I was thrilled to hear that accidental internet celebrity, Antoine Dodson, is marketing a sex offender augmented reality app. (To the left is a canine interpretation Dodson's bed intruder Halloween costume.) Like some others, I felt conflicted about Dodson's sudden rise to fame: For one thing, his sister's attack was shoved aside by much of the coverage (as far as I know, her attacker is still out there). Dodson's sister, Kelly seemed to agree:
"Now that three weeks have passed since the alleged assault, Kelly said she enjoys the video and her brother's success. But when she first saw it, she said laughing about it was the last thing she wanted to do.
"When I first seen it, I was very upset about it because they were taking it as a joke and I was feeling like they were not looking at the part where I was the victim,” she said. “If Antoine wouldn't came in, I probably would be dead."
Finding out that Dodson's resulting celebrity -- and the various products it resulted in -- made him and his family enough money to move out of the projects endeared me even more to him. As did comments Dodson made, like the following:
"I want people to realize that this is funny. It is funny — I'm not going to lie, 'cause we're laughing too. But this is a serious matter," he said. "I really thought that when I went into Kelly’s room, he was choking her life out of her. I was terrified. … It was so crazy. But God allowed me to save her and that's what I did."
"We're not going to cry and play victim if that's what people want," he said to CBS, in a theme that's recurred in his conversations. "I was angry and I didn't want this to get swept under the rug...I just want to be the voice for people who are in a similar situation, who got their cases swept under the rug, and I feel like now I have that opportunity."
Now, it seems like Dodson is making good on his last comment: In addition to debuting his sex offender app earlier this week (available for both iPhones and Androids), he revealed that five percent of the sales are being donated to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). Promo for the app below.
Unlike internet celebs like the acid-tripping (is this official??) "Double Rainbow Man" Paul Vasquez -- hired by Microsoft earlier this fall to shill Windows -- Dodson is an internet celeb I care about, someone I want to succeed. A sober Vasquez peddling software for Bill Gates? Not so much. If I didn't use a beaten-up near-vintage Blackberry, I might just download the app purely in support of Dodson.
Most importantly, Dodson is spokesperson that undeniably cares about his product. The message I'm stressing (and other consumers back me up on this) is that authenticity is paramount in modern marketing, be it for an iPhone app or a certain gas company's corporate ad campaign.
Much ado has been made of the Yes Men's fake Chevron ads, complete with fake press releases and email blasts. In the wake of the BP disaster, Chevron had the right idea with their "We Agree" campaign -- they want to be seen as an advocate and avoid being lumped with BP as an environmental terrorist. That said, I found the hoax page to be a natural extension of their campaign, which made the company's adverse reaction suspect: Does Chevron disagree that "oil companies should clean up their messes"? In the end, I found that it was Chevron's reaction to the hoax -- not the hoax alone -- was what really caused me to question the authenticity of their original campaign. Below, Chevron's official response to the hoax:
"Chevron's new advertising campaign is meant to identify and highlight common ground on key energy issues so we can move forward safely, intelligently and collaboratively. Unfortunately, there are some that are not interested in engaging in a constructive dialogue, and instead have resorted to rhetoric and stunts. Today, activist groups have attempted to interrupt the conversation by issuing a fake press release and establishing a counterfeit website, which are not affiliated with Chevron."
Although, in a way, I feel for Chevron -- if the company indeed wants to start a dialogue about energy issues, they are headed in the right direction -- they have to understand that they can't go half-way. Even if the Yes Men hadn't gotten involved, the oil company would have to face difficult questions in any constructive dialogue. If they're unable or unwilling to provide concrete answers, they're better off saving their money and avoiding that type of campaign all together: If it seems inauthentic, it won't be effective.