The Attention Economy and Hoax Marketing

The information age has become an attention economy. Michael H. Goldhaber states: "If the Web and the Net can be viewed as spaces in which we will increasingly live our lives, the economic laws we will live under have to be natural to this new space. These laws turn out to be quite different from what the old economics teaches, or what rubrics such as "the information age" suggest. What counts most is what is most scarce now, namely attention. The attention economy brings with it its own kind of wealth, its own class divisions - stars vs. fans - and its own forms of property, all of which make it incompatible with the industrial-money-market based economy it bids fair to replace. Success will come to those who best accommodate to this new reality." How can internet marketers tap into this attention economy? Well, one surefire way of capturing the attention of millions is to implement a "hoax marketing" strategy. In SEO terms, a hoax marketing campaign can generate thousands upon thousands of quality backlinks; which, as I'm sure you know, is a prerequisite for a high PageRank. Hoaxes are also excellent fodder for viral marketing campaigns. People go nuts for a weird or controversial story; they feel empowered because they are privy to a gem of secret knowledge. Inevitably, they then feel compelled to pass on the message via word of mouth/mouse. Within no time the knowledge of the hoax has mushroomed. Hoax marketing campaigns have been popping up all over the net recently. An excellent example would have to be the one orchestrated by the graffiti site


In this film they used special effects to give the impression that they had “tagged” Airforce One. This story has over 185 links in Google News from mainstream news outlets. This Hoax got Millions and millions of viewers and probably tens of thousands of backlinks. Another great hoax marketing campaign was used for the promotion of the Playstation game Shadow of the Colossus (which involves hunting and killing giant creatures). Sony created a fake website for a fictitious Polish geologist Arkady Simkin. Simkin claims to have participated in an oil-surveying expedition to Northern Siberia that found an enormous, skyscraper-size creature buried in the ice. He gives the following description of the creature (which he refers to as Taurus Major):

“The animal appears to be a huge quadruped with horns much like a bull. In fact it looks to be a hybrid of a bull, woolly mammoth and a rhino – if such a thing existed. But its size is truly colossal. The horns are immense in dimension and protrude from the head with incredible length. The body is covered with a combination of coarse fur and what can best be described as ‘body armor’ (like an American armadillo) – protects its enormous joints and head”.

The website, supposedly about "the mythology and culture of giants throughout the ages of humanity," is also part of this same marketing campaign. The giantology site also hosts some rather cool footage showing the skeleton of a giant uncovered on a beach in India by the tsunami.

A successful hoax marketing campaign requires a great deal of creativity. If pulled off, the dividends are priceless. More Hoax Marketing at

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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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aiiobo's picture

Good article.
ps - youtube sucks.

AnonymousCoward's picture

I disagree. Wholely.

Is the internet a prominent force in marketing? Yes. But I feel the post has gotten a bit too epic. People 1 - 25 will indeed spend more time on the net than their predessessors, but too suggest that it will in some way replace reality is a bit much. I think we can already see the ways we adapt to this new economy and we

Dabitch's picture

Youtube antidote - this Ecko Viral from Droga 5 directed by Randy Krallman from Smuggler is naturally in the archive: