Toyota fakes stalking as a marketing gimick

From the "if you work in marketing, please kill yourself now" department: ABCnews reports on a lawsuit filed against Toyota over a marketing campaign that fooled a woman into thinking she was being stalked:

In a lawsuit filed Sept. 28 in Los Angeles Superior Court, Amber Duick claims she had difficulty eating, sleeping and going to work during March and April of last year after she received e-mails for five days from a fictitious man called Sebastian Bowler, from England, who said he was on the run from the law, knew her and where she lived, and was coming to her home to hide from the police.

...

Duick's attorney said the marketing company went so far as to send Duick a bill for damages the fictitious man supposedly made to a hotel room.

"Amber, ran into a little problem at the hotel," a note with the invoice stated. "After I'm done visiting you, I'm going to go back and sort out that front desk Muppet."

The alleged harassment lasted five days, according to the suit, and frightened Duick so much she contacted neighbors, friends and family, and the occupant of her former home about the man she feared was coming to visit....

...

It turns out the prank was actually part of a marketing effort executed by the Los Angeles division of global marketing agency Saatchi & Saatchi, which created the campaign to promote the Toyota Matrix, a new model launched in 2008.

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Her attorney, Nick Tepper, said the Matrix campaign was similar to "Punk'd" a former MTV show starring Ashton Kutcher that featured celebrities being set up by their friends for elaborate pranks. Toyota's marketers used the Internet to find people who wanted to set up friends to be "punked," and Duick was set up by a friend of hers, he said.

Toyota claims that Duick volunteered to play their psychopathic little game -- a claim apparently based on tricking her into clicking on a link in a "personality test" that a friend e-mailed to her.

Toyota is not only unapologetic, but continues to work with Saatchi & Saatchi. While I was very happy with my old Toyota Tercel, and was even considering a Matrix next time around, I certainly will not consider owning a Toyota again unless and until the company apologizes and makes restitution for this outrageous behavior.

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