Posted by: Matt Hamlin | February 12, 2009

The Great Astroturf Pushback of Aught Nine

While I haven’t been hit by spammers from Cashmere Agency, the PR firm representing Le Tourment Vert “absinthe,” the coordinated pushback by top cocktail bloggers is really quite impressive. Over the last day, about eleven cocktail blogs have written posts calling out Cashmere Agency and LTV for leaving spam comments on their blog and generally being bad, dishonest advocates for their product.

The short version is that a number of top cocktail blogs started getting comments from people praising Le Tourment Vert, explaining how they never liked absinthe until they tried LTV, or how some magical bartender made them a cocktail with LTV and they now love both it and cocktails.

In the political world, paid commenters for candidates, campaigns, issue groups, or business lobbies are called astroturfers. The comments they leave are called astroturf. Why are they called that? Because the companies, campaigns, or firms doing this sort of online engagement are trying to imitate grassroots support for whatever it is they are pushing. But it’s not grassroots – it’s paid for and it’s fake and it’s annoying. Astroturfing lowers the quality of a comment section and it takes up bloggers’ time that could be better used to produce real content or, in this case, review products submitted to them.

In the few months I’ve been cocktail blogging, I’ve received emails from PR reps or liquor companies themselves on an almost daily basis. They range from recipes to bulletins about upcoming events to info about new products. Some of the time they explicitly offer to send me a sample of their product for review. Having worked in the political internet space for about 4.5 years, I can say this is a volume of unsolicited communication to bloggers that vastly outpaces best practices in politics. But sales and advertising are different animals than political persuasion, so I’ve gone with the flow. I’ve been fortunate enough not to get spammed and I’ve found that a number of PR shops are very responsive to my particular requests (Padilla Speer Beardsley, K Public Relations, & La Force+Stevens stand out thus far).

My thing is pretty simple – most recipes are made and distributed to appeal to casual consumers, not cocktail afficionados. As a result, most recipes I get sent are fairly unappealing and thus I don’t post on them. But if someone thinks their stuff is good and want me to review it or try a recipe, sending a sample is the best way to do it. After all, reviews are PR and PR isn’t free. Most of what I do on my own I do for pleasure, but when specifically asked to produce something on behalf of a PR firm and spirit company, a sample with which to do it is a reasonable request. After all, in my political blogging, when publishing houses wanted me to review books, they sent me copies to read. Beyond that, I’m happy for people to take interest in my blog.

That’s why the pushback against Cashmere Agency and Le Tourment Vert is so interesting to me. Cocktail bloggers have had enough and they’re saying so in the most powerful way they can: by blogging about it. As I said above, I haven’t been contacted by Cashmere nor have I been victim to their astroturf comments. But I did try LTV at a tasting in a NYC liquor store a couple months back and my response was basically: it stinks. It has a low ABV for absinthe, a minty taste that doesn’t quite make sense for absinthe, and seems like it was made with the idea of turning low information drinkers onto it. The slick bottle is certainly a sign of that. I would recommend someone looking for absinthe to try Kubler or Mata Hari if they wanted to give absinthe a shot. But stay away from LTV.

Here’s a list of the cocktail blogs and their posts on Cashmere Agency’s astroturfing for Le Tourment Vert (mostly compiled by Gabe at Cocktail Nerd):

Gabe at Cocktail Nerd

Darcy at The Art of Drink

Jon at DrinkPlanner

SeanMike at Scofflaw’s Den

Marleigh at SLOSHED!

Blair at Trader Tiki’s Booze Blog

Chris at An Exercise in Hospitality

Stevi at Two at the Most

Tiare at A Mountain of Crushed Ice

Paul at the Cocktail Chronicles

Chuck at Looka!

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Responses

  1. [...] at A Jigger of Blog in other words, an absinthe drip and an absinthe frappe [â�©]as long as you didn’t give [...]

  2. [...] http://ajiggerofblog.com/2009/02/12/the-great-astroturf-pushback-of-aught-nine/ [...]

  3. [...] For more (polite, literate, etc) rants, check out Darcy, Marleigh, SeanMike, Gabriel, Jon, Chris, Stevi, Tiare, Paul, Chuck, and Matt. [...]

  4. [...] Posted February 13, 2009 Filed under: Blogs, Media, & Advertising | In response to The Great Astroturf Pushback of Aught Nine, Le Tourment Vert has reached out to the cocktail blogging community and offered a full apology. [...]

  5. [...] /> </p> <p> Matt at <a href=”http://ajiggerofblog.com/2009/02/12/the-great-astroturf-pushback-of-aught-nine/&#8221; target=”_blank”>A Jigger of Blog</a><br /> </p> Share and [...]

  6. [...] said, during the Great Astroturf Pushback of Aught Nine, Le Tourment Vert and Cashmere Agency were hit pretty danged hard too. Gabe’s post at [...]

  7. [...] to put it another way, the astroturfing by Cashmere Agency earlier this year would be specifically banned by the FTC. Now companies have an expectation not to [...]

  8. Well, the good news is, people are standing up against the company. I think so many times people are annoyed, confused, irritated, etc. and never say anything, so the company grows and gets bigger and profits on lies. I haven’t personally tried it, and won’t (now) but kudos to those who are mad and takin a stand!
    -Sylvia


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