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What could be more insincere than a bunch of marketing types concocting a fake blog to pimp their company's services by hitching them to worthy causes?

This could - getting a bunch of marketing people who specialize in nothing but pimping other people's products and services to do it for you. And then targeting kids and teens.

Microsoft has hired McCann Worldgroup to create a campaign driving uptake of its IM and email by affiliating with ten charitable organizations. Driving the campaign is the demographically-profiled and completely fake Parker Whittle, created by McCann. Hey, this speaks to the kids, right? Pot-smoking expression, geek glasses, blogging with the internets. That's what I hear my daughters' friends talking about all the time...

The idea is to get people IMing and emailing to raise money for the causes during a 30-day "i'm talkathon". Worthy stuff.

Except... for the charities to get donations you must be using Hotmail (Windows Live Hotmail) and IM (Windows Live Messenger). So step right up and open one, two or three accounts - more, even, because you can associate different charities with different accounts.

According to the talkathon literature: "Donations from the i'm Initiative are based on advertising revenue raised from Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Hotmail usage." Also: "The more you send messages, the more Microsoft will donate." And the more users of Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Hotmail it gets.

Among other creakingly scripted "conversations" on his "blog" "Parker Whittle" "writes": "I saw an ad that said, 'The more you talk, the more we give.' So I thought, if I get a bunch of people talking for 30 days, how much will they give?"

Microsoft and McCann are all business again at the bottom of the page with a disclaimer, just in case anyone had been taken in by this cleverly crafted fakery and decided to sue. Take note: "The Parker Whittle character depicted herein is fictitious and his activities are described for illustrative purposes only." The spirit of Dan Lyons lives. ®

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