The tale of Cash4Gold SuperBowl ad buy should have been a storybook tale extolling of the value of effective advertising. The Cash4Gold story could have read, “Business buys SuperBowl ad. Traffic to website increases 10 fold and justifies obscene ad cost.”
Instead, the Cash4Gold SuperBowl ad buy is a cautionary tale which should serve as a warning to any business of how social media will “get you” if you or your business model are less than authentic.
Barry Hurd over at 123 Social Media began telling this tale on February 2nd when he warned in his first post Cash4Gold Superbowl $2.7 Million Online Reputation Nightmare
Chief Marketing Officers beware: before spending a hefty sum of your 2009 budget on having two celebrities do a 30 second Superbowl ad… make sure you clean up your online reputation first!
(Note – read on – because Cash4Gold tried to do exactly that – only they tried to “buy” their way out of the social media muck they found!) Three days later, Barry continues the story in Cash4Gold – 72 Hours Later, Dugg to Death where he reports:
As of this morning: if you go to Google and do a search for “Cash4Gold” or “Cash 4 Gold” you will find the second search result to be an article titled “10 Confessions Of A Cash4Gold Employee” on the Consumerist. The article talks in-depth about how the Cash4Gold company works behind the scenes (and it is not a glowing review.)
It’s 48 hours after his 2nd post, I did as Barry suggests. I did a search on Google for the term for “Cash4Gold” (without the hyphens – as “regular” people would do) and found the situation for Cash4Gold’s online reputation is even worse than Barry reported.
When I did my search – I was greeted with a Google Ad for Cash4Gold which reads: “Deal with Refiner – Maximum Payout! Request a FREE Kit. 100% Guarantee.” Cash4Gold is definitely AWARE of the firestorm and has decided to try yet another way to “buy” themselves out of their continually deteriorating online reputation.
The organic search reveals why they’re having to spend money to get the top listing for their own domain name: the first organic search result which is an article in the LA Times Beneath Cash4Gold’s shiny veneer, a dull reality.
Guess you can’t count on people to skip the news stories and go straight to the the 2nd organic listing for the business name which is the Cash4Gold website so when in doubt, throw more money at the problem and hope it goes away.
Meanwhile, the list of blogs which have picked up the Cash4Gold story continues to grow. When I did my search – next listing following the Cash4Gold website was an entry over at the blog Cockeyed Citizen: Cash4Gold Will Offer One-Third of the Actual Value for your Gold.
Turns out, this blog post is NOT something new. Turns out, this blog post has been up for a while and was the first in a two part series written by Rob Cockerham. According to Rob’s 2nd post, Cash4Gold did go on a “search and destroy” mission to try to clean up their online reputation before the airing of the SuperBowl ad. Guess it took writing checks to Ed McMahon and MC Hammer, in addition to writing a check for the famously overpriced SuperBowl airtime for the execs at Cash4Gold to do a quick check to see what 30 million SuperBowl viewers might find if/when they did a Google search for the company.
In the 2nd blog post Cash 4 Gold would like to melt down and recast their reputation, Rob not only shares the emails received from Cash4Gold, he also shares the price they were willing to pay him to remove the posts. It’s really WELL worth the read.
However, the efforts to buy their way out of this by Cash4Gold execs was too little, too late. Way back in October, a time when no one would have IMAGINED that the Cardinals would be playing in the big game, the blog the Consumerist had already picked up the story and run How To Avoid Getting Ripped Off By Cash4Gold. They then ran a follow up post just before the SuperBowl ad aired in Cash4Gold Offers Blogger $3,000 To Remove Negative Post.
The first comment on the 2nd Consumerist post was by Cheesebubble: “suddenly, i hate everything …and i’m gonna blog about it!”
That, my friends, is the way of the new web.
Tom Volkar was venting the other day about being authentic. He was authentically pissed off and he wrote:
A well-known social media expert recently tweeted something like this. “Don’t share anything here that you wouldn’t put up on billboards all over town.” Even that pissed me off, because he seemed to be saying, “wear the mask – don’t be real – be careful.” Bullshit to that! I wouldn’t pay to express my anger on a billboard but I’ll not run from it either.
Tom doesn’t have to buy a billboard to vent his anger because he’s got a blog, just as Rob Cockerham doesn’t need a billboard to share his experience with Cash4Gold.
Oh- did I mention that YOUR customers don’t need to buy ad space either to vent THEIR anger? This is Web 2.0 and the power is quickly shifting to the people.
Got a business? Got Social Media Strategy?
I would venture to guess that 20 years ago, the Cash4Gold story never would gotten this big. The question now isn’t will it get big – it’s how big will it get?
One thing is for certain – this is DEFINITELY bad news if your business model is threatened by the growing transparency of the new web.
Any chance you’ll mail your gold to Cash4Gold after reading this? (Me neither.)