The 5 Top-Performing American Apparel Ads, and How They Get PR for Free (NSFW)


Above and below are five American Apparel ad campaigns that ran for less than $1,500 each. Designed to get attention and create controversy, they were covered in AdWeek, The Hollywood Reporter, Daily Mail, NBC, Gawker, and dozens of other outlets and blogs.

Despite this minuscule budget, they did millions of earned media impressions all over the world. People are still talking about them today. Click on each for more context (or, in one case, an uncensored Sasha Grey).

The real question this raises is: how do you craft an message, ad, or story that people talk about years from now?

We’ll aim to answer that in this post…


Ryan Holiday is the author of this guest post, which is a step-by-step guide to getting PR for free.

Ryan develops media strategies for clients like American Apparel CEO Dov Charney and Tucker Max. He dropped out of college at 19 to apprentice under Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, after which he started advising bestselling authors and multiplatinum musicians on launch optimization. He is currently the director of marketing at American Apparel, where his campaigns are internationally known.

Note: This is a post on the process of getting media (much like this one), which can be used for anything from environmental non-profits to military propaganda. The principles in this post are used by Charity Water to incredible effect, for instance. Like a knife, media can be used for saving lives (i.e. surgery), taking them, and lots in between. How the knowledge is used is up to the user.

This post is not intended to be a cultural discussion of American Apparel… so please relax.

Enter Ryan

The internet is lying to you. It told you that making a good product, writing a great book, or starting a cool company was enough. They said that if you built it, people would come.

I’m here to tell you that this just isn’t true. I’ve worked with too many artists, entrepreneurs and authors—whose crushingly rude awakening came on launch day—to say otherwise. Great books won’t sell a million copies by accident, start ups don’t see hockey stick growth by chance, big ideas rarely become a sensation at random.

Doing “good stuff” isn’t enough in an attention economy. Getting people to care about what you’ve done is an exhausting and bitter fight for the world’s most precious resource: people’s time. To capture it, you must be a skilled and fluid marketer who can create or spot opportunities to leverage. As part of that, you must create the conversations you want people to have about your brand. If you want to be sure you’re in the news, you create the news.

I call myself a “media manipulator,” and there are good reasons why.

“But that sounds bad…”

I use the term manipulate like a skilled massage therapist might “manipulate” soft tissue. I don’t mean hurting, robbing, or stealing.

In helping #1 bestselling authors and billion-dollar brands, my job is to get people as much attention as possible, as expediently as possible. For the last five years, I have immersed myself in the history of media, learned its patterns, stress-tested its rules, and optimized use of new tech tools. What I discovered will hopefully help you replicate my successes.

You have to play the same game that the media pros play everyday. In other words, you have to beat the pros at their own game. The question is: how?

“We play by their rules long enough and it becomes our game.”
-Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game

How News Has Changed

The news has fundamentally changed. Think of the New York Times. When they decide to publish an article about you, they are doing you a huge favor. After all, there are so many other people they could write about. There is a finite number of spots in the paper. Blogs are different, as they can publish an infinite number of articles and every article they publish is a chance for more traffic (which means more money in their pockets). In other words, when Business Insider writes about you, you are doing them the favor.

And what are you reading right now? That’s right, a blog. Blogs drive our media cycle. TV and radio reporters once filled their broadcasts with newspaper headlines. Today they repeat what they read on blogs—certain blogs more than others. I’m talking about sites like: Gawker, Business Insider, Politico, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Drudge Report. You may not read all these sites, but the media elite does and is influenced by them.

Getting press on those outlets is no longer a buyer’s market. It’s a seller’s market. And there are a lot of blogs out there willing to buy your story. That means your product, your book, or your start-up has more than a fighting chance of getting press. If you properly utilize the below three tactics for generating attention, you can create a million dollar press campaign… that costs you nothing.

Here’s how…

3 Tactics for Free PR

Tactic# 1: Start Small

You want press tomorrow? Sign up for HelpAReporterOut.com1 (a service that matches reporters “researching” stories with sources) and you’ll have it. You won’t be the sole subject of a story, but you’ll be in a story and that’s a start. Just for fun, I had an assistant set up an account for me earlier this year and gave him permission to answer every query he could, as me, saying whatever he wanted. The more preposterous the better, I told him. Within days, I had been featured in Reuters, ABC News, the Today Show and eventually, a Sunday feature in the New York Times. If I could be that wildly successful for a prank, what could you get if your livelihood or job depends on it?

