Corporate giant kicks ass

Any good salesman knows that the trick to securing a purchase is the small talk. I’ve been out on the road with reps in my time and it’s the idle chit-chat with the customer that often makes all the difference. When the sales pitch isn’t obvious, we tend to be at our ease. And before we know it, we’re parting with our money.

Marketing people can be just as clever as the field sales team though. Take the latest effort from corporate giant, GlaxoSmithKline, for example. The owners of Ribena have created a website called, which looks for all the world as if it’s a teenager’s homemade homepage. The graphic design is atrocious, with turn-of-the-century, clip-art wallpaper and irritating animated gifs. And the copy has a beautifully naive quality to it too.

“Hello, my name is Nick. This website is about donkey, my best friend in the whole world! I won donkey in a Ribena competition – cool or what? He doesn’t live with me, Mum says that’s because there’s no room for donkey in our house. He lives in a special donkey sanctuary.”

The only way to understand this site fully is to visit it. There are donkey webcams and family albums and goodness knows what else. For the purposes of this blog, however, it’s enough to say that GSK are making the most of the mania surrounding the movie Shrek 2 and are offering lucky punters the chance to win a donkey in a promotional competition.

The make-believe website carries banner advertisements claiming sponsorship from a certain popular children’s drink. And, as if that weren’t enough, there’s a link to a real sanctuary, which genuinely seems to have money pouring in from Ribena.

The site made my friend Ropey laugh and he forwarded me the link. It made me laugh too and I forwarded it to others. This is what people in Soho like to call viral or what most ordinary folk used to call word-of-mouth recommendation. The salesman is putting his foot in the door. We’d like to say no, but we’re smiling and we invite him in against our better judgement. Guess we just liked the look of his ass.

© Phil Woodford, 2004. All rights reserved.

Phil Woodford is an advertising creative director in London, England and lectures in both advertising theory and copywriting.