It’s a bike – it’s a taxi – it’s a Bixi. I was in Montreal visiting my sister and her family a week ago and they couldn’t wait to show us their city’s newest feature – Bixi bikes. Not only was the system fun to learn about and try, but to add to the merriment, the launch included a blogging brouhaha.
Bixis are public commuter bicycles you pick up at a central stand, ride – usually a short distance – and deposit at another stand. Part bike, part taxi – all eco-consciousness and healthy too.
To my husband, a bicycle snob whose new bike weighs less than my Blackberry, these uncannily clunky contraptions barely deserve the label bicycle.
To the rest of us gathered at the solar-powered stand, they looked splendid. Sturdy and upright with wide-seated comfort, they looked to me like the perfect way to get from home to work, or from lunch to bank … times when you don’t want to deal with a car or wait for a bus and a bit of a leg-stretch is welcome.
Montrealers were excited about the Bixi’s pending arrival and the system had great green cred – a PR slam dunk. You’d think.
So why did a Montreal marketing communications company decide to create a bogus blog about it? Apparently someone at Morrow Communications concocted three cycling fans who, in the lead up to the launch, blogged amiably about bikes, promoted riding and then started talking up the coming Bixis. They all had Facebook profiles and lots of friends. Life was good in the land of Web 2.0.
And then they got caught. In the PR biz we call it astro-turfing – the firm had created a fake grassroots “movement” – in this case three people and their online presence – to pursue an agenda.
The whole idea is inexcusable. There are a robust range of social networking techniques they could have used – legitimately – to peddle (!) this positive program. I have to wonder – what were they thinking?