of Metal: The Anatomy of a Hoax
by Michael Walls
it seems the “Men of Metal” hoax has reached
a “Blair Witch Project” level of hype, as
the frenzy of internet traffic continues to bombard message
boards and blog pages. All this, even after the New
York Times “broke” the story to the masses,
quoting Mini Cooper’s ad agency, Crispin Porter
& Bogusky, as saying the ad campaign was “interactive
2 Walls Webzine was nearly two weeks ahead of the New
York Times, and can boast being the first reputable
internet webzine to crack the conspiracy. (See Men
of Metal: Horror or Hoax?)
In the Times article, Crispin Porter does a fine
job of saying practically nothing, while at the same time
acknowledging their handywork, saying “the feedback
we’ve received has been extremely positive.”
But the admittance of an elaborate hoax and marketing
campaign, spread out across several bogus websites, hasn’t
seemed to quell the excitement or belief that gigantic
robots are roaming freely among the side roads of Oxford,
England. Like urban legends that never die, some people
want to believe.
So while the overzealous robots fanatics continue to chatter
about “real” versus “fiction”
– the rest of us are still trying to figure out
exactly what Crispin Porter & Bogusky are selling.
In my previous article I concluded or eluded that the
product was Mini Cooper. Certainly a safe bet, given the
amount of exposure and attention Mini was given in the
excerpt pamphlet for “Men of Metal.” And certainly
knowing that Crispin Porter & Bogusky are running
the show for Mini Cooper, this is exactly the type of
“shock” advertising they are quickly becoming
Previous campaigns for Mini Cooper include Minis sitting
atop of SUVs (in the fashion of a mountain bike or kayak)
and driven around the country; Minis exhibited in the
stands of National League Football and Major League Baseball
games; Minis sitting in shopping malls with signs reading
“$16,995 in quarters for a ride”; and Mini
posing for a 2002 Playboy centerfold spread.
In print, Mini has also been unconventional, with ads
gracing only the borders of editorial pages as tiny minis
race around the margins.
So the obvious conclusion to the “Men of Metal”
hoax is that it is an advertisement for Mini – perhaps
the new Mini Convertible which was unveiled in March at
the Geneva Motor Show.
But then why the shadowy vagueness revealed in the Times
article? Haven’t we already figured out this scam?
What else is there to be “revealed” in the
coming month? The New York Times is certainly
smart enough not to be manipulated into perpetuating an
advertising campaign, right?
I believe the boys over at Crispin Porter & Bogusky
are far too clever to be strong-armed into admitting their
devilish plot to a gullible Times reporter. After
all, how much fact checking really goes into a section
C, page 8 feature story about some savvy marketing geeks?
No, I don’t think we’ve seen everything yet.
I think the consuming public is in for more interesting
First of all, the mysterious author of “Men of Metal,”
Mr. Rowland Samuel, has suddenly appeared – defending
his book against claims of hoax and advertising fraud
– on his website, rowlandsamuel.com. Don’t
be surprised if you start seeing the fictitious Mr. Samuel
on the late night talk show circuit pitching his story
and his book (with, I’m sure, a few good mentions
of Mini Cooper and BMW).
Second of all, in all of the hubbub about Mini Cooper
advertising, the ignored element within this “Men
of Metal” drama, is the Men of Metal themselves
– the robots.
The Transformer fans are the only ones that have picked
up on it and have continued to toss around their theories.
Transformers – Hasbro’s popular action figure
toys – have had a huge following since they were
first introduced in 1984. They are now surging again in
popularity thanks to cartoons, comic books and most recently
the release of a video game version for PlayStation by
Atari. But the biggest buzz around Transformer boards
is the rumor of a full length, live action Transformer
movie, which is reportedly in production at New Line Cinema
and due for release in early 2006.
This is what the Transformer fans think “Men of
Metal” is all about. I gigantic advertisement for
the Transformer movie and Transformer craze.
It makes sense actually. The autonomous robots seen in
Dr. Colin Mayhew’s schematic drawings and test videos,
resemble the Transformer design, right down to the spinning
wheels on the shoulders.
Of course, Mini Cooper would have to have a staring roll
in any such film, tying in the concept of robots built
from Mini Cooper parts.
BMW also isn’t a stranger to marketing their vehicles
in movies. In 1995, BMW and MGM Studios became marketing
partners for BMW’s Z3 Roadster and MGM’s James
Bond movie “GoldenEye.”
BMW is also currently running an HDTV series called “The
Hire.” A series of short action films – directed
and produced by big names like Tony Scott and John Woo,
and staring big names like Gary Oldman and James Brown
– can be downloaded and viewed for free at BMWfilms.com
– all for the sole purpose of advertising.
So the car industry and the movie industry work well together,
both at entertaining us and selling us products. It would
make sense that Mini Cooper could capitalize on the Transformer
craze by positioning itself squarely in the center of
such a concept – maybe setting the stage and preliminary
storyline with it’s “Men of Metal” piece.
This is all speculation of course. What Mini Cooper and
Crispin Porter & Bogusky are really up to is still
locked up in a storyboard conference room in South Florida.
But this much is certain – in the new world of advertising,
not everything is what it seems.
Walls is a volunteer staff writer for 2 Walls Webzine
and has never been to Oxford England.)