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Guardian 'experiment' revealed

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A fictional brand that offers no product has managed to fool more than 1,500 people into responding to its ads.

The brand, called Joy, was advertised in the national press for six days, as well as on an advertising hoarding plastered on the back of a truck and driven around London.

The ad showed a naked man leaping around in a black rubber ring, surrounded by the words "sing, laugh, drive, sleep, eat, breathe, cry, but do it with joy".

Nothing else was offered by way of explanation as to what the company offered apart from a URL, www.withjoy.co.uk, and a phone number.

But this wasn't part of a dotcom scam, rather an "experiment" by UK newspaper The Guardian to demonstrate the scary power of branding.

"Are brands so powerful today that you could launch one without a product and still make a splash in the market?" today's Guardian asks.

It would appear so - a bit of nakedness and a few choice words was enough to get 1,562 people to ring the number or log onto the Web site and register their interest in Joy.

According to The Guardian: "We used to make money by selling things; today we make money by selling an emotional attachment to a brand."

And the 1,562 people who felt compelled to respond to Joy? The Guardian has kindly offered to send them all a limited edition Joy T-shirt.

Of course, if you were of a cynical turn of mind, you might wonder whether the scam didn't prove something entirely different that we all knew already. You blow shedloads of money (virtual, in this case, as they were house ads) on national newspaper publicity for a whole week. Then you get a crummy 1,500 people who might be vaguely interested in a dubious-looking consumer dotcom, but six months down the line it'll turn out they weren't. You probably heard that one before, somewhere... ®

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