Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Viral Nonsense 

I'm sure you are familiar with one of the common methods of viral marketing. Someone makes an outrageous TV ad that is never shown on the air because it is offensive or explicit. The person places the ad on the Internet, so people will pass it around and thereby, create "buzz." There are sites like this one that track such things and bring them to you, so you don't have to wait for your 30 closest friends to pass it along.

A friend of mine, Pete Shinbach, sent along this viral ad today. It is hideous. One can never imagine a company allowing such an ad to be made, if Ford Motor actually did, and one could certainly say that Ford has a cause for action against those made the ad, if they did so without Ford's permission.

One thing the makers of this ad forgot is that all buzz is not the same. The old saw that one should never care what is said about him as long as someone says something is wrong. This ad fits into "bad buzz." It gains awareness, such as this blog entry, but the awareness is condemnation.

I have told desperate clients more than once that if all they want is publicity, I would give them a nickel-plated revolver. They can go to a street corner and start shooting. They are guaranteed to get publicity, but they might not like it.

Public relations works within norms of acceptability. Using the Internet, one can push norms but not too far. Of course, because many young creatives are sex-obsessed, many of these viral ads are porn in disguise. On occasion the ads are funny. Most of the time they are regrettable. The message is lost in copulation. As my father used to say, common sense is not common.


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