Bloggers Flock To Covert Booze Ad

Michael Moore holds the award for favorite movie, for his work on Fahrenheit 9/11, backstage at the 31st Annual People's Choice Awards, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2005, in Pasadena, Calif.
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Have you seen the "Tea Partay" video yet? If so, you're hardly alone. The video is all the rage in the blogosphere, but did you know it's also an advertisement? Plus, Iran's president enters the blogosphere, unveiling his own new blog. What does he have to say? And, conservative bloggers are outraged over Michael Moore — again.

Tea Partay Anyone?

A two-minute parody of a rap video has turned into an online phenomenon, thanks yet again to YouTube. But this time, the video hit is also building advertising buzz through the blogosphere. Smirnoff's "Tea Partay" is actually a commercial for a new iced-tea malt beverage, but you wouldn't know it.

Is this the future of advertising?

Since Smirnoff posted the video Aug. 2 on YouTube, it has been viewed over a half a million times. The video, showing three preppy, dock-sider wearing blond friends rapping on a tennis court, has spread like wildfire on e-mail.

Some of the lines include: "To my homies on lockdown for insider trading" and "high tea in the parlor makes the ladies hollar." Singing in the background are three pearl-wearing, sweater-set clad blond women.

However, you would have to watch carefully to even realize it's an ad for Smirnoff. The booze company uses a soft-sell approach. One reference to the product goes, "We'll serve Smirnoff Raw Tea and finger sandwiches." The WASPy characters in the video also hold the bottles in some scenes, but not as up close or overt as in most commercials.

It's been a smart way to generate buzz for a new product. And, apparently, it's relatively cheap to produce. Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the New York firm that crafted the Smirnoff video, told the Wall Street Journal it spent less than $200,000 to create it — a typical TV spot costs an average of $350,000 to make.

Why do people like it so much? Most bloggers say they were simply amused by the catchy lyrics and spoof on rap videos. And those who know it's a commercial heap praise on the advertising agency for its creativity.

"The video's cool. It looks like a music video you'd see on BET or MTV, but although I'm humored by the inventiveness of BBH's approach (Smirnoff's ad agency), I worry that Hip Hop in the wrong hands could be the beginning of the end," Stevio writes.

"It is pretty clever and funny," Brown Sugar Bunny adds.

"I first saw the video this morning and laughed out loud," Virginia writes at Brains on Fire. "I went to school in the northeast and recognized the archetypes from the video from there. I'm laughing because Smirnoff nailed it."

But not everyone is a fan. "It's hard to figure out who will be the most harmed by this; the hip-hop community, Ivy-League grads with three names or unsuspecting consumers who buy this swill. Unfortunately for the company, the entire concept is as stale as the rhymes in the video," Shootingspree blogs.

And Burt Helm writes on BusinessWeek's blog: "The video was tacky, derivative, and lame. So yes, Smirnoff got its product in front of me. But because it came to me as entertainment, not a commercial, I'll judge them all the more harshly. That, and I'll be sticking with beer."

Some bloggers also question why the Smirnoff site has so little information.

"Subtle integration of the product into the original video is great, but once someone expresses real interest in the brew, go ahead and put it front and center. Don't subtly tease it and urge people to come back later. What are the chances of that happening?" Pamela Parker Caird writes at The River.

And Then There Was, Like, This U.N. Meeting

Technology has certainly changed the way world leaders operate. Coming on the heels of his much-discussed interview with CBS News' Mike Wallace, Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiled his new blog. Technorati marketing director Derek Gordon told Newsweek that it's the first ever by a sitting head of state, and the blogosphere took notice.

The blog is available in Farsi, Arabic, French and English. So far, it features little more than a lengthy autobiography discussing his years growing up the pious son of a hardworking blacksmith who distinguished himself as a scholar with his "university admission test-conquer." There are also a few links to official government sites.

And, like any good blogger, Ahmadinejad also includes several of his most flattering photos, and a click poll. The poll question: "Do you think that the US and Israeli intention and goal by attacking Lebanon is pulling the trigger for another world war?" Perhaps a loaded question, but as of last Saturday, over 320,000 people had responded (66 percent said no). While readers can submit comments, a pop-up window says that remarks will be reviewed before posting.

Typical of his fellow bloggers, Ahmadinejad ends with a vow to be more concise. "I will continue this topic later on as it took long in the beginning. From now onwards, I will try to make it shorter and simpler."

So, what's this all about? As the United Nations' Aug. 31 deadline for Iran to halt uranium enrichment nears, is this a global public relations campaign?

Some bloggers say Iran's purpose is to counter negative press.

"Ordinary Iranian citizens are increasingly running into barriers when they try to start their own blogs. Iranian authorities are stepping up arrests of popular bloggers as part of a wider Internet clampdown launched after hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad," Rick blogs.

Others say it's an attempt to portray the West as an oppressor. "What is most fascinating about it is how ... he appeals to his poor background, and links it to the poverty endemic in Iran," Ali Eteraz writes. "Obviously the attempt is to paint the West as responsible for that poverty."

Daniel Drezner agrees the autobiography is telling. "The blog is worth checking out for Ahmadinejad's ... interesting interpretation of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei's post-revolution strategy of political inclusion," Drezner writes.

On the political front, there were also many rumors online that the Iranian government was spreading a virus through the blog, specifically targeted at Israeli visitors to the site, though that was never confirmed.

"It's pretty interesting to think that such a high-ranking leader (or his employees) would start a blog and poll readers on whether the United States' or Britain's interaction in the Middle East are instigating World War III," Brian at ITS Community Blog writes, commenting on the blog's poll question.

And, on that note, Girl in the Rain wonders "will we be hearing about a 'George W. Blog' next?"

Not All Publicity Is Good Publicity

And, in another example of technology's role in international politics, an Iraqi militant group produced an elaborate video of what it said were attacks on U.S. troops, and posted the video on the Internet. The video included scenes from a Michael Moore movie. It's the latest example of the increasingly sophisticated propaganda war being waged by Iraqi insurgents, some experts say.

"The Code of Silence" was posted on the Internet by the Rashedeen Army, considered a relatively small Sunni group. As Reuters describes it, the video uses scenes from Michael Moore's anti-war film "Fahrenheit 9/11" as the narrator taunts President Bush in softly spoken English over graphic images of Humvees being blown up by roadside bombs, and purportedly dead U.S. troops.

At one point, according to Reuters, the video cuts to a scene from Moore's film where he lobbies on the steps of the U.S. Congress in Washington. "After all, there are honest and influential guys in America and if Mr. Moore can talk to you like that, so can I," the Rashedeen narrator says.

Many conservative bloggers were utterly outraged at Michael Moore, again, for creating what they believe to be propaganda that can be used against the United States.

"Mikie Moore is an inspiration to jihadist propagandists everywhere!" Jonathan writes at Crush Liberalism.

"How many times do we have to report known instances of terrorists using Bush Bashing Americans as propaganda tools before the useless idiots start to wise up?" Robin at Chickenhawk Express writes. She adds that Michael Moore "is providing those that want to do us harm with the hate-inciting tools to fire up the deathmongers."

And the conservative blog Little Green Footballs mocks, "Michael Moore has fans all over the world, not just at Daily Kos."

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By Melissa McNamara