Viral Marketing Games

Fake Commercial Spots Spread Quickly on the Internet (CNet’s version) – Democratizing the semiotics of product promotion, or just a new way to be manipulated?

Viral marketing, in which low-profile ads spread quickly online as people share them, has become an intriguing strategy for many marketers trying to look beyond traditional 30-second television commercials.

But marketers are not the only ones taking the viral approach. Because the Web and cheap video technology keep making it easier for anyone with some knowledge and equipment to produce spots that look almost like real commercials, brand managers may find their carefully calibrated marketing messages increasingly being tweaked, teased, spoiled or entirely undermined.

Consumers, on the other hand, can now wonder whether each supposed hoax is an authorized, but deniable, below-the-radar marketing ploy.

The spoof Polo ad [QuickTime] that has revved up the discussion lately.
CNN Money: Report: VW to sue makers of bomb ad [pdf]; Lee and Dan’s WWW site

Later: Xeni says VW files complaint against makers of “suicide bomber” ad

Later still Fake Ad Creators Issue an Apology

“The creators regret the distribution of the film, will not publicize it further and apologize unreservedly for the damage caused to Volkswagen,” it said, adding that the company would now drop legal action against them.