Vapourware is a product announced by a manufacturer that doesn’t actually exist. So, why does the media keep falling for this obvious marketing ploy?
If you’ve been waiting for Priceline to start stocking KFC’s finger-licking good, edible nail polish or slyly watching your street for DRU (Domino’s Robotic Unit) with your Meatlovers pizza – you may have the uneasy feeling you’ve been scammed.
The announcement of KFC’s edible nail polish spread quickly to over 50 media outlets, including reputable sources such as BBC News and Wall St Journal – even the New York Times was hungry for more about the innovative product. Momentum gathered for the new invention, the only problem was, it was only developed as a ‘preview to the media to test market reaction’, and will likely never be available for sale after the PR campaign is put to bed.
And what of Domino’s Robotic Unit and my meatlover’s pizza? Again a ‘prototype’ that garnered Australia-wide publicity in the AFR, Gizmodo and The Australian amongst a plethora of others, with no apparent plans to deploy on the open road.
We’ve come a long way from the print press which demanded that news was thoroughly researched, crafted cautiously and with integrity. The gravitas of the press was regarded in such esteem it was known as the fourth estate.
Enter 21st century media, with a thirst for content and meme-sized attention spans. News is produced in real time, accounts of events are often crowd-sourced, and before you can say ‘chk chk boom’, headlines are published and taken as fact. The only thing quicker than news production is news succession, with digitised outlets ever hungry for new content.
Given the quick death of fact checking and the appetite for infotainment, should we be surprised by the rise of Vapourware? Is this brilliant PR or a smart way of product beta testing – or both? Has “build it and they will come” – morphed into “if they come, build it”?
What used to be only the fodder of tabloid newspapers on the morning of April 1st, has become a go-to tactic to engage an overwhelmed and ever-cynical public, with a hunger for novelty and cheap thrills. Time will tell whether these methods will backfire or be happily absorbed in the sugar-rich media that has become today’s new normal.
Michael Bates is an Account Director at BCM