Actor planted in ‘Idols’ competition

Hoax was part of viral marketing campaign

For “Idol” fans, seeing the wannabes who fail to make the cut can be almost as much fun as the final competition.

But South Africa’s Cliff Jennings seemed to have a little something extra going for him as he hopped from audition to audition in hopes of being chosen for South Africa’s “Idols,” which airs on paybox M-Net.

Turns out he did.

The singer was really a plant — part of a viral marketing campaign. Jennings developed a cult following after M-Net “allowed” him to advertise his MySpace and FaceBook addresses on the “Idols” website, but after some three weeks, bloggers finally ID’d “Jennings” as actor Eduan van Jaarsveldt.

Now viewers and the show’s judges are deeply unhappy about the con, which they feel undermines the show’s credibility.

M-Net brand manager Pierre Cloete is unapologetic. “The ‘Cliff Jennings Living the Dream’ ad campaign was an ingenious campaign to support ‘Idols’ season 4, and it worked,” he says.

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