The Faceless Phenomenon

Speculation grows over 'faceless' people who appear at events around London.


LONDON, July 3, 2008 -- These are just some of the theories put forth to explain the faceless people who have been popping up at some of the biggest events on the British social calendar this summer.

These "faceless" men and women wear a membrane of artificial skin covering their faces with tiny holes so they can see and breathe.

They have been snapped among A-list celebrities at Wimbledon, Elton John's white tie ball, and the launch of the Harrods sale, which was opened by "Sex and the City" star Kim Cattrall earlier this week.

"We don't know anything about them," said Michael Mann, the media relations manager at Harrods, in an interview with ABC News.

"Our security team was very aware of them and monitored their behaviors. They were smartly dressed and didn't cause a problem, but we kept a close eye on them anyway."

Photos of the faceless have been posted on the Internet and videos of them at the Harrods sale were posted on YouTube.

Many believe they could be celebrities, trying to avoid the paparazzi by donning the flesh-colored disguises.

But if keeping a low-profile is the purpose of the ploy, the faceless have failed.

As rumors spread about their identities and intentions, bloggers are eager to speculate.

Some believe they are part of Anonymous, a group organized on the Internet and known for its protests against Scientology.

One blogger said the faceless people were a promotional tool for BBC's science fiction TV series, "Dr. Who."

But when asked to confirm whether the faceless were connected to the series, Emily Wright, who works at Taylor Herring, the public relations firm that handles publicity for the series, laughed.

"Um, no, no definitely not," Wright told ABC News.

The most popular theory is that the stunt is pure marketing, part of a viral ad campaign for Lotus cars.

There is a Lotus logo on the Web site, which redirects users to the Lotus company site.

One blogger, who thinks the faceless whim could be connected to Lotus, said, "Apparently, you're a faceless droid until you drop a few hundred thousand pounds to "buy" a personality in the form of a Lotus."

Lotus spokespeople declined to comment and did not admit a connection to the faceless people.

Jonathan Gabay, a brand consultant from Brand Forensics, told ABC News the faceless frenzy is a classic example of guerrilla marketing.

"It's all about getting your brand into the public arena but not using traditional methods," said Gabay.

"For it to work, you have to have high visibility not necessarily for your target audience but for the audience that will tell other people about it," Gabay said. He said bloggers only accelerate the pace of this type of marketing.

Although he believes more and more companies are employing this type of marketing strategy, Gabay believes its success will probably be short-lived.

"For it to work, it has to be different from the norm. If everyone is doing it, people will stop paying attention," he said.

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