Legitimate coverage can also be secured by going even smaller. Small blogs and hyperlocal websites that cover your neighborhood or particular scene are some of the easiest sites to get traction on. Started a company? Snag an article in the newspaper where you went to college. Writing a book? Get the blog that covers your neighborhood to do a post on you. Since they typically write about local, personal issues pertaining to a contained readership, trust is very high. At the same time, they are cash strapped and traffic-hungry, always on the lookout for a “big story” that might bring a big spike of new viewers.

Starting small is your beachhead into the news cycle. Blogs have enormous influence over other blogs—making it possible to turn a post on a small site into posts on large-traffic sites, as the bigger often “scout” the smaller sites. Blogs compete to get to stories first, newspapers compete to “popularize” it, and then everyone else competes to talk about it.

This isn’t speculation. It is fact. In a media monitoring study done by Cision and George Washington University, 89% of journalists reported using blogs for their research for stories. Roughly half reported using Twitter to find and research stories and more than two thirds use other social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn in the same way. Start there, legitimize coverage of your business and then you have a chance to reach a larger audience. I call this “trading up the chain.” Work it to your advantage.

How do you find these blogs? You’re already reading them! (That is, if you’re doing your job and know the influencers in your space). If you’re not, here’s a short cut: check Reddit, Gawker, TechCrunch, Huffpo and the other big guns and see what names show up regularly, what smaller sites they link to. These are the feeders you want to start with)

Tactic #2: Always Appeal to Self-Interest

Bloggers have traffic goals, and they often have posting quotas (sometimes as many as a dozen a day). They are overwhelmed and busy. Handing a blogger an interesting story lead about your business is like handing a thirsty man on a desert island a cool glass of water. Sure, he was surrounded by water—just like a blogger is surrounded by an infinite amount of stories—but this is one he can actually drink.

Think about it from their perspective. To ask them to “cover your company” is to ask them to do a whole bunch of work. They’d have to research you, come up with an angle, craft a headline, make a graphic or photos and then *hope* the story does well.

Self-interest gets you further, faster. Make your pitch specific and exciting: “Would you like the exclusive story on how my company went from $0 to $1M in revenue without spending a dime on advertising?” Or “How we got 30,000 members in 3 days?” Your company has such angles, but don’t leave it to a blogger to suss them out. Instead: Craft the narrative yourself, gather evidence, and present it nicely wrapped with a bow on top. If you do the work for them, they’ll be much more likely to run your plug-and-play story.

An example:
Last year, I got tired of a speed trap camera near my house and decided to do something about it. Now, I could have gone to a public hearing, voiced my objections to these cameras, and hoped that someone in the media might report on it. But that would have left too much up to chance. Instead, I emailed a reporter at the Times-Picayune—the struggling but influential daily newspaper in New Orleans—who I knew covered this beat before. I explained to him that I was a new resident to the city who had gotten dozens of unfair tickets (including 3 on one day). I emphasized what an undue financial burden such tickets had been on my girlfriend when she had gotten some herself and how she’d been reduced to tears by a rude city employee when she protested. I sent in a picture of a busted sign near the camera. I played the victim, saying that I felt shaken down, as if a bully had taken my lunch money.

Now these things are true, but still, I deliberately framed them in the most sympathetic way. The result: a week later, a front page story in the Times-Picayune, featuring the picture I’d taken and my bully quote in huge block letters, which spurred hundreds of comments and a ton of other coverage. A month later, the city announced it was changing course on the policy and the state legislature is now debating a bill to ban the cameras.

This is how easy it is to get coverage. Do your research, find your target and give them what they need. I provided the raw materials for the story and gave the editor what he needed to do his job. I created the narrative, which others have now continued to run with. They are doing what I want, because it’s in their interest to do so.

