AMD viral marketing accusations explored

Yesterday, the guys over at NGOHQ posted an interesting story that pointed to a number of posts on multiple tech forums advertising AMD's Virtual Trade Show. The postings were all put up the same day, all by members who had just registered, and they all looked very much the same. What's more, as forum admins found, the posters' IP addresses pointed to a company called Design Reactor—the very same company that made the Virtual Trade Show site for AMD. NGOHQ sent an e-mail to Design Reactor asking if the firm provided any viral marketing services, and a staff member replied, "Thank you for contacting Design Reactor and your interest in our services. Our company does offer viral marketing services. The strategic approach and the various media employed largely depend on your overarching objectives."

With this information in mind, we decided to send AMD an e-mail pointing to the NGOHQ story and asking if AMD paid companies or individuals to promote its products or services in online forums, or if it employed any other kind of viral marketing, either directly or indirectly. Seven hours later, we received the following e-mail from Design Reactor's Director of Client Services, Kelly Seelig:

Thank you for your inquiry about the AMD Virtual Experience. AMD forwarded your email and I wanted to get back to you about the viral marketing questions you posed.

Design Reactor is very proud of the AMD Virtual Experience, and we have many dedicated and talented employees that have worked countless hours to create this unique environment. I am sure that some of their excitement around this project has spilled over into their personal lives, with various postings to sites that they may visit on a regular basis. Although we as a company do not want to take any acknowledgement away from the great people we employ and the great work they’ve done, we also do not want to create any misperception around AMD’s involvement. AMD has not commissioned us in any way to do any kind of viral marketing or promotion of this site in any venues other than traditional paid media vehicles. Although we are not able to mandate what our employees do in their personal time, and we certainly do not want to curb any of their enthusiasm around this monumental accomplishment, we will assure that if they are posting anything about this project they will not be anonymous in their postings.

If Design Reactor is to be believed, then, the forum postings were simply made by over-enthusiastic Design Reactor employees eager to show off their work. One has to admit, a professional viral marketing effort commissioned by AMD certainly should be more elaborate than a bunch of forum posts by completely new members all put up on the same day. Professional guerilla marketers often spend weeks or even months integrating themselves into online communities before advertising a product, and they're far less likely to be uncovered. However, if these posts were really an independent effort by employees, why did their IP addresses resolve to Design Reactor's domain?
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