(Forbes) When Google went public in 2004, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin defined their company's culture with the phrase: "Don't be evil." That advice has become a touchstone in Silicon Valley, invoked both earnestly and ironically. Now two Internet marketers have turned the phrase inside-out: running a brainstorming session aimed at finding new ways of doing the devil's work.
At the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, at least 200 online-ad specialists packed a hotel ballroom to learn about Malevolent Marketing 101. The session was jointly led by Robbie Whiting (founder of the San Francisco ad agency Argonaut), and Garrick Schmitt, a longtime ad executive at Razorfish who is now setting up his own advertising start-up.
Taking their cue from Google's core business of online advertising, Whiting and Schmitt began their session by filling a 30-foot wall with butcher-paper lists of all the ways that digital marketers could misuse customers' data, manipulate the public's mind, and engage in what were euphemistically called "dark practices." Reinforcing the message that this would be an excursion into the sinister, both men showed up dressed entirely in black.
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