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Quick and Dirty

Fake Beards

By Chris Landers | Posted 8/30/2006

It was exciting news last week when a group calling itself the National Organization of Social Crusaders Repulsed by Unshaven Faces--or, ahem, NOSCRUF--named Baltimore the scruffiest city of 25 surveyed in its national poll. Add that one to the trophy shelf.

It was disappointing, then, to learn that the group was bogus--a viral ad campaign by razor-makers Gillette, complete with fake web site (www.noscruf.org).

A press release from NOSCRUF disclosed this with a footnote: "NoScruf is supported by Gillette," and a call to company spokeswoman Kelly Vanasse confirmed that by "supported," they mean paid for.

"We're not trying to hide anything," Vanasse says. "It's just a fun, viral, edgy campaign" to "deliver a message that's really important to men everywhere." Vanasse says the poll was real, conducted online among 5,000 men in 25 cities, with a margin for error of 2 percent. The group's intentionally amateurish web site, though, doesn't mention Gillette (although a Whois search reveals its ownership) and contains a fake TV news report and a fake magazine article under the heading "NoScruf in the News."

They may not have to fake it anymore. At least one area TV station ran the NOSCRUF survey results with nary a mention of Gillette. WBAL yucked it up on its morning newscast on Thursday, Aug. 24. Assistant news director Tim Tunison says his station ran the story, but "we properly attributed it to [NOSCRUF]." He points out that the name Gillette appears nowhere on the web site. WMAR, which did credit the survey to Gillette, sent a reporter into the street to investigate the disturbing scruffiness trend.

Rhys Ryan, who is also listed on the press release for Porter Novelli, Gillette's PR firm, says that while "Gillette's not trying to hide it," there were no plans for a big reveal of who was behind the NOSCRUF survey. Ryan says the company may roll out print advertising in the future, which would also be "nonbranded." According to the firm's web site, Porter Novelli is a "global public relations company" whose clients also include major pharmaceutical companies and the federal government.

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