Tim Longhurst's Blog

Ponytail people at Naked Communications strike again

January 20th, 2009 · 20 Comments

You know, there’s a lot of mistrust out there in the world, and one Sydney based company, Naked Communications, is out there doing more than its fair share to fuel cynicism.

In fact, whenever I hear “Naked Communications”, in my mind’s eye I see a guy in a ponytail. Slick, confident, out of touch, total contempt for the audience, a liar.

While the best of the marketing world caught the Cluetrain long ago and many are scrambling to get their copy of Age of Conversation (two books that remind us to respect – and engage honestly – with our stakeholders), Naked Communications seem to come out every once in a while to show that they’re not afraid of damaging a client’s reputation – as long as there’s a few column inches in it.

I searched Flickr for pony tail man and got this guy – sensitive ponytail man, but he doesn’t quite look as out of touch as the Naked Comms guy in my head:


It all started back when Coke’s advertising agencies conspired to cynically pretend to be activists to sell chemicals, groundwater, plastic and aluminium as a social movement (see Consumers: 1, Coke, Zero). Days after I got stuck into the “Zero Movement” campaign of Coke’s, a rep from Naked Communications phoned. She was keen to discuss why I’d taken issue with advertising people pretending to be activists, and invited me to speak to Naked – and perhaps Coke – for a fee.

I do make most of my income from talks and presentations, but I couldn’t reconcile the idea of publicly campaigning against unethical communication and then somehow getting caught up advising Naked. I didn’t do the talk.

The latest Naked Comms ponytail moment

I haven’t heard about Naked in a while, but today I read in the Herald that they’re up to their old “let’s blatantly lie our target audience and hope nothing bad happens” routine.

Today’s SMH sees journo Caroline Marcus uncover Naked’s latest less than honest marketing venture: what seemed to some to be a Sydney girl using YouTube to spark a relationship with a passing stranger turns out to be a Naked-hired actress.

The actress wasn’t very convincing, and lots of comments on the video suggested it was a stunt. In a rich moment of irony, the actress assured the Herald that her plight was real: “There seems to be a lot of cynical people” she protests. Of course there are, and in a small way, we’ve got campaigns like this one to thank.

Does Naked have a Code of Ethics at their office? Are they using it as a mouse mat?

Being socially destructive – eroding people’s confidence in each other – isn’t a simple by-product of this kind of dishonest marketing, it’s the main outcome. When you’re wrapping a fresh elastic around your ponytail, “Any publicity is good publicity” probably feels like a smart thing to say. But a brand that’s known for its values and the remarkable nature of its products is always going to beat a brand that’s famous for duping potential customers to get attention.

Naked are said to be part of Photon’s “Strategic Intelligence” business. Those are big words to live up to. Being dishonest isn’t all that strategic and being tricky isn’t the same as being intelligent.

If you work at Naked, it might be a good idea to put the two books I mentioned early in this post on your reading list – or, if you get it, give them to someone senior in the business.

Naked’s website actually boasts that “many of our clients cite our honesty as a reason they like working with us.” Based on their track record, I suspect this is a lie, or perhaps it’s just “a bold marketing move” from the Ponytail Posse?

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Category: Communication and connection

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