One of the stranger customs in technology public relations is sending random tchotchkes to accompany a press release. The idea is to ensure that the news sticks in your mind, since the text of the release often fails to do that on its own.
Take the contents of the plain cardboard box that showed up at Post HQ on Wednesday. Inside was a press release announcing a new "Internet security hardware device" called ID Vault that made no reference to the other item in the box: a Barbie playset, in which numerous references to this security doodad had been painstakingly added to a tableau of this young woman at a desk at home.
A corkboard on the wall, for example, featured a Post-It note reminding our heroine to "Buy ID Vault for Ken!" (Whoever added that forgot to write the exclamation point with a heart.) A picture of the product appeared on a calendar. And around our heroine's wrist was one of these ID Vault things--a black module with a USB port at one end, about the size of a human thumb or a Barbie leg.
This isn't even the weirdest thing to show up in the mail around here.
The honors for that, for now, would go to the polished box sent to my colleague Mike Musgrove to herald the release of some new game--and which contained a pair of strikingly realistic toy 9-mm handguns.
They lacked the orange colors or other visual cues ordinarily added to distinguish fake from real; the only obvious tip-off was a metal plate along one side of the barrel that bore the game's name. The mock guns--made of metal, not plastic--even had about the same heft as the real thing.
Mike didn't discover this gift by opening it in the mailroom: Building security called him about it first. (Since the anthrax unpleasantness of 2001, packages get X-rayed on arrival here. I can only imagine the reaction this cargo got when it showed up on the screen. )
Ordinarily, random PR giveaways are given away or auctioned off for charity. But these two seemingly authentic pistols might as well be radioactive--what are we going to do, hand them out to kids? They will probably still be collecting dust inside a Post filing cabinet 20 years from now. Maybe my new Barbie can keep them company for a while, since this playset seems to have safety issues of its own.
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