New Age Media in dark age brand destruction exercise @newagemedialtd

This morning, Abid at Crafted Pixelz broke the news that a hitherto unknown digital marketing outfit in Stoke called New Age Media Ltd appeared to have been spamming Google Places reviews for the north west.

Two accounts, by the name of Stephen and Peter consistently marked digital agencies as 1 star and occasionally added one-line reviews. At the same time, they marked up New Age Media. Naturally, this annoyed a hell of a lot of people. (At the time of writing, the four pages’ worth of reviews are being slowly deleted – screenshot).

Update: this has now hit The Drum magazine.

When you work in the digital industry, you don’t mess with it. As soon as this came out on Twitter, the rapid response and investigation suggested the following:

  • Stephen appeared to be Stephen Mizon (@Smizon) the founder of New Age Media, describing himself in his Twitter profile as providing tips on running a business.
  • Peter appeared to be Peter Wootton (@PeterWoottonSEO), “Head of SEO” at New Age Media. In his Twitter profile, he calls himself a “credible” expert.

The flurry of tweets this morning awoke the @NewAgeMediaLtd Twitter account. And, of course, they went for the classic “disgruntled employee” approach.

https://twitter.com/NewAgeMediaLtd/status/205632080812572672 https://twitter.com/NewAgeMediaLtd/status/205632315030904833

…which is odd, given it seems their founder and Head of SEO appear to be linked with this given the names and Twitter. Oh, and they (were) listed on LinkedIn as a Sole Proprietorship (ht _@chappers_).

New Age Media claimed on Twitter that “an ex-employee is being investigated” but given that the names of the Google accounts match the founder and the head of SEO, this doesn’t seem very convincing. Additionally, in an now-deleted tweet, @smizon provided his opinion on the ethics of leaving negative reviews (see RT here).

Bemusingly, New Age Media claim the reviews were left by “Steven” (an ex-employee) not “Stephen” (their founder).

https://twitter.com/NewAgeMediaLtd/status/205644908416073729

I invite you to click on the links above to check the spellings.

New Age Media’s website also appears to be a bit of a mess. Their website has an inaccurate company registration number listed (and name). If you’re interested, here’s Newage Media Limited‘s profile. And maybe it’s time Pete read some of his articles on online reputation management (although the free content sites that highly similar articles appear on are not particularly high quality). Update: I’ve not been able to corroborate any of the grandiose-sounding statements made on their client testimonial pages like this either.

In any case, any firm worth its salt would take responsibility and apologise rather than simply divert the blame. This hasn’t yet been done.

This whole debacle is ridiculous and humiliating for New Age Media. If you’re trying to promote your brand, the last thing you do is slag off your competitors and then lie about it. The digital and creative industry in Manchester is a community that works together and talks to each other. And stuff like this gets found out quickly.

On a positive note, within an hour of Abid’s first tweet and subsequent retweets, I was messaged by a contact at Google. This afternoon, he’s let me know that the reviews have been marked as spam and the accounts blacklisted from reviewing ever again. Victory!

New Age Media have now deleted their Twitter account. Let’s hope we never hear of this agency again.

Update: In a bizarre move, New Age Media have now posted a breathtakingly arrogant response on their website. And, according to the commenters below, it’s alleged that they’ve created other fake Google Places accounts in the names of complainants on Twitter.

Have a look at what else was being said online.

@_SenoraBlanco sums up the whole affair in one image:

  • http://www.pragencyone.co.uk James Crawford

    I hope that is not a dofollow link to their site mate.  This could all end up being an elaborate linkbait exercise for them ;-)

    • http://technicalfault.net technicalfault

      Heh, oops :P

  • http://twitter.com/DanielAshcroft Daniel Ashcroft

    Josh
    Could your contact at Google also delete the account Stephen set up under my name as revenge for outing him on Twitter? This is it -> http://maps.google.com/maps/user?uid=203861482750449738922

    Cheers
    The Real Daniel Ashcroft :)

    • http://technicalfault.net technicalfault

      Are you sure that’s not just you? ;-)

      • http://twitter.com/DanielAshcroft Daniel Ashcroft

        Damn you caught me out :-P

        • http://technicalfault.net technicalfault

          Turns out @_chappers_:twitter has also had the same thing happen to him! 