Think about this when you seek out coverage: what kind of reaction will it elicit from the reader and the reporter? What is your angle? Will this generate Facebook likes and Twitter shares? Would you share it with your busiest friends? If not, then you don’t have a good story.

You’re wasting your time, and you’re asking for a favor…and bloggers don’t do favors.

Tactic #3: Feed the Monster

I often use the metaphor of a monster for the blogosphere. It is a hungry beast, and to keep it on your side, you must feed it it constantly. And you must know what it likes to eat.

A recent study of over 7,000 articles on the “Most Popular” list for the New York Times Magazine found that the secret to popularity was how much emotion an article generated in the reader. In fact, the number one predictor in virality was how angry an article made the viewer. There are, in fact, many viral emotions: humor, anger, fear, joy, awe, primal attraction, etc.. The one thing they all have in common: passion/extremeness. These are called “high-valence” emotions.

I think about this when I design advertisements for American Apparel. For instance, look at these ads of Sasha Grey (NSFW). She doesn’t even have any product on (well, except socks)! But they provoke sharing, and were ultimately seen by many many more people than a tame ad would have been. The internet is a hungry beast that needs material: FB and Twitter don’t feed themselves. Armed with data that shows a direct correlation between chatter about products and sales spikes, I used emotion-provoking advertising to grow American Apparel’s online sales from $40 million to $60+ million per year.

I’ve done the same thing for clients like Tucker Max, (and had a lot of fun along the way), pulling off stunts like paying celebrities to tweet offensive things and trying to name a Planned Parenthood clinic after him. In a way, this is what Tim did when he put a chapter in his last book about orgasms—yes, it was interesting and helpful to readers, but it was also a fabulous angle for everyone on the internet to go berserk about.

Uber is another great example, coming up with stunts slightly less outrageous but that are like catnip to the news hungry tech blogs (see: Free Roses on Valentines Day and Edward Norton goes surfing)

Do interesting and crazy things. It’s what the cycle desperately needs. People need things to talk about and… you can be that thing! Of course, we all have different levels of tolerance for controversy, but knowing your comfort zone doesn’t mean you should never test the boundaries. I do it all the time.

That said, you’re taking a risk by feeding the monster, and it sometimes (always eventually) bites the hand that feeds it.

If the monster does bite you, or if the shit hits the fan, remember:

*Forget winning a pissing match. (Remember the quote: “When you fight with a pig you both get dirty-but the pig likes it.”)
*Don’t throw fuel on the fire. Sometimes it is best to ignore. The cycle moves fast and everyone will forget soon
*Fight a negative story by releasing a more exciting positive story (someone writes a critical piece on you, publish a great blog post about something else that will get more attention)
*Be the one who writes history: control the language on Wikipedia after the controversy dies down, know your Top 10 Google results and use SEO intelligently (look at services like or Metal Rabbit), etc.

Cliff Notes: How to Get Attention in an Attention Economy

Tactic #1: Start Small (Pick your target)
-Look for a site that is small but influences other media, especially your target media.
-Identify past stories they have written on your “beat” (subject area or industry).
-Establish your credibility first via HARO and other media.


Tactic #2: Always Appeal to Self-Interest (Approach your target)
-Pick an angle that fits for the target.
-Send them an email that does ALL the work for them.
-Make it clear that there is traffic in it for them. If you’ll help drive it, indicate how.

Hypothetical email:
Subject: Quick question

Hey [name],

I wanted to shoot you a note because I loved your post on [similar topic that did a lot of traffic]. I was going to give the following to our publicist, but I thought I would go to you with the exclusive because I read and really enjoy your stuff. My [e.g. "company built a userbase of 25,000 paying customers in two months without advertising" or "fashion label has new campaign with beautiful naked models" or "book blows the lid of an enormous XYZ scandal"] and [indicate how in 10 words or less]. And I did it completely off the radar. This means you would be the first to have it. I can write up any details you’d need to make it great. Do you think this might be a good fit?

If so, should I draft up something around [their average] words and send it to you, or do you prefer a different process? If not, I totally understand, and thanks for reading this much.

