Viral marketings worst nightmare - Hoaxes

There is a big problem in the world of viral ads, viral hoaxes. How are we supposed to tell the difference when more often than not, a real viral campaign is released 'discreetly', giving bogus information in the whois and being completely non-transparent as to who really created the campaign. Just like a viral hoax. Countless virals don't spread on the web as in port 80 - but via IM and email as people attach films to their messages and pass them on. The only thing that can tell us who dunnit is the sender at the end of the clip - what if the end of the clip is lying? How is the viewer supposed to know? Remember what may have been the very first viral ever - the Rubberburner/ Currylink craze for Lee jeans? The WHOIS Information gave them away but many people did not know to look at the whois, and fell for the idea of rubberburner hook line and sinker anyway. The only thing that has really changed since then is that more often than not, the whois info is full of bogus info.

Take the recent "viral" campaign for Bryan Adams album called roomservice. Adblogs such as the well visited Adrants wrote about it, twice even - yet didn't know it was a hoax, despite the ads unappetizing drama. In the post Brian Adams Valentine Viral Vomit Follow Up Adrants Steve Hall said:

OK, so Valentine's day was two days ago and on that day, aside from Hallmark's website crashing, Bryan Adams revealed he was behind the disgusting Who Ordered Room Service viral video in which a waiter enters a hotel room and pukes all over a knecking couple enjoying some love on the bed. Yup, Adams' new album is called Who Ordered Room Service and somehow he thought the relationship between puking and promoting an album was a good thing.

It's a complete hoax, the ads were created by Frank Lesser and Jason Woliner directors in New York, just for the heck of it. No word yet if Bryan Adams plans to sue them. Why sully someone elses brand to propell yours (especially when you're not intitially taking credit for it)?

"Not by any stretch of the imagination has the ad been endorsed by Bryan Adams or his management company," said Tyson Parker, from Universal Music Canada.

Just like in the case of the recent VW suicide bomber ad, which was a spec ad, not intended for bigtime webfame, these "fake" or unintended virals hurt the entire business of viral advertising. They also hurt the brands, who then are less likely to engage in viral advertising.

Another case casts doubt over wheather it really was fake or a planned outrage, remember the Ford Ka Cat decapitation ad? (story here, ad here). Since the first Ford "evil" Ka advert with the pigeon was created and released by The Viral Factory (UK) working for Ogilvy, one suspects that the second Ford Ka with the cat decapitation was as well. Are the viral agencies shooting themselves in the foot by "leaking" out ads they wish the client had said yes to? Is that what is going on with the Red Nose Day advert that RND thought was too violent, but is now running at How do these things end up on the web when they shouldn't? What does it tell us that the two most famous viral ads on the web are both denied by the client?

The reason marketeers want to do viral ads is because you can do it cheaper, reach more people (perhaps not the right ones however) and be a little naughtier than you can on TV... And for all those reasons it's so easy for people to grab their own camcorder and create a hoax viral of their own. The spread of fake virals - which to the end viewer looks exactly the same as a real viral - ends up threatening the integrity of everything else. Especially when even industry commentators fall for them. I don't blame the adbloggers for that - I do blame the creators of viral ad campaigns and their need to be secretive. We never wrote about the Beta-7 viral campaign here as the only way it was submitted was by one single link. No word on who created it. No explanation. Nothing. I understand that the creators of Beta-7 wanted people to get sucked into the story - and many did - but don't expect adbloggers like myself to be your seeding tools when you don't give us the full story.

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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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James Trickery's picture

Is "necking" not spelled like that? I've never heard of "knecking" in my neck of the woods.

caffeinegoddess's picture

I think the fact that there was barfing humor in something related to Bryan Adams was the red herring that it wasn't real. There's no way he or his managing cronies would approve something like that when his fans are mostly not into that kind of thing.

Neo's picture

Exactly. Anyone with half a brain and the slightest marketing savvy would think that - the only daring thing Brian Adams has done lately was a duette with a spice girl for crying out loud. There is no way he'd make a vomiting viral. What baffles me is that the film makers bothered to make it. It's not funny. It does not advertise their skills at all. I don't get it.

caffeinegoddess's picture

There seems to be a trend with virals that aren't real where they don't stay "on brand" at all for whatever it is that they are supposedly selling. Perhaps that's the automatic giveaway people need to pay attention for.

Dabitch's picture

The VW viral was perfectly on-brand on-brief brilliant. Just way over the top subject wise, but then again virals usually are. ;)
Also, those Bacardi virals with the four-breasted women really didn't strike me as very "Bacardi".. Yet they were bought and paid for by them.
Perhaps it's so easy to be fooled by "amateurs" because half of the viral buiness are just amateurs. Who fooled us here though? A creative team with lots of agency experience and two commercial directors. Not exactly people who have never played the adgame before.

Dabitch's picture

By the way, Jason Woliners website is here Couldn't find it the other day. Better late than never aye? :)