PR Firm Caught Posting Positive App Store Reviews for Clientele

Following an in-depth investigation spurred by an anonymous developer tip, the MobileCrunch web site has revealed that the public relations firm Reverb Communications has been actively posting bogus reviews on Apple’s App Store for its clients’ games, and offering the same service to potential clients.

A recent check of the App Store, cross-referenced with information from the Internet, shows that Reverb has employed at least seven different iTunes accounts to create positive reviews for clients including IUGO, Pangea Software, which had its game Cro-Mag Rally featured prominently in a TV advertisement for the iPhone 3G, and Publisher X, which is owned by Reverb. In each case, the iTunes account in question posted only 5-star reviews to a select number of these clients’ games, and had not posted a single review for any non-Reverb application.

In addition to the phony positive reviews, which are created by in-house writers to target select age ranges and are posted upon the game’s release, the company also promises clients “online message boards” management, and preferential placement on the App Store via its dealings with Apple. Reverb Communications claims to work “directly” with Apple on “each and every iPhone title,” claiming to have secured on-stage Apple keynote appearances, national iPhone TV commercials, placement on the “What’s Hot,” “Staff Favorite,” and “What’s New” lists, and more for its clients. Other Reverb clients include Harmonix, International Game Technology, Realtime Associates, Playlogic, Zen Studios, Graffiti Entertainment, and MTV Games, and the company claims its clients have sold over $2 billion in product while contracted with the firm.

In response to the MobileCrunch story, Reverb offered the following statement:

Reverb would like to clarify a few items regarding the MobileCrunch story about our agency that ran this weekend. The article “Cheating the App Store” is unfortunately full of emotion, logical holes and for the most part untrue. Here are the facts:

1. The writer forgot that Reverb Communications is not just a public relations agency, but is also a sales and marketing agency. Reverb’s marketing department has interns that do social viral marketing.

2. Our interns do not post reviews on iTunes. Our employees don’t post fake reviews. It’s common for Reverb team members to purchase the games and write a review in iTunes using their personal accounts AFTER they have played the game. In many cases Reverb has provided technical feedback and gameplay guidance to the app developer, long before these games hit the App Store, so we know these games extremely well. We also like these games or we wouldn’t take them on as clients. The entire list of iTunes accounts in your story are from staff members who have played the games.

3. 1 person=1 iTunes account=1 credit card. We do not have hundreds of accounts to “trawl” through iTunes – it’s simply untrue. We have 10 staff members who choose to post on the games when and if they have played the game. We have to buy and play the game in order to have an opinion.

4. This same writer contacted several of our app store developers wanting negative comments from them regarding Reverb. They all gave positive feedback, but the writer left this aspect out of the story.

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