A recent article in the New York Times revealed the all too predictable and (if you aren't a GM exec) humorous outcome of a Chevrolet Tahoe viral marketing campaign that allowed consumers to write their own advertisements:
"At first glance, the video looks like a typical 30-second car commercial: a shiny sport utility vehicle careers down a country road lined with sunflower fields, jaunty music playing in the background. Then, white lettering appears on the screen: "$70 to fill up the tank, which will last less than 400 miles. Chevy Tahoe."
The commercial is the product of one of the advertising industry's latest trends: user-generated advertising. On March 13, Chevrolet introduced a Web site allowing visitors to take existing video clips and music, insert their own words and create a customized 30-second commercial for the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe."
'Shockingly', we find that pranksters and environmental activists are the most likely users of this viral marketing campaign. It sounds suspiciously like a virus alright. Where I've worked, it is usually transmitted to executives on transcontinental or international flights, who, having been bumped to coach and low on laptop power, have no choice but to catch up on their reading. The result is a widespread contagion - a distribution of a photocopied article and a new directive to employ an emerging media, approach, or program without regard as to whether it is appropriate to the marketplace.
From the article, emphasis mine: "Drew Neisser, the president and chief executive at Renegade Marketing, a New Yor (sic) agency specializing in nontraditional marketing that is part of Dentsu, said companies had such a strong desire for user-generated advertising that they were willing to accept the risks. 'There's this gold rush fever about consumer-generated content,' he said. 'Everybody wants to have consumer-generated content, and Chevy Tahoe doesn't want to be left behind.' A spokeswoman for Chevrolet, Melisa Tezanos, said the company did not plan to shut down the anti-S.U.V. ads. 'We anticipated that there would be critical submissions,' Ms. Tezanos said. 'You do turn over your brand to the public, and we knew that we were going to get some bad with the good. But it's part of playing in this space.'"
Ms. Tezanos, one does not 'turn over' a brand to the consuming public. The brand was never yours to give. It is always your public's brand. However, what you do not do is pay for and provide a platform for your brand's critics.
To play Advertising Agency Creative Director yourself, here's the link: http://chevyapprentice.com/