The Latest Entrant In 'How Not To Do Marketing' In An Online World: Ocean Marketing Fail

from the easy-to-boil-this-ocean dept

One of the key points that we’ve been making for years is that, in an online world, pissing off (or simply not caring about) customers is no longer a viable business strategy. A good business today recognizes that the customers’ best interests are also the company’s best interests. If you don’t realize that… well, then you get into a situation like Paul Christoforo and Ocean Marketing that’s taken the internet world by storm today. It begins with a must read email thread posted at Penny Arcade. Seriously, just go read the whole thing.

The short version for those who don’t read it, is that a guy, Dave, who pre-ordered some gaming controllers that hadn’t arrived, emailed Ocean Marketing and got back less than optimal customer service from Christoforo, who runs Ocean Marketing. Actually, he got back obnoxious customer service. Beyond not being helpful Christoforo is outright insulting of the customer (who has already paid for the item not yet delivered) and bragging about how “connected” he is. In response, the customer (Dave) wrote back explaining why this was totally unacceptable, and cc’d some various gaming websites/blogs. Gabe (aka Mike Krahulik) from PA chimed in, especially when he saw Christorofo brush off Dave by mentioning PA’s own event PAX East. After replying to both that Christoforo won’t be allowed to exhibit at PAX, Christoforo (apparently not realizing who he was dealing with) simply makes a bad situation worse:

We?re not renting a booth at pax east this year , bigger and better shows to be at we got nothing from the show . Oh so you know this guy has sold over 500 thousand dollars of product in Dec and is my main distribution arm landing us in GameStop , fry?s , Myers , Best buy , Activision , MLG , play N trade and a lot more . Were in 6 countries and you?re not going to take my money for a booth that?s a crock I can guarantee I?ll get a booth if I want one money buys a lot and connections go even further. He?s a native Bostonian from Little Italy . Who are you again ?

Amazingly, this actually comes after Dave had told Mike “Please don?t cancel their booth on my account. As much as I hate this asshole, I still WANT his product and think it should be out there.” Mike explains to Christoforo that he runs PAX, but Christoforo still doesn’t get it:

OK Mike whatever you say lol , are you sure hour not in Boston I spoke to the person who ran the show in Boston last year. If you let some little kid influence you over a pre order then we don?t want to be a your show ,Ill be on the floor anyway so come find me , I?m born and raised in Boston I know the people who run the city inside and out watch the way you talk to people you never know who they know it?s a small industry and everyone knows everyone. Your acting like a douchbag not that it matters pax east pax west , e3 , CES , Gamer Con , SSXW ,Comic Con, Germany I?m all over the place. If we want to be there we will be there with industry badges or with a booth you think I can?t team up with turtle beach , Callibur or Koy Christmas , I can?t get Kevin Kelly to pull some strings or G4 , Paul Eibler Ex CEO of take 2 , Rich Larocco Konami , Cliff Blizinski Epic who were working with on a gears version , Activision who were working with on a MW3 and Spider man Bundle , The Convention Center Owners themselves , Mayor of Boston come on Bud you run a show that?s all you do and lease a center in Cities you have no pull in its all about who you know not what you do. I?ll see space where ever I want , with who I want when I want and where I want so many ways around you and so many connections in this industry its silly. Anyway , I have no issue with you Sean Buckley Engadget, Scott Lowe IGN and the list goes on and on. Little kids unhappy with a PRE ORDER starting trouble and you email that to us , he?s a customer unless you?re his boyfriend then you should side with the company not the customer. Be Careful

And it gets worse from there. Of course, once Gabe posted it to Penny Arcade, it started to get picked up elsewhere including (of course) Reddit, and from there it just began exploding. Popehat has a bunch of links including the fact that Christoforo went ballistic on Scott Lowe from IGN, after Lowe told Christoforo to stop saying IGN supported him. Christoforo responded on Tiwtter calling him a “douchebag” and suggesting that because he sent IGN review units he should support him. That tweet has since been removed, but the screenshot lives on.

