Tag Archives: Sebastian Bowler

‘Guerrilla ad campaign hits new low after terrified woman thought she was being hunted by a stalker… who turned out to be Toyota’

As much as people suing for no good reason pisses me off, this is understandable. Toyota is a huge corporation that should know this stupid stunt could end badly. When you have that much money and a legal team, the idea of moving forward seems rather idiotic. Hope this lady gets her $10 million (rather extreme for 5 days of ‘fright’), but at the very least she should most definitely be given a Toyota.

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They targeted her in a creepy, stalker-themed online advertising stunt – but now the joke is on them.

Toyota and Saatchi & Saatchi are being sued for $10 million after marketeers launched a prank campaign of terror against an unsuspecting woman.

Amanda Duick, from California, first filed papers against the car-maker and ad agency two years ago over the intrusive ‘Your Other You’ campaign.

Creepy: A scene from the Toyota advert that 'freaked out' Miss DuickCreepy: A scene from the Toyota advert that ‘freaked out’ Miss Duick

Now a court in the U.S has ruled the defendants’ claim that she unknowingly agreed to the whole thing was invalid.

Miss Duick’s nightmare started when she began receiving frightening e-mails day after day from a strange man.

The man had her home address and appeared to be a 25-year-old beer-guzzling English football hooligan.

He told her he was on the run from the law and needed to hide out at her place with his pit bull Trigger.

But ‘Sebastian Bowler’ was in fact a fictional character made up by advertising staff.

He even had a MySpace page which advertising staff purporting to be him sent to the terrified Miss Duick.

Bowler told the prank victim he was on a cross-country road trip and would be at her house in a few days.

After Bowler wrote that he’d run into some trouble at a motel, Duick received an e-mail from someone purporting to be manager of the motel.

It included a bill and said Miss Duick was responsible for a TV Bowler had smashed.

Duick then ‘freaked out’ over the e-mails before she received a message directing her to a video explaining she’d been pranked.

The video revealed Bowler was a fictional character, and the whole thing had been part of an ad campaign for Toyota’s Matrix car.

Unknown to Duick, someone had signed her up for the campaign at YourOtherYou.com, a web site set up for the prank.

Frightening: A picture posted on MySpace of 'Sebastian Bowler' the fictional football fan who threatening to visit Miss DuickFrightening: A picture posted on MySpace of ‘Sebastian Bowler’ the fictional football fan who threatening to visit Miss Duick

The campaign was aimed at 20-something males because Toyota’s advertising firm, Saatchi & Saatchi LA, believed men of that age like to prank their friends.

Anyone signing up could choose one of five fictional characters – among them a heavy metal fanatic and a football hooligan.

The character would then barrage the designated friend with text messages, phone calls, e-mails and videos for five days.

The aim was to freak out the friend by making him or her think the stranger possessed personal information about the target – phone number, home address – and was on his way to visit.

Saatchi & Saatchi made sure the deception was complete by going so far as to create online personas for the fictional characters, including a band web page for the heavy metal fanatic.

The agency even recorded an album for the fictional character’s fictional band.

Saatchi creative director Alex Flint said about the campaign in 2008: ‘Even when you get several stages in, it’s still looking pretty real.

‘I think even the most cynical, anti-advertising guy will appreciate the depth and length to which we’ve gone.’

Messing with their heads: Toyota's online advertising campaign tried to prank peopleMessing with their heads: Toyota’s online advertising campaign tried to prank people

Campaign of terror: The 'Your Other You' marketing campaign tried to tap into what you males think is funnyCampaign of terror: The ‘Your Other You’ marketing campaign tried to tap into what you males think is funny

Miss Duick however sued Toyota and Saatchi & Saatchi and fifty individuals associated with the campaign for intentional infliction of emotional distress; unfair, unlawful, and deceptive trade practices; and negligent misrepresentation.

She is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages.

Toyota tried to dismiss the suit, insisting that an online terms-of-service agreement that Miss Duick had clicked on authorised the company to send her the e-mails and included a provision that any disputes over the campaign would have to be handled through arbitration.

But a California Appellate judge ruled that Toyota had enticed Miss Duick to click on the agreement under false pretenses, thus invalidating the arbitration provision.

According to the suit, after Duick’s friend signed her up to participate in the campaign without her knowledge, she received an e-mail with a link to a web site where she was invited to have a personality evaluation.

Duick clicked on the agreement, which made only vague references to an ‘interactive experience’ and a ‘digital experience,’ thinking she had signed up for a personality test.

She then began receiving the disturbing e-mails from ‘Bowler’.

The court ruled that the terms-of-service were void due to ‘fraud in the inception’ and the defendants ‘misrepresented and concealed (whether intentionally or not) the true nature of the conduct to which Duick was to be subjected’.

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