Duick Blind: California Woman Sues After Being “Punked” by Toyota

250px-Punk'd_logoThere is an interesting torts lawsuit in Los Angeles where Amber Duick has filed against Toyota for a weird advertising campaign that she said “punked” her and convinced her that she was being stalked by an English man called Sebastian Bowler. She is demanding $10 million.

Duick says that she received e-mails for five days from Bowler who said that he knew her and where she lived, and was coming to her home to hide from the police. Bowler even had a fictitious MySpace page.

250px-Toyota.svgIt turns out that this was part of a bizarre advert campaign by Saatchi & Saatchi to promote the Toyota Matrix. In one such email, Bowler wrote “Amber mate! Coming 2 Los Angeles. Gonna lay low at your place for a bit till it all blows over.” Later, she received the e-mail “Amber, ran into a little problem at the hotel. After I’m done visiting you, I’m going to go back and sort out that front desk Muppet.” This lasted for days and “as a result of the e-mails, [Duick] found it extremely difficult to work, and her job performance suffered.”

This was a takeoff of the MTV Show Punk’d where celebrities are set up by their friends for elaborate pranks. Toyota’s marketers used the Internet punk people who were picked by their friends. One of Duick’s friends sent in her name.

Toyota Spokesman Chad Harp insists that Duick voluntarily participated in the alleged prank and that “[t]he person who made this claim specifically opted in, granting her permission to receive campaign emails and other communications from Toyota.”

If that is true, Duick should be subject to Rule 11 damages for a frivolous lawsuit. However, if it is untrue, this will be a costly campaign for Toyota.

Her lawyer insists that the consent form was ambiguous and she was not told what exactly she was signing up for. I am astonished that any lawyer reviewed this campaign and approved it. Even with a signed form, such waivers are routinely challenged for their clarity and specific disclosures.

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13 thoughts on “Duick Blind: California Woman Sues After Being “Punked” by Toyota”

  1. Oh the sue happy way of life… What an easy way to make 10 million bucks. She should spend her energy on her eating disorder.. But I guess you need that to be a model..

    What amazes me is that this frail, insecure “model” wants to be a therapist now.

  2. Elaine said it all: you can’t get punkd if you are agreeing to get punkd. And the car dealers are obviously insane and cruel.

    A murderous stalker will convince me to buy a car? This was potentially a murderous situation if this woman totally bugged out, like I would.

    I know I sound like an old fogey, but since when are all the boundaries of civil life now optional? I understand the right wing’s lack of scruples, but is it invading every area of our lives??

  3. Wow, I was reading the S&S site, well the page about the CEO Kevin Roberts who also has a link to another site with his… umm…concept? …. called “Lovemarks” –

    “” About Lovemarks — The Future Beyond Brands

    Brands have run out of juice. More and more people in the world have grown to expect great performance from products, services and experiences.
    Lovemarks reach your heart as well as your mind, creating an intimate, emotional connection that you just can’t live without. Ever.

    Take a brand away and people will find a replacement. Take a Lovemark away and people will protest its absence. Lovemarks are a relationship, not a mere transaction. You don’t just buy Lovemarks, you embrace them passionately. That’s why you never want to let go. “”

    it continues explaining the hallmarks of a Lovemark are “mystery, sensuality, and intimacy”

    That all sounds pretty creepy to me, in light of this stalky ad anyway… Sounds like somebody doesn’t understand healthy boundaries.

  4. I have to agree that this was one weird and stupid advertising campaign! I think that this S&S advertising company are not going to be working for Toyota much longer!

  5. What I don’t understand here is why Toyota imagined that any customer (even one in on the “joke”) would be encouraged to buy a car on the strength of this nonsense. Seriously, would you make a major purchase from a psychotic company?

  6. punked? I’ve never heard of this and that is a good thing.
    why can’t we agree to limit practical jokes to April 1st?

    sometimes when you buy something online there is this little box you have to uncheck that gives the company permission to sent you email, which they will, and which I’ve become religious about avoiding.
    perhaps this is how Toyota thinks this woman gave consent.

  7. “[t]he person who made this claim specifically opted in, granting her permission to receive campaign emails and other communications from Toyota.”

    The very nature of the campaign, that she (and others) was to be pranked, meant that the the fact that she was being sent advertising by Toyota had to be concealed. Unless each email started or ended with a clear statement from Toyota saying that this email is part of a marketing campaign and she was in no danger then she did not give INFORMED consent for the kind of abuse she got. IMO. Going to the trouble of setting up a bogus email profile to give the appearance that the ‘stalker’ was a real person is even more evidence that Toyota wanted to put a patina of reality or credibility on the emails. I hope she gets a favorable verdict or a gi-mungus out of court settlement.

  8. This was one strange marketing campaign indeed.

    How can a person be pranked if he/she is expecting to be pranked?

    Sounds like Saatchi & Saatchi are truly advertising “mad men.”

  9. Can we say: The lady standing in her window with the Aluminum Hat makes not for a good neighbor.

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