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BlackBerry stunt at Sydney Apple store 'too little, too late'

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James Manning

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A screenshot of the countdown on the Wake Up website.

A screenshot of the countdown on the Wake Up website.

A stunt by BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) designed to make fun of Apple has backfired on the ailing company, say commentators.

RIM today owned up to being responsible for an extended protest outside Apple's Sydney CBD store last week after online sleuths traced the source of the publicity stunt.

But the marketing ambush comes as too little too late, says Tiphereth Gloria, social media strategist at VML Australia.

'Wake Up' protestors outside Apple's Sydney CBD store.

'Wake Up' protestors outside Apple's Sydney CBD store.

"The punch line - which is the fact that Blackberry is behind it - is what makes it fail because Blackberry is not associated with any kind of success," she says.

"If they had run this around the initial uptake of the iPhone 3GS a couple of years ago, it might of had some relevance."

The company was then forced to deny that it paid bloggers to report on the stunt after it emerged that the man who managed to capture the protest on video, Nate 'Blunty' Burr, had previously posted a glowing three-part review of the BlackBerry Playbook.

"Bloggers were not paid for this campaign or told what to say," they said. "Neither RIM, nor any agencies on RIM's behalf, have ever paid Blunty."

Burr's YouTube video of the protest spread across the internet and people immediately suspected Samsung, which is about to release its Galaxy S III smartphone and has previously staged marketing stunts near the Apple store.

But it was the BlackBerry manufacturer that admitted to being behind the mystery viral campaign today after days of speculation.

"We can confirm that the Australian 'Wake Up' campaign, which involves a series of experiential activities taking place across Sydney and Melbourne, was created by RIM Australia," RIM said in a statement.

Many assumed that Samsung was the company behind the stunt because they are Apple's largest rival in the smartphone market, while BlackBerry has been steadily losing its market share.

"That loss has accelerated a lot in the last six months … the only competition for Apple is Android," says Gloria.

Samsung yesterday denied any involvement in the campaign before RIM came clean.

"As a market leader in smartphones we think Australians have already woken up to the multitude of choices available, but kudos to whoever is behind the campaign," said the company in a statement.

Internet sleuths first raised the alarm bells last week when they worked out that the mysterious countdown on the Wake Up website did not line up with the release date of the Galaxy S III, as it was originally thought.

Blogger and MacTalk contributor James Croft examined the source code of the Wake Up website and found a Doubleclick account identifier that linked it to RIM's Australian website.

"Clearly the evidence is starting to stack up in favour of them [RIM] being behind the whole mess," Croft wrote on his blog yesterday.

RIM's protest at the Apple store involved a flash mob of black-clad demonstrators shouting at customers to "wake up".

Other facets of the campaign involved people dressed in black standing outside Channel Seven's Sunrise studios in Sydney's CBD holding signs of the slogan, and this morning a speedboat sporting the logo reportedly raced around Sydney Harbour. The slogan has even been spotted on a flashing roadworks sign in Rushcutters Bay, Sydney.

'Wake Up' can be seen at the bottom of the swimming pool at Icebergs, a sports club in Bondi Beach, as well as on numerous billboards across Sydney and Melbourne, including one near the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The campaign also has a website, featuring nothing but the slogan 'Wake Up' and a countdown timer, which has been timed to the release date of BlackBerry's new operating system BlackBerry10. The stunt also coincides with the BlackBerry world conference, which is currently taking place in Florida.

Blackberry was once the device of choice for executives due to its email capabilities, and was even gaining some consumer cachet up until to a few years ago. This dropped off dramatically following the rise of touchscreen smartphones running iOS and Android, both of which have strong email features.

RIM Australia says a 'reveal' will take place on May 7 that will "aim to provoke conversation on what 'being in business' means to Australians".

with Ben Grubb, who is currently in Florida as a guest of RIM for its BlackBerry World Conference