    • http://m1ke.me/ M1ke

      Oh wow, so you outed them and they created a fake account and did the same thing all over again?! Does anyone actually hire these idiots?

  • Joe B

    Oh… You meant don’t press *that* self-destruct button… You should have said!

  • Ben Greenwood

    Quality. This whole debacle has kept me most amused through the day.

  • http://twitter.com/thathurtabit Stephen Fairbanks

    Interesting stuff! Their twitter account has been deleted.

  • http://twitter.com/Redswish Nathan Beck

    Nice work Josh, well reported.

  • http://twitter.com/andykinsey Andy Kinsey

    its quite funny :) 

    interestingly facebook lists the address as in manchester and NOT stoke…

    • http://technicalfault.net technicalfault

      Yes, their registered address is a residental street in Withington…

      • Abid

        Which ironically, is 5 mins from my house..

      • http://m1ke.me/ M1ke

        Shame it’s not where they were based, I’d be tempted to go give them my thoughts in person. Or just dump a load of real spam outside their office.

  • Abid

    A great summary of the events and a perfect example of just how great the Manchester digital community really is

  • Martin Smith

    Good work Josh and Abid, this is certainly a clear message NOT to mess with the Manchester digital community or indeed any other close knit digital community.

  • http://twitter.com/Chris_D_Smith Chris Smith

    Josh, thank you for finding this erroneous account. That is a picture of me taken in 2008, and it served as my twitter avatar for several years. I am not a former associate of that company, nor did I post any of that information.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shanedj Shane Jones

    I’m guessing we’re trying to outrank New Age Media with this post then :D

    Are we not all aiming to review them now based on what we have seen? 
    http://goo.gl/maps/oLsC

    • http://petemorley.me/ Pete Morley

      Now now Shane. We lead by example and don’t stoop to such levels; because we’re professionals.

  • http://www.davestopherseo.co.uk/ Dave Stopher

    Ha Ha this is brilliant Crap SEO people will do anything to get ahead wont they.

  • http://twitter.com/_Chappers_ James Chapman

    I notice that they’ve created a fake 5 star review from me too.  Not doing themselves any favours.

  • Ben Greenwood

    Have you seen their official response? It’s brilliant in it’s arrogance and hilarity: http://marketing.newagemedialtd.com/new-age-media-response/

    • http://technicalfault.net technicalfault

      Breathtakingly arrogant.

      • Ben Greenwood

        Check out their SEO page – they have a screenshot of themselves ranking N0. 1 for “SEO Manchester” – they are page 6…

  • Abid

    Josh, please do an update on their fail of an official response!

    • http://technicalfault.net technicalfault

      Done :-)

  • http://twitter.com/Justhipper Justhipper

    So they’re using ‘Daniel Ashcroft’ and ‘Chappers’ names now? We’ve got a couple on our listing over the last couple of days….

    • http://twitter.com/DanielAshcroft Daniel Ashcroft

      Yeah, that’s not the real me. Stephen wasn’t happy when I found his Twitter account and shared it with everyone, so created a fake one as revenge

  • petemorley

    I love this whole debacle. They’ve taken the “you’re our competition, we’re going to bury you” stance. Digital is a closely kit scene in Manchester, you need to make friends and influence people, not alienate your company and put yourself in a position where nobody wants to work with you. Their response was childish, their website and brand wouldn’t look out of place on a Geocities domain. Not the kind of person I’d want to do business with.

  • Strange

    hello Manchester – really interesting, but sad to see – bit gob smacked to be honest…I have to say that we came up to Manchester for an awards party last year and absolutely loved it – the city and the agencies rocked – met so many brilliant people … 

    Not sure if this post will attract a Strange are a 1* agency in our review – but heho…

  • Peter Woottons a Twat

    A member of our staff commented “Sometimes I have
    nightmares that I’m trapped in a room with Peter Wooton asking me to shift a
    logo left and right, one pixel at a time”

    • strange
      • Paul Cooper

        I saw that site…. Wasn’t it no. 1 for “SEO Manchester” for quite a while? Guess they must be doing something properly….