All the best,
[Your Name]


Tactic #3 Feed the Monster (Trade Up The Chain)
-Now that you have a story. Blow it up. Make SURE it is on everyone’s radar.
-Submit it to social media sites, submit it as a tip to other news sites, drive tons of traffic to it.
-Email other blogs and offer to do an interview and get follow-up stories.
-Once you start, you can’t stop. Tomorrow, come up with a new story and start again.

To finish up, let me reiterate: If you just build it, they will NOT come… automatically.

BUT, if you come to the media with something good, something that appeals to the monsters needs and feeds it? Well, then you have something explosive on your hands—you can reap the rewards of millions of eyeballs pointed directly at the product you worked so hard to develop. You deserve that.

Baking shareable, spreadable messages into your product is the ultimate growth hack. As MIT’s Henry Jenkins puts it: on the web, “if it doesn’t spread, it’s dead.” The mechanisms for spreading and popularizing content on the internet are there. Content producers are going to cover someone.

So, make sure that someone is you.

Good luck!


Afterword by Tim:

Ryan Holiday is better at media strategy than anyone I know. His new (and first) book, Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, launches tomorrow (July 19th) and is already shipping.

Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, calls it “a playbook for the dark arts of exploiting the media.” If asked about Ryan’s talent, I have stated simply before: “Ryan is part Machiavelli, part Ogilvy, and all results. From American Apparel to the quiet campaigns he’s run but not taken credit for, this whiz kid is the secret weapon you’ve never heard of.”

On Amazon
As AppSumo bundle: Get the book, plus four case studies and extra bonuses.
On Barnes and Noble

And one more point, as a few people have been very offended by the American Apparel ads. Here’s the deal: I love helping women who want to change the world, and in the same token, I’m not going to stop women who want to use sex appeal to make a living, make art, or sell clothing. In both cases, it’s their prerogative. I have zero problem with consenting adults sexually doing whatever they want with each other or for each other, including sexually provocative advertising. I have a live-and-let-live policy whenever possible. After all:

“A thick skin is a gift from God.”
- Konrad Adenauer

Plenty more discussion in the comments…

*Photocredits for American Apparel ads go to Kyung Chung and Marsha Brady

  1. There is also Profnet, SourceBottle and a few other such services. All are easy to utilize. []

Posted on: July 18, 2012.

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156 comments on “The 5 Top-Performing American Apparel Ads, and How They Get PR for Free (NSFW)

  1. ..everything in moderation.
    From the post- “Aren’t the examples in the post the exact things we hate about ads and PR? It’s all noise. It’s horribly not genuine, not authentic, nor is it honest. We’re talking adding more noise and misery to an already dishonest, deceitful, uncaring world.” The conning the cons so to speak! You decide what’s right for your brand, anything and everything in moderation though. *biztag


  2. If these ads only cost $1500, how did they get a major adult star to agree to this for next to nothing? If its publicity for herself, then sure I get it but we don’t all have that publicity to offer someone so the $1500 is fairly misleading.


      • Ryan, glad to see you here, I wanted to let you know that I absolutely love your video trailer regarding your book. Is it 100% SimpliFilm ideas or did you work on it ?
        Very well done, it catched my attention and secured you one more sell ;)


      • I wrote the script in collaboration with them and it’s based on a concept from the book as well as some artwork from the designer who did the cover. But the video work was Simplifilm and they did an amazing job making this thing. I would work with them again for sure.


  3. Location: Panama!
    Occasion: Miniretirement NUMBER TWO!
    Reasons for comment:
    1. This is one of two blogs I read no matter where I am in the world…The content is unparalelled.
    2. The industry that I have had a job in for the last several years is suffering from ineptitude in dealing with the media. ( i’m in the saving lives business…people think i’m in the union business…)
    3. Obviously, this was post was gonna generate some serious visceral response, so my two cents from personal experience to those that (I think…) might miss the point: It doesn’t matter what your message is…the better manipulator wins. I’m sorry, i’d love to be all puppy dogs and unicorns with you, but the fact is this: I have saved more lives in the last several years DIRECTLY…meaning me and my team were there delaying death (because that’s really all anyone can do until the life extension people come up with better…). Twenty four hours a day…All year…NON F*ING STOP…My friends and those like them. Oh yeah, and more of us are dying directly and indirectly from what we do for a living. We’re hourly employees averaging about 18.50 an hour…but, guess what…People believe the people that took their money, squandered it on projects that benefitted not a single human being except those that were making outsized returns on the investment (and maybe temporarily those that were working on the project until they got laid off at the end.) Why?


  4. Thanks for the post Tim and Ryan. It came at a great time when I am getting ready to launch two new websites. I believe in eating the meat and spitting out the bones. So I totally agree with this statement above from Tim – That by studying pushing the envelope (just like the body in 4HB), you can dial back slightly to your level of comfort and still get much better results than usual.

    I don’t have to agree with everything to get some benefit from the post. :) Going to put this to the test and gain some market share for my two new innovative websites!


  5. Tim,

    So how would you market the legalization of marijuana, if you even believe it should be legalized for personal or medical consumption?


  6. Oops…Hello Panama internet!

    Why? Those who did what they did got every talking head in the media to repeat the mantra that they’d created. It was genius. Hey…those guys that are always there for you no matter what…It’s their fault! I would’ve never thought it possible but I was naive.

    Tim and Ryan don’t need me to say it, and i’m not a bleeding heart, but man…Ryan is right. You better figure out how to deal with the monster that is rather than lament the Unicorn that isn’t (Except for those unicorns that girls get on their shoulders sometimes…which is a whole other thing…).

    I’m either finding a way to hire Ryan for my industry…Or figuring out how to manipulate for my industry (In the name of the f*ing truth) myself…Book sold.

    Ryan…How much, man? How much…I know several thousand good people who could use your kind of help…right now.

    Great content as always!



  7. I love the blogs about amazing fantastical exploits you and others have made in conquering the physical universe,including time and space. Loved the tango segment! Loved the archery from horseback. Loved the 4HWW and 4HourBody. I like the idea of taking time out of the equation for success.That is the stuff dreams are made of – the kind I like to have for a better life and a better world.
    This one, not so much.


  8. Suppose a retailer like JcPenney wants to hire you, Ryan. JcPenney give you a condition that you can use any risque material and they are serious about not showing pubic hair on advertising.

    1) Do you take gig that limit your use of risque?
    2) No big deal, you can make it work and go big being not nsfw?


  9. Honestly I feel a little torn after reading this. On the one hand, it’s kind of a sleazy operation, on the other, it’s led to some pretty original and subversive ads.


  10. It’s been interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look here at how ‘media’ really is…the book looks really interesting and from my impression – I feel it will be much more influential and helpful in helping readers protect themselves from this broken system then it will to teach readers how to rig it.


  11. Hello All,

    A friend sent me this link to Tim’s site. Needless to say, I’ll be back.

    I have a question-and I’m a bit embarrassed to ask, but in the early part of this article it was written that “-ad campaigns that ran for less than $1,500 each.”

    How were these ads initially introduced to the public? I realize they were later “picked up” and some may have gone viral and therefore the exposure exploded.

    How were put out there?

    Thanks in advance,

    Vvego International


    • I bought space for them on several small blogs and they were noticed and picked up from there. The lawyer ad ran in the UCLA Daily Bruin one time. Total the spend was all incredibly low because they weren’t just ads. They were ads + a news story


  12. Modeling the ads of company that’s been steadily losing money and approached the verge of bankruptcy may not be the best idea.


    • Model your ads on a company that did $600M in sales on an ad budget of $10M? Crazy.

      If American Apparel followed the convention wisdom about advertising and manufacturing the company wouldn’t exist. The fact that some factors were outside our control (like the economy and immigration laws) is regrettable but I don’t think it warrants shutting your mind to learning from it.


  13. It’s been really interesting reading all the comments on Tim’s post. Controversy still sparks reaction. It’s a timeless thing. I how ever am no marketing or advertisement specialist, so I can not join in that conversation. I can only speak from the consumer/female/media maker side.
    One thing I do know, I will buy Ryan’s book to learn the tricks to promote my anti-movement woahahaha (evil roar)! ;) As you sad, feed the beast, or monster.

    On a more serious note, here’s some food for thought about how the sexualization of girls in advertisement is starting at an increasing younger age. Almost a third of girls’ clothing for sale at 15 major retailers has sexualizing characteristics, a new study finds, a trend that psychologists say can encourage girls to view themselves as sex objects at an early age.

    I see these trends as linked. Agree? Disagree? I’d be interested to hear.


  14. Love the tips, Tim! Signed up with HARD, wrote up a couple of responses, enjoyed doing it, and … can’t wait what manifests:)


  15. It’s been really interesting reading all the comments on Tim’s post. Controversy still sparks reaction. It’s a timeless thing. I how ever am no marketing or advertisement specialist, so I can not join in that conversation. I can only speak from the consumer/female/media maker side.
    One thing I do know, I will buy Ryan’s book to learn the tricks to promote my anti-movement woahahaha (evil roar)! ;) As you sad, feed the beast, or monster.

    On a more serious note, here’s some food for thought about how the sexualization of girls in advertisement is starting at an increasing younger age. Almost a third of girls’ clothing for sale at 15 major retailers has sexualizing characteristics, a new study finds, a trend that psychologists say can encourage girls to view themselves as sex objects at an early age.

    I see these trends as linked. Agree? Disagree? I’d be interested to hear.


  16. Ryan:

    During the course of the past few weeks, I have become your biggest fan ever – though not in a “Misery”/Kathy Bates sort of way.

    You, sir, are everywhere right now – EVERYWHERE – and while promoting both yourself and your book have played the media as though it were a fine musical instrument.

    Though I’m not willing to implement all of your marketing tactics into my own business (I really don’t think that my wife would want me working with a pube flashing Sasha Grey), I have to say that I am in complete and total awe of your drive, work ethic, ability to analyze an industry, and big ol’ cojones.

    You are truly the Maestro.


    • Thanks Matthew.

      I felt like I made a lot of big claims in the book and the marketing efforts for the book had to prove I was as good as I said. Glad to see you think I got close.


      • Ryan:

        I think you’ve been able to do a bit better than merely “getting close,” and the publicity storm that’s enveloped you these past few weeks (a self-made, well-played publicity storm for the most part) is proof of your skills

        As a quite side note, it seems to me that your greatest skill is an ability to recognize patterns and associations. You’ve been able to work the media for many reasons, though chief among these reasons is the simple fact that: a) there are social and business associations within the different media cliques. (i.e: “Birds of a feather…”) b) you analyzed the process of how news/marketing/ideas go from small and local to big and national (or worldwide), and you were able to spot a pattern within this process.

        The truly great feature of your skill set (i.e.: the ability to recognize patterns and associations) is that it can be applied to almost anything: news, product launches, politics, seduction, etc, etc…

        It’ll be really interesting to see what your next venture is and where you go with it.


  17. Just want to say I love seeing Tim and Ryan all over these comments connecting with the readers. Ryan I just bought your book, I love what you’ve done and the boldness in which you do business. Best of luck!


  18. I’d be lying if I’d say I not rather see things happening like this joined artists’ initiative. True creativity, spreading some truth and food for thought, originality and on a smaller budget than many AA adds…This grabs my attention AND respect. And conjures a smile upon my face. How lovely. Brandalism (Ryan, check out photo number 9 on page 2 in the photo gallery, I’m sure you’ll love it – not being sarcastic). :)


  19. Yeah the dangling pubes are a little crass….but what are you going to do? Men simply have to have daughters of their own in order to rethink this stuff – that was definitely the case with me.

    Anyways, Tim I’m thinking about MAKING all my future clients read the 4HWW before I agree to work with them. I’m sick of *suggesting*. More than a few people have stiff-armed me with, “I’m too busy to read (a book on time management)”!

    Maybe from now on it’s a mandatory assignment and I hand them a quiz before any consultation???


  20. It reminds me of the “vitamins in the icecream” argument. Get the attention with something that someone wants, maybe spark controversy. But then when it dies down a little the deeper conversation starts like what people comment about the Sasha Grey Ads after they get over the shock. The conversation may have been the real intention.

    The thing is they won’t listen in the first place unless there’s some icecream.


  21. This article is full on information that cannot be verified. Do the AA ads really lead in increase in profit? If you do the research you will find out.

    However what do you expect from the guy who said he was once a “Chinese kickboxing champion”. You cant verify that claim either.


  22. Very cool post guys!

    I especially liked the free PR tactics and the run down of how the media gets content. Definitely a big difference from the past.
    Nice spice up with the American Apparel ads – they can definitely generate emotions in the crowd.

    Ryan, I wonder how this works on a more local scale. What if all of city’s PR and advertising are controlled by a certain group of people who only publish what they like? So even if you have a cool story it doesn’t matter because if they don’t like it it will never make it out to the city channels?


  23. Duh -simple message – SEX SELLS.

    Animal sex sells. Procreative, making baby sex sells. Porn star, hairy coochie sex sells. Old sexy lady, experienced sex sells.

    How is this new? It’s not. Sorry.

    Advertising and marketing is selling happiness and sex, just not in that order.

    Come on, Timmy. Selling sex is not earning media.


  24. Awesome read, as an SEO myself I could immediately connect with what was said about reputation management in the top page of Google’s “SERP”

    I have personally worked on a few campaigns of this sort and they are pretty interesting to say the least!

    I would also recommend for anyone who doesn’t know how to keep an eagle eye out on what is being said about them or their business or a specific topic on the internet to check out Google Alerts (

    What was said about don’t feed the fire of the publicity that you DONT want is totally correct. If you bring any more traction to a page that is not sending the message you want portrayed, it will only make it rank higher in the engines, get more publicity and stick forever. Instead (as mentioned) write or do something that will by far and away blow that piece of content away, like a case study, or just something outlandish of your own that you are okay with.

    Great post as always Tim!


  25. Honestly can’t understand the negative comments here…

    4HWW/4HB is about testing assumptions and finding ways to game the system or realising that “rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men”.

    Like anything it can be used for good or bad but that comes down to the character of the individual. Anyone unconvinced is obviously entitled to that opinion however I would point them in the direction of an essay by Richard Feynman entitled The Value of Science – he makes a similar point but far better than I can!

    Really useful post.


  26. Love that thread of comments which is, to me, a good illustration of how people get excited about the conversation.
    I started my blog few weeks ago and those lines are great piece of advice, especially : “You’re wasting your time, and you’re asking for a favor…and bloggers don’t do favors.”

    And BTW, I like the Twitter button on the side of site. Anyone knows where to find it ?


  27. Wow this is so cool. This is the kind of thing that really excites me, unusual and effective marketing campaigns that break the mold!

    I love alternative marketing concepts and this is an alternate method that i think is awesome!


  28. Hi Tim: love the 4HB. Great work. Just a quick question on PAGG: I’ve noticed that Zestlife produces a PAGG stack – do you recommend this?


  29. Update:

    Bought, received and read the book. Ignore at your peril. Ryan’s scathing exposé of what qualifies as ‘news’ is illuminating. Ryan, thank you very much for your insights, you’ve crystallised why I avoid sites like Gawker like the plague.

    PS It’s not gone past me that my update happens to be at the bottom of the page!


  30. Awesome awesome post. Super insightful. Took notes, bought your book via audible and dig this quote “if it doesn’t spread, it’s dead.”


  31. I wanted to thank you for this information. I have started my own home based business in October and have began my internet marketing in January. I like your tactics and will begin to work them into my business plan, now.

    Thanks Again,
    Paul Truman


  32. Great article and thank you very much for the information. I am a very struggling self funded Charity targeting Neonaticide or murder of a newborn infant less than 1 month old: , with multiple websites/ a self published health book, 40 odd press releases, and NO traffic. I am at the end of my abilities to further this cause, hopefully the information I can gain from the free sections of this post will make a difference.
    once again thank you.
    Daniel P. Warren


  33. First time I’ve ever read an entire comment thread here at 4HWW. Really well done. If sex and manipulation are still controversial in your world you haven’t been paying attention!

    Perhaps Tim and Ryan chose the most controversial of Ryan’s ads precisely to get more reads? I bet he does much more subtle work using the powers of persuasion that he has learned.

    In fact, I’d like to find out. How do I go about hiring Ryan to work with me?