About paola246 …

Paola246 & Belgian Cheese, these are only few of the buzz campaigns that bloggers have been talking about in Belgium. I didn’t write about these before since I had no interest in either one of them. I wasn’t curious who Paola really was, nor do I have special interest in cheese. That said, there were some curious aspects about Paola that I wanted to talk about. Here are some remarks/questions and for your convenience I linked to Belgian bloggers that also write in English although many more talked about it.

The mysterious Paola246 – the Belgian Lonelygirl so to say – had registered several accounts with Digg, Flickr, MySpace, Twitter, … at the same time which made a few bloggers suspicious so they started talking about it. Paola246 was all over Twitter and Maarten even created a ‘Wanted’ poster to try and find her. In the end it became clear this was a campaign for a virtual theatre experiment of HETPALEIS and the whole thing was set up by Stefan Kolgen. Bright.nl says later “Belgian blogosphere doesn’t fall for marketing stunt“(dutch)… didn’t they? Come on!

First let’s be clear on the success of this campaign, it was a marketing stunt and it definitely worked as it had the Belgian blogosphere talking about it for days. Second, I had the feeling some bloggers were trying to create the mystery and some were trying to solve it, this way I don’t think Stefan Kolgen was the only one who knew the truth. All good, but there’s also 2 things that bother me about this campaign:

  1. Honesty ROI: “you say who you and and who you’re speaking for” but in this case nobody seemed to care, it offered the bloggers some good fun trying to find the truth and that was that
  2. What if this campaign wasn’t set up by a blogger (‘one of us’) but by a big brand? Would we have stepped away from it like we did now? I’m sure we wouldn’t, we would have been outrageous how someone would even dare to step in our territory like this

Stefan Kolgen also acknowledges this in his comment at Bright.nl, (Stefan – correct when I’m wrong) saying that it was supposed to be very clear that Paola was fake, and that they didn’t want to wait any longer to come public about the identity after all the buzz it had gotten.

But it’s not only Paola246 that made bloggers react different to a certain situation, it’s the same for press releases. If bloggers get an email with press release type info from a brand/agency they don’t know, they’ll flame it… but if that press release is coming from a fellow blogger at that agency, we’re all cool.

My biggest take away? Bloggers can do stuff that we would never accept from anybody else on ‘their playground’ and that is fact.



  1. Correction: We intented to hold the mistery for 2 weeks tops. But… we didn’t take into account the power of the virtual network and some of its members… So it was allready after 1 week that 2 bloggers exposed us (Luc Van Braekel and Robin Wauters).

    I have to agree that bloggers can do stuff that big brands (as such) can not, except when a blogger employed by a big brand earns trust from the network. Then he/she has the same ‘advantages’ as someone who’s hands are not tied to a brand.
    When packaging is removed from opinion (news papers, magazines, even television or radio sets), and changed into ‘digital text on the web’, the only thing that matters is the trusted source and some bloggers fit this roll perfectly.

  2. Kris Hoet says:

    Hi Stefan – I agree that relationships are important and they will allow you and me to position things different compared to an outsider. As such I think the Paola246 case is very interesting and proves that point, but it made me question as well whether we aren’t measuring by double standards. I hope this might be the start for a good discussion about that.

  3. tijs says:

    Definitely true. However, still no guarantee to success. The cheese campaign did receive quite some criticism, even *because* it featured bloggers. My guess: the (male) blogging community badly wanted to know who that mysterious girl really was. I wonder if the whole thing would have been as successful if they had used Paola’s brother.

  4. Bart says:

    The question is, how did the campaign improve the visits of the show in Het Paleis? Does anyone of the bloggers plan to go to see it or already saw it (sorry didn’t check the dates)? Was the time being invested in creating those webaccounts and the movies worth it? It would be interesting if Stefan would publish a follow up.

    The blogger scene in Belgium is a small world where most of the bloggers know each other. This closed network has the power to move things and that’s what bigger companies are jaleous about!

  5. Kris Hoet says:

    @Tijs: No guarantee to success indeed, the cheese campaign didn’t have any mystery to it though. I experienced it as just another (bad) ad with the only difference that it included some bloggers in the campaign.

    @Bart: You asked a very good question. Although it’s not only about the bloggers, but also about their readers and maybe even traditional media who might have picked up the news from the blogs. It would be nice if Stefan did a follow up after indeed.

    About the power of the closed network, I’m not sure if I agree. Yes it’s very important to make campaigns like the ones mentioned to be successful, but my question was more related to the ethics. Imagine the buzz would have been like it was now, but it was not for HETPALEIS but for the new coke, nokia, … All I’m saying is that we would have been mad about the tactics they used, which we weren’t now.

  6. OK. Time Out.
    Paola246 IS the theatre play. This is not about how many people will buy a seat in HETPALEIS. So sorry to disappoint you, but it is NOT – I repeat NOT – a marketing pitch for getting people into the physical theatre. At least, not for now.
    It has everything to do with exploring new ways for delivering and expanding theatrical and dramatic expression.
    If HETPALEIS – via paola246 – was/is able to pursuade some people to attend a real life theatre play, then this would be loooked at as an interesting and most welcomed side effect.

  7. Pietel says:

    @ Tijs: Paola has a brother? This must be a hoax? Which agency is behind this!?

  8. Bart says:

    Okayyyyy, now I get it :)

  9. @Bart: at last… :)

    Read the press release at

  10. I think that is the entire point: the bloggers who helped launch paola did this to help a friend, someone with whom they have a real relationship. Some very ugly things were said about paola too, before the announcement that it was all fake. The fact that the announcement came very quick and delivered personally to bloggers also helped turn the tide: admitting a mistake and being a person really helps. They made a mistake, admitted it, now everybody thinks they are cool.

    The Belgian Cheese thing: meh, just a commerical with some bloggers in it. Big deal. No lies, no cheating. Nothing to get mad about.

    But the stunt Brandhome just pulled, on the other hand, proves exactly my point. No better way to piss of bloggers than to consistently lie and not admit it, even after being found out. See here:

  11. Kris Hoet says:

    That brandhome stuff is really bad, I agree 100%. Maybe to my earlier point though, Paolo246 or the cheese weren’t the best examples to prove it (too much distraction from the main point) but these were the recent ones to work with.

    What is this about? If news, viral, … whatever comes from a blogger to the other bloggers we accept a lot more than if it had come from anyone else. That’s the power of relationship, but we also accept people cross some lines that we have ‘defined’ and that’s what I question. I’m not mad for the cheesy email ;) nor am I mad at Stefan for Paola… but it made you think about this.

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