Separately, people have turned up more examples of poor customer service experiences involving Ocean Marketing and Christoforo, as well as claims that Ocean Marketing has been plagiarizing a ton of articles from around the web on its own blog. Andrew Galbraith from has the details:

It seems the plot has thickened a bit further. Apparently, as pointed out by @williambgoss on twitter, Ocean Marketing has been lifting articles from across the web for their blog with little to no attribution of sources whatsoever. An article published on Forbes is clearly posted wholesale on the Ocean Marketing blog with no sourcing roughly two weeks after initially hitting the web. Moreover, the same is done with a BizReport article, appearing as Ocean Marketing’s “original work” no less than two days later.  

The story has been getting picked up in a ton of places, but you have to wonder why anyone would hire Christoforo to market any of their products ever again. The Popehat link above notes that when you outsource your marketing, you’re outsourcing your reputation. And that can be dangerous…

In the meantime, it appears that Christoforo, beyond digging himself a deeper hole, has also tried to well, dig himself a deeper hole. He first threatened to have his “lawyers” contact Penny Arcade, followed up by some begging:

“You have the power Mike Please make it stop”

Of course, as Gabe/Mike points out, he really doesn’t have the power. Once these things are out there, they’re out there. Then comes the non-apology apology, where Christoforo apologies for not knowing how big Penny Arcade/PAX are and for getting exposed — but not for his actual actions:

I just wanted to apologize for the way our emails progressed I didn?t know how big your site was and I really didn?t believe you ran Pax , So for what?s its worth I am very sorry. Your post has obviously made my life very difficult and I have not slept yet dealing with all the spam and personal information intrusion as well as my family being smeared on the internet.

That’s not a real apology at all. That’s someone digging even deeper.

Update: Ah, and now reports of pretending to be someone else. Kotaku apparently reached out to Bruce Brandon Leidel, who had been their contact in the past on the controller in question, and they noticed something odd in the response — which suggested that it actually came from Christoforo. Then Leidel apparently reached out to Kotaku separately saying that he no longer works with that client, in part because of Christoforo…

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Comments on “The Latest Entrant In 'How Not To Do Marketing' In An Online World: Ocean Marketing Fail”

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Rikuo (profile) says:

“I just wanted to apologize for the way our emails progressed I didn?t know how big your site was and I really didn?t believe you ran Pax , So for what?s its worth I am very sorry.”

Exactly. The guy isn’t sorry. He’s not apologizing for the non-delivery, keeping the customer’s money, keeping the customer in the dark or about calling the customer every horrible name under the sun (even while in the SAME EMAIL saying “We value our customers”). No, the two things he’s sorry about are…he didn’t realize how big a site Penny Arcade is, and that Mike Krahulik also runs PAX.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

He thought it was just someone pretending to be important on the internet….
he knows because its how he rolls.

He posted a self proclaimed “viral video” trying to get his real estate agent to pay for soundproofing the windows on his residence because *gasp* he could hear the traffic. (Note to self when buy a new home make sure no roads will sudden appear overnight.) In the description he lists all of his connections and how powerful he is to try and intimidate them into giving him his way. Over on reddit, someone did some digging and he isn’t part of many of the things hes claimed *SHOCK*

Anonymous Coward says:

Identity theft, too!

Christoforo tried to do some damage control over at Kotaku by impersonating an actual games marketing exec. Kotaku checked with the exec in question (Brandon Liedl) who quickly pointed out that he did not contact Kotaku, and that his company severed ties with Christoforo’s company in part because he “is a street thug masquerading as a self proclaimed ‘Marketing Professional.’

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Identity theft, too!

Yeah, that’s why I didn’t mention that part of the article. And frankly, I could care less about his steroid use. It’s a serious stretch to assume it has anything to do with his deranged behavior.

Although it seems likely the roid profile is his. Someone found a post from four years ago that used his email address, myspace name, age, height, etc.

Mel (profile) says:

Oh, maybe someone can copy his tweet stream …. cause as of right now, he’s gone off the proverbial deep end!!

And he’s threatening retribution from Nigerians …

“yeah keep shitting on me kids, remember I have your CC info from orders. Let’s see how tough you are after some nigerians get em.”!/oceanstretagy/status/151810591013617664

Mel (profile) says:

Beyond feeling the need to bleach my eyes, based upon scanning his new twitter account, it appears that he is …

Both ruined and loaded with money (so it’ll be OK)
Very fluent with the naughty words
Not so much with the professional words
Most definitely 38
Doesn’t have a degree but is “naturally smart”
A terrible speller
Hates red haired people (that’s a new one)
Thinks he’s going to sue a whole bunch of people
Doesn’t think “the internet” can be used in court
Insists he treats gamers the same way all the game companies do
Is in internet marketing but has no idea what Reddit is
Determined to create an offensive response to every single tweet he gets tonight, which is, I think, all of them
A terrible speller (so bad I listed it twice)
Was arrested on domestic violence (shock) and has tweeted “that bitch had it coming ok.” (uhm no, not ok)

And … is apparently going for the Douche Hall of Fame

Again, my simple opinion based upon reading his tweets

Oh, and he blames everything on everybody else …

Anonymous Coward says:

Slashdot commenter posts useful info. News you can use.

