undercover marketing
n. Marketing in which actors promote a product in a real-world setting while posing as regular people.

Example Citation:
"'I feel so great, so real,' says a slight young woman with spindly arms and wide eyes. A blue bandanna is tied tightly around her head. 'It's this drink!' ...

'Would you feel the same way with soda?' a more uptownish brunette excitedly asks her bandanna'd friend. 'No!' She raises her glass. 'I feel alive!' And with that, the two heartily clink glasses.

A few people at the bar turn to check them out, briefly, before looking away again. They probably have no idea they've just laid eyes on the secret agents of capitalism, paid shills for a bottled-water company, hired by a small but rapidly growing marketing firm called Big Fat Inc., that claims to have perfected undercover marketing."
—Jim Rutenberg, "The Way We Live Now," The New York Times, July 15, 2001

Earliest Citation:
"'Undercover marketing' is gaining ground as advertisers resort to non-traditional tactics to get their brands noticed and talked about."
—Brian Steinberg, "Undercover Marketing Is Gaining Ground," The Wall Street Journal, December 18, 2000

Notes:
Appropriately, undercover marketing (also known as buzz marketing) comes in various disguises. These include the lean over (when someone paid by a company leans over to you to extol the virtues of the company's product) and under-the-radar marketing (indirect marketing, such as leaving one of the company's boxes in an apartment lobby to make it appear as though someone purchased the company's product).

Related Words:

Category: