YaVaughnie Wilkins' billboard, a full-on display of her love affair with Charles E. Phillips, the married president of tech conglomerate Oracle and a member of Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, looks like it might have been inspired by... a fictional character who did exactly the same thing. Check the mega advertising campaign of "That Girl Emily."
Created by the interactive marketing company, Deep Focus, to advertise Court TV's show, Parco PI, "That Girl Emily" was a fictional scorned woman who found out her husband was cheating on her and decided not to take it lying down. I was hired to be the voice of Emily, ghostwriting the blog, chronicling her 14 Days of Wrath against her cheating husband, "Steven." On Day One, "Emily" wrote that she was putting up billboards announcing that "Steven" is scum for cheating on her--along with providing a gratuitous insult about his manhood. And, lo and behold, real billboards popped up all over New York. These generated such huge buzz that it drove people to the blog, which received over two million hits, and inspired thousands of people to email "Emily," usually to call her a hero.
Next, the blog featured more acts of vengeance that appeared to be confirmed by other public sightings: "Steven's" car driving through the streets of Manhattan with the words "Hope She Was Worth It" spray-painted on it, for example, and "Lost Dog" flyers hanging around town with "Steven's" face on it. All of which helped drive more people to "Emily's" blog to find out what she was up to next. But it was the billboards produced the biggest bang. People would take pictures of them on their cell phones, SMS or email the photo to their friends and it spread virally... and it continues to spread. Occasionally, I'll still get an email from someone with the billboard embedded in the text, saying, "Can you believe someone did this?!"
As a result of all this, I got a book deal and published my book The Down and Dirty Dish on Revenge: Serving It Up Nice and Cold to that Lying, Cheating Bastard. Really, all thanks to the brilliant marketing strategy that employed a blog-billboard combination to tell a tale of cheating that captured so many people's attention.
I used to say that no one in real life would put up such billboards unless they had the budget of a marketing company like the one behind "That Girl Emily." I was wrong. Wilkins' billboards (she placed them in a few cities) displayed a "happy" photo of herself with her lover, a quote about how the two of them were soulmates and a website address to drive traffic people to a site filled with the lovers' photos taken over their 8 and a half year romance. Apparently, Wilkins' was upset that Phillips had reconciled with his wife. She must have been very upset, since the billboards are estimated to have cost $250,000.
People say that the best revenge is to move on. To do that, people sometimes need to even things out a bit. Wilkins' very public--and pricey--retribution was her way of doing that. Maybe now she'll be able to move on from the hurt and pain. And who knows: maybe, since this appears to be a textbook case of life imitating art, Wilkins will get a book deal as well.