Holler Back Boy

Tuesday, September 4, 2007 8:10 | Filed in Blogging, Scams & Spams, Technology, The Pickards

Someone used my contact form on my site on the 9th of August to manually send me a note which read:

I’m a digital marketing manager at Holler.

Here at Holler we recognise The Pickards as a great informative online resource for all things Sci- Fi. As we are working a huge amount of movie and cinematic campaigns, we consider them our forte and are desperate to get sites like you involved.

We receive lots of niceties to give to Webmasters and site owners to for our promotions, these include advance screenings, DVDs, review tickets and merchandise. This is not only limited to movies, we work across Music, Books and TV.

We’re not fussed about the readership of your site we love you if you have 1 reader or 1 billion readers! We only concern ourselves with your credibility as an online opinion former. At this end we would love to have you on our mailing list to receive this exclusive content and receive updates on what we can offer you. What do you think?


What did I think? Well my initial reaction was those folks at Holler might be lying to me; that they may be disreputable, or that they may be spammers. Why?

Well, I thought that anyone who actually cares about my credibility as “an online opinion former” probably would care how many readers I have; after all, if I’ve got one reader, I’m hardly likely to form many online opinions, am I?

And I was sceptical about them seeing ThePickards as “a great informative online resource for all things Sci- Fi”. Sure, I’ve discussed Sci-Fi on here before. Well, I think I’ve at least mentioned Dr. Who, since my three year old watches it voraciously, but as I don’t even have a Sci-Fi category to the blog, it can’t be something that’s been cropping up frequently.

So they’re off to a bad start. The first two points of their email that I’ve looked at seem to suggest they’re lying to me (they’re claiming to know my blog better than they do; they don’t explain why they would value an online opinion former with one reader equally as one with a billion readers. I’m suspicious of them.

On the other hand, if they want to send me free DVDs, and expect me to review them online in exchange for getting free stuff, I’d be up for that. I’d acknowledge what I’d received in return and give my opinion on the stuff. If they do value me as “an online opinion former”, then presumably this is the sort of thing they are after…

Or is it simply that it all revolves around this “mailing list” thing. Do they just want a large number of people signed up to their mailing list so they can send them mailshots? Obviously these wouldn’t strictly be spam if you’ve signed up to their mailing list, but if they’ve been slightly misleading in their invitation, it’s not totally legit either, is it? Because presumably they’ll be more likely to win an ad campaign, or receive more money from it, if they can announce that they’ve got more people signed up to their mailing list…

So I went and had a look at Holler’s site. It’s quite a pretty site, with all flashy bits on it: the sort of thing I’d probably expect from an ad agency. Of course, the site pretty much assumes you’re running with Flash, but as it’s an ad agency — or as they describe themselves “digital strategy experts” — that’s probably the sort of thing you’d expect.

So does that mean they’re legit, then?

Well I still didn’t know. So I sent an email in return, from a one-off email address I’d created specifically for that purpose (which is still currently live), where I said the following:

Part of the email seems to imply that you see me as someone interested in sci-fi etc — perfectly true, and that you’re looking for ‘online opinion formers’, yet in the next line you say it doesn’t matter how many readers you have. Can I just ask exactly what you’re wanting from me? Are you wanting me to talk about/review various products online in exchange for a freebie? Or are you looking for someone you can stick on a mailing list and let me know when there’s a new product coming out? Or something in between? Or what?

Sorry to be so inquisitive, but I’m reluctant to sign up to any mailing lists unless I have some idea of what sort of mail I’m going to receive, how often I’m going to receive it, and I have some kind of clear idea as to what I’m getting out of it!


That was almost four weeks ago. I still haven’t had any response.

I don’t think that is particularly polite. Maybe I did hit the nail on the head, they just wanted to stock up their mailing list and they just filled in some online forms (because it was done manually, so that gives the impression my site was specifically selected) to try and do it. Maybe the “richard@” email address they gave me was wrong (which in my mind would indicate a particulary bad marketing campaign and would throw the ‘digital strategy experts‘ thing into doubt)? Maybe my email got blocked by their spam filter?

There’s two possibilities: the first is that for some reason they didn’t receive my email; which begs the question why bother contacting people in the first place. The second is that they did receive my email but chose to ignore it — possibly because I’d cottoned on that all they wanted was an email address to add to their mailing list, but didn’t want to admit they’d been slightly misleading in their initial contact.

So I thought I’d post about my experiences for two reasons: firstly to see if any of my fellow bloggers have been similarly approached by Holler, and if so what their experiences have been; and secondly to give Holler the chance to explain publicly what
they were up to, if they weren’t trying to mislead me over the initial contact…

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2 Comments to Holler Back Boy

  1. Seb Crump says:

    September 9th, 2007 at 8:44 am

    I think it’s all marketing/PR bluff. Have you seen the fuss going on over at Tom Coates’ blog – plasticbag.org ? He’s taken quite a strong stance on it after some particularly gruesome experiences; these can also be seen/summed up at

    Of course, I’m not suggest you take this advice to heart, but I konw you like to see things from different perspectives (I have actually read your blog (well most of that doesn’t talk about football), which I expect is more than Holler have done).

  2. JackP says:

    September 9th, 2007 at 11:18 am

    That’s a fair point. No, I do consider that I have an independent voice and will always call it as I see it, but I personally would have no particular objection to being sent free things in exchange for writing reviews of them.

    Any posts would be clearly marked as such, so I’d not mislead anyone, and I’d be quite happy to say something was crap if necessary. I don’t see that as any different to book, computer game or DVD reviews in newspapers.

    That sort of thing, fine. But like Tom says, it seems that the PR organisations simply want you to publish their press releases.

    That, and the lack of a response from Holler seems to suggest to me that they are unethical spammers (as if someone is misleading me about what they want in an email, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to consider that spam).

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