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'Wake Up!' Apple store protest? Nope, BlackBerry marketing stunt

May 01, 2012|By Deborah Netburn
  • A screen grab from Nate Burr's YouTube video documenting a "protest" outside an Apple store in Sydney, Australia. RIM has claimed credit for the marketing stunt.
A screen grab from Nate Burr's YouTube video documenting a "protest"… (YouTube )

Desperate? Clever? Too little, too late?

It's hard to know what to make of the news that Research in Motion, the company behind BlackBerry, has taken credit for the "WAKE UP!" "protest" that took place outside an Apple store in Sydney, Australia, last week.

"We can confirm that the Australian 'Wake Up' campaign, which involves a series of experiential activities taking place across Sydney and Melbourne, was created by RIM Australia," the company told The Age.

Even before it was revealed who was behind the "protest," caught on video by Australian video blogger Nate Burr and viewed around the world, it was clear that it was a marketing stunt.

Fifty people clad in black don't just arrive in two slick black buses in front of an Apple Store carrying identical signs and shouting "WAKE UP!" for fifteen minutes or so before dispersing without some corporate money in the background.

Not to mention the too-good-to-be-true coincidence that a popular video blogger just happened to be outside that same Apple Store, with his video camera running, just moments before the protesters arrived.

"All throughout this, people were questioning my ability to be at the right place at the right time with my cameras on just as the buses arrived," said Burr in a recent (and not family-friendly) video. "And right. You should be suspicious."

Burr explains that days before the protest, he signed a nondisclosure agreement with RIM and the company tipped him off to the time and place of the "protest." He said RIM didn't pay him a dime for the video he made.

"I wasn't under their thumb," he said. "I wasn't paid, there was no contract involved here, the only that that happened is they said, 'This thing is going to happen.' I said, 'Fine. I'll check it out.'"

We can't help but wonder if Burr might regret not having been paid: After all, his initial video on the protest generated an impressive 460,000 views in little more than a week.

As to whether the PR stunt was a success -- well, that depends on who you to talk to. The Age reports with no uncertainty that the faux protest backfired on the ailing company, but Burr points out that it certainly got people talking about BlackBerry.

And the big reveal that it was BlackBerry behind the stunt coincides nicely with the BlackBerry World Conference taking place in Florida and the release of the new BlackBerry10 operating system on Friday.

Seems like a definite sort-of-success to us.

One additional note: To be fair to RIM, the "Wake Up" campaign did not only target the Apple Store. The company also sent "protesters" to a television studio in Sydney, and sent a speedboat with the Logo "WAKE UP!" around Sydney Harbor.

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