as others will surely uncover the same series of coincidences and we agreed that this was a better plan to put my apology and her answers first.

Tracy assures me that all those coincidences are just that, coincidences.

They picked that song because it had rude words in it and they thought it would be funny on the Christmas Top of the Pops. I agree.

The Essex sites were done as a ‘swap’ to allow Jon to hold the real ‘World Cup’ and they didn’t even get paid for it.

The sites that link to the song on play.com are not connected to them and they are not earning commission from them.

They didn’t announce that they would be working to get Three Lions to number one for the World Cup. They refused an interview with the Evening Standard and the newspaper sort of made the potential connections themselves.

Tracy herself acknowledges that the coincidences are painting a picture against them, but they are just that. Coincidences.

Incidentally, Simon Cowell hasn’t been in touch and they haven’t been offered a job by his company.

And they’re not planning to run a similar campaign next year.

I’ve tried to be as open as possible here and published all the responses apart from the ones that are just offensive to the Morters or myself and don’t make any relevant points.

The story itself

Okay, I appreciate this isn’t going to be a very popular blogpost with some, but I said I was going to use this platform for my thoughts and these are my personal thoughts..

We’ve been talking about this a lot in the office and are now completely convinced that the RATM is no viral backlash, it’s a very clever piece of viral placement that is funded by Sony themselves.

So lets look at the evidence.

1. Simon Cowell wins both ways up, he is a director of Sony BMG who look after RATM. He has been since 2005 according to Wikipedia.

Rage Against the Machine’s album is on Epic Records. This single Cowell released on his own label is actually owned by Sony Music UK. Like Sony Music UK, Epic Records is owned by Sony Music Entertainment.

2. The strategy he employed is the same as that he used within the X Factor format itself. He is a bright fella and knows that the UK public either love him or hate him. He is the archetypal Mr Nasty – A pantomime baddy of the modern age. So, when he says he hates Jedward (and who could blame him for that) the whole of the voting public come out in their defence and vote for them to stay in the show. This has the effect of pushing the viewing figures to the highest they have ever been.

3. The guys behind the Facebook campaign don’t appear to have other jobs. Jon Morter has a linkedIn page that just lists him as professional. Perhaps he is a professional viral marketer?

4. There are press releases that have been placed on PR Log that have been written by an unnamed third party, but link back to a French Concierge Service that has in itself got links through to the UK music industry. I’m not sure this is a coincidence.

5. All the money is being given away to Shelter. Again, maybe I’m being overly cynical but I don’t believe that RATM have made Soooo much cash from their music that they can afford to ignore a casual £1/4 m of unexpected income? It sounds a bit premeditated to ward off the bad press in case they got caught. Which they have been.

6. The campaign’s Facebook page went down on December 13th. How convenient, just as the big push for sales was about to start that they should be front page news. They made it look like the establishment was even trying to take down two little individuals’ campaign to stop Simon Cowell dominating the charts, when all they were doing was actually helping him.

It’s just all a bit too convenient isn’t it?

7. Sony Have a track record of Viral deceit
In 2006, they placed stories as real customer feedback using an agency called Zipatoni and got caught. Again, I would say they are on the verge of being fully exposed again

8. RATM aren’t really anti establishment anymore. They are the establishment, they just swear for a living now. How is that anti? If all they do is the same stuff over and over again, are they continuing to actually rage against the machine or just capitalise on others desire to be seen doing so.

9. The Couple Who ran the campaign are called Jon and Tracy Morter. They ran a campaign last year to get Rick Astley to Christmas Number One against the X Factor Single. And yes, guess what record label our friend Rick is on? yes, Sony BMG.

10. They also announced yesterday that they were going to try and get the song Three Lions to be the Number one for the World Cup. This was written by The Lightning Seeds and featured Frank Skinner and David Baddiel. Guess what label they are on? Yes, it’s Epic, owned by Sony BMG again.

11. And perhaps the most damning evidence of all – from some great detective work by Hannah Pearce

Iris digital are on record as working on a project called Kiss The Cup (KTC). They have a facebook group for it, Which you can see here. And they have another one here. By some strange quirk of fate, the two administrators behind these sites are Jon and Tracey Morter.

Iris Digital are a part of Iris Group – an integrated services agency – and guess what they specialise in digital communications and campaigns. AND Sony is one of their biggest clients!

So that’s it. I know it’s not conclusive, but I’m convinced that this is a scam that is going to be exposed some time soon, as soon as someone can find who was really paying the bills behind the whole campaign.

What does this mean for the brand of Sony?

I would say that it will be in a little trouble if they get found out for this, but it shows the power of very cleverly manipulated social media and viral marketing campaigns and it also still shows that people do want to fight back against the dominance of this crap TV and crap music that is being produced by Simon Cowell and his pals.

You may also like to read Jane Love at Purple Circle’s take on it here.

Sony are claiming they’re going to do an ‘Apple’

I know I’m going on about Apple at the moment, but they do seem to be in my life a lot for all sorts of reasons.

I read today on Brand Channel that Sony are trying to become a ‘lifestyle’ brand alongside Apple. In the article Sony’s Executive VP Kazuo Hirai said that if they can offer movie downloads, game downloads and other entertainment, this would be a point of difference that is not available anywhere else.

What?

Sony are officially a Kevin Roberts Lovemark. One of those brands that we love over and above all reason. But this is evidence to me that they have totally lost the plot and are not just following the (Apple) market leaders, but they are a mile or two behind. Sony, when they launched the Walkman, created and defined a sector from scratch with the world’s smallest cassette player.

Apple’s iPod then came and took the whole sector from them, when they redefined the portable media player sector.

Sony have 33 million PlayStation users across the world, all of them plugged in to a wired or wifi’d world. It would seem a far stronger bet to build on this as a point of differentiation than trying to do it through their Bravia TV, Cyber shot cameras and e-readers, which are all a bit ‘me-too’ at best.

If they created a rental or fractional ownership system for games, entertainment, movies and music via the PS3, they would be onto a far more differentiatable (if there is such a word) product and one that has 33 million headstarts.

Otherwise for me, its Apple all the way.

I can imagine Apple launching a wifi TV – they already have a device that slings your picture from your mac to your TV, a wifi camera (that will be the iPhone 3gs then) and you can already read books on the iPod Touch/iPhone.

Sony have become a follower. They used to be radical. Lovemarks do radical things. Sony need to do something radical again, or they are in danger of us falling out of love with them little by little.