Here’s a comment hijacked straight from slashdot, ’cause it’s useful information, worth reposting:

by Animats (122034) writes: on Tuesday December 27, @07:07PM (#38509248)

The Federal Trade Commission’s Mail Order Rule [] applies here. It’s real simple:

1. Mail orders must ship within 30 days unless there was an explicit delivery date specified. If the seller knows there will be a delay in shipping, they must contact the customer and offer the customer a full refund or the option to wait another 30 days, at the customer’s choice.

2. After 60 days, the seller must provide a full refund unless the customer explicitly consents in writing to a further delay. If the customer takes no action, the refund must be sent.

Staples paid a big fine for this. [] So did the Beanie Baby [] people. In the early days of the Internet, a lot of companies were hit by this, because they had web sites accepting orders at high speed, but the back end fulfillment operation was manual and couldn’t keep up.

Now that FTC mail order rule is something worth knowing.

enjaysee (profile) says:

My favorite part was when he took a shot at Penny Arcade:

“[snip]…Your sites amateur at best my son could put together a better site than yours and you run PAX ?? Wow , Ill put my marketing team on a smear campaign of you and your site and your emails , I have about 125 dedicated people to run PR , Blogs , Articles , Videos you have no clue who I am . Thanks again”

Assuming what he says about 125 employees is true, I think they’re now all out of work.

enjaysee (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Seems like the whole thing has run its course with the expected conclusion:

The unfortunate side effect of this is that now the Avenger Controller is paying for Christoforo’s poor customer relationship skills. This is a big lesson in double checking who you hire to represent your company.

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:


The only issue I have with this whole situation (and believe me, this is the ONLY issue — everything else I’m on board with) is Gabe’s response to the rogue PR’s request that he “make it stop:”

“The reality is that once I had posted the emails I didn?t have the power anymore. The Internet had it now and nothing I said or did was going to change that.”

Everything he says is true, BUT… he posted the email addresses. Claiming that it’s out of his hands (and implicitly NOT HIS FAULT what happens now) is like handing a bunch of firebugs some gasoline and strike-anywhere matches and claiming you’re powerless to prevent the ensuing Devil’s Night reenactment.

Those email addresses would have been dug up via the internet by enterprising individuals sooner or later. It seems a bit smug to revel in the very destruction you laid the groundwork for.

Other than that, I am all for exposure of hideous customer service/PR entities. This is precisely why anyone in these fields, in this day and age, should be doing everything they can to take care of their paying customers. You sure as hell don’t want the loosely confederated wrath of the internet turned against you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Nitpicking

I don’t think he was implicitly claiming it was not his fault at all, quite the opposite it fact. What he was saying is that what happened already happened. He knows he started it, starting it was his goal:
“I will personally burn everything I?ve made to the fucking ground if I think I can catch [bullies] in the flames.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Nitpicking

Also, Gabe didn’t post the email and say, “Hey everybody, let’s be a dick to this guy and ruin his business!” He just posted what Christoforo said, then posted the guy’s email address at the bottom. Also, Christoforo was the one making threats.

Gabe didn’t do anything to Christoforo. It’s like when you get fired for a good reason. The boss didn’t fire you, you fired you.

Philip (profile) says:

His apology to Dave.

You should check out his apology to Dave. It’s all “oh, whoo is me. I’m the victim.” bs:

Article was updated with it.

Yet, again, digging further. Paul ruined his own company, and he doesn’t even realize it!

Yasir Sami (user link) says:

Why is Internet Marketing Important to any online Business ?

The most anxious reason why online businesses should think using the internet as a marketing medium is because it is here to continue . In the next couple of years , billions more will plugged in to the internet , it will suit an even bigger tool and many more people will search and find what they want online .

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