In a sneaky move by EMI to cash in on RadioheadÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unprecedented popularity, EMI had been running a scam ad campaign on Google until the end of last week, purporting to already have the new Radiohead album Ã¢â‚¬Å“In RainbowsÃ¢â‚¬Â in boxset and CD versions for sale even before the official release in December. In an attempt to obviously mislead and cheat users, EMI used the phrase Ã¢â‚¬Å“RainbowÃ¢â‚¬Â in the ad which appears as a paid listing at the top of search results when users searched for the keyword Ã¢â‚¬Å“RadioheadÃ¢â‚¬Â in Google.
Clicking on the ad instead led users to EMI/ ParlophoneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s own site selling RadioheadÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s back catalogue boxset of 7 albums with no sight of the promised new album “Rainbow”.
Guardian Unlimited Music first reported this yesterday and followed up with Parlophone to ascertain the source of the ad and were instead given a one line email by EMI publicist Chris Latham which stated,
“Parlophone were aware of the data source glitch and removed the link immediately.”
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not sure which is more pathetic and abhorrent, their cheating or trying to explain their machinations away as a Ã¢â‚¬Å“data source glitchÃ¢â‚¬Â - especially as the phrase Ã¢â‚¬Å“RainbowÃ¢â‚¬Â should not even have existed in EMIÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s marketing material as the album in question has already been assigned to XL Recordings. It is indeed insulting that they take the public for fools with this attempt to obfuscate - but unfortunately there are already victims of the truth as the BBC fell for it and summarized the incident as Ã¢â‚¬Å“A glitch on Google nearly sparked a war between Radiohead and their former label EMI.Ã¢â‚¬Â
So now itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s someone elseÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s faultÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.(but at least Idolator & Pitchfork give fair accounts)
When new EMI chief Guy Hands noted in an internal memo recently that, “Rather than embracing digitalization and the opportunities it brings for promotion of product and distribution through multiple channels, the industry has stuck its head in the sandÃ¢â‚¬Â, surely their efforts to now ride the digital gravy train should not misguidedly follow the tracks of Nigerian-419 type scams and pharmaceutical spam?
To call EMIÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s management teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s honor into question over this incident might be a little harsh, but surely they should be held accountable for allowing an environment of stupidity to fester wherein their staffers could even entertain the thought, much less conceive a consumer campaign based on deceit, without giving due consideration to the fact that Radiohead and its products are under such intense scrutiny and public spotlight.
Even though Radiohead has tried to defuse the sorry situation with a band spokesman stating to NME that, “We accept that it was a genuine error and that it has been rectified”,
it has to be recognized that EMI still has Radiohead by the proverbial family jewels as they have in their grip not only the early Radiohead masters but are also the gatekeepers of RadioheadÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s valuable back catalogue. If you value your kidsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ well-being, it is unwise to piss off the babysitter just before you step out the house.
Ultimately, this is not just about Ã¢â‚¬Å“In RainbowsÃ¢â‚¬Â sales only, but about a misleading ad by EMI seeking potential customers in a search environment in which the users are hitherto uninitiated about the product. Hence the users effort to search and find out more about the product in question instead leads them trickily to another place (even though we have to admit that this other place has fine products albeit an overpriced USB set) Ã¢â‚¬â€œ there are advertising laws against this practice.
While major labels can claim a roll call of dishonour in the traditional world with dubious accounting practices and payola amongst others, it seems that they are quickly making up for lost time in the digital world with their recent rap sheets of rootkit fiascos, fake BitTorrent sites, stupidity and now, scam adsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.