Update: the culprit behind the coffin deliveries have been outed. He is none other than Sumardy Ma, one of the members of the Octovate Group who started a new company Buzz&Co late last year. He also has a company called mavens Co but it is not clear how it fits into this picture. The coffins were apparently a gimmick to help him launch his book: Rest In Peace Advertising: The Word of Mouth Advertising. 

Sumardy describes himself as a “pioneer of word of mouth marketing” in his Twitter bio. A bit of a stretch here. To be a pioneer of word of mouth marketing Sumardy must have been pioneering it even before he was in his mother’s womb as the concept has been around for years.

From the various press reports quoting Sumardy he seems unrepentant about the stunt, invoking creativity and bravery as an excuse to do something different and daring. He told the Jakarta Globe that this was part of “his company’s effort to revitalize the marketing industry. He said contemporary ads and marketing strategies are getting duller by the day.”

Puhlese. There is something called making a virtue out of necessity. There is creativity and then there is creative stupidity. If you don’t worry about the consequences you could always get lots of cheap publicity. All you need to do is, say, flash your little Weenie in front of SBY and you have all the publicity you’d want (except for the certainty of getting a reaction from the President. 

So let’s call this for what it is: an insensitive, stupid and cheap stab at publicity. Why anyone would want to hire Sumardy and his cohorts for a marketing effort after this?

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Dozens of small coffins, measuring about a meter in length, were delivered to all over Jakarta today to unwitting recipients. Unspun was one of the recipients. Others included those in the media and, as far as can be ascertained, people in marketing or with some profile in social media.

Unspun’s coffin was delivered by an ambulance to his office. The person delivering it said that there would be an event on June 9th. The coffin was painted brown with the words RIP above. Below it was my name and address. Inside were some flower petals and a rose, with a label attached that read on one side: “You are number: #4444” (complaint: how come @danrem got the sexy #69 while I’m confined to the deathly fours?) and the other, “www.restinpeacesoon.com.”

Go to the website and you see a “under construction sign”. The senders have also been active on Twitter with the handle @restinpeacesoon. They sent Unspun a message “Death is the surest calculation that can be made”. Go to the Twitter account and you get an idea of who have been the recipients. Here’s a selection:

So what is one to make of these coffins? It seems, so far, that it is some sick person’s idea of a viral campaign.

That it has got the whole town, at least in the Indonesian Twiterverse talking, is beyond doubt. In that sense it is an effective viral campaign. There is certainly buzz.

But there is something also called negative buzz. Whomever is behind this, if it s viral marketing campaign, is being irresponsible to the max.

Death is a fact of life but socially many of us see this as something to be avoided, to the extent that some people would get very disturbed by it. This being so, you wonder if those behind this campaign have thought through the implications, legal and moral, of sending coffins to the chattering classes.

The coffin has been used by gangsters and malicious people to send a warning message, a threat of death to their recipients. What if someone, having a heart condition, suffers an attack after receiving it? What if another person claims they suffered trauma after receiving it? What if, as Unspun hears some will do, someone files a police report?  And they sue whomever is behind this campaign for lots of money?

And, if it is a viral campaign, and the brand or product behind it is eventually revealed , what do you think would be the reaction? Do we all pat them on the back and say “well done!” it was a very clever campaign that got the town talking. Or do we say,” what a Sick Fuck you are. I’ll never buy or use you product as long as you live (and when you die, I’ll never send you a coffin)?”

Unspun knows what course of action he’ll take. What’s yours?

Finally, what if it is not a viral campaign? Now, that would make life interesting, wouldn’t it?

Can’t credit the people behind for managing fear though if this is the case. Fear works best when there is uncertainty. It’s like the horror and murder movies. The bad guy is more frightening when you don’t see him and can’t figure him out. The moment his identity is outed, no matter how hideous he may look, the fear is dissipated.

So if its an intimidation attempt the idea of using @restinpeacesoon on Twitter to interact with recipients and commentators is a bad idea indeed.

So fail in marketing, fail in intimidation, whichever the case. Bunch of losers.