A board of corporate executives planning to release a viral infection never works. Either James Bond kills them or they get destroyed by the infected hordes they were trying to control. And outside of movies it’s even worse, because in the real world they’re still alive to see how many millions of dollars they wasted looking stupid. They’d have been better off YouTubing themselves eating the money. And it’s only a matter of time before some company actually thinks of that.
But experience is the best teacher, because “experience” is how you say “horrible mistakes” while still trying to sound wise. And the wisest thing of all is to let other people make the mistakes first. Behold, lessons from the most embarrassing viral failures.
You Can’t Fake Authenticity: The PSP Rap
The only thing the Internet loves more than underdog success is massive failure, and the fake viral hit combines both. The worst example of this corporate astroturfing of fake grass-roots support was the PSP Rap. A campaign where Sony tried to convince us that some nobody could be stupid enough to upload this video while still being able to work a camera.
The Internet will uncover any fake. The Internet doesn’t even believe in things that are real. The Moon landing, 9/11, the existence of money – you name it, entire forums of psychotically focused nutbars are dedicated to proving it false. Your non-union actor with a camcorder doesn’t have a chance.
The fake viral ad is how you fit public relations with a self-destruct timer. The more successful your video, the more likely someone will spot it’s fake, and the more fame they’ll get for revealing that. And they’ll get ten times as many views. Because a multimillion dollar corporation trying to sneak into the one channel open to nobodies is deeply obnoxious. A corporation faking an “authentic” ad is like Goliath striding up to David, giving him some spiked balls for his sling, then unbuckling his pants to dangle over him.
Trust Nobody: Chevy Tahoe
Some companies try to work with the Internet without understanding how it works; which is like working with nuclear material without understanding how it works: it’ll blow up in your face and poison everything you were trying to do. An indescribably naïve Chevy Tahoe campaign gave random Internet users access to stock footage, asked them to make up an advert for them, and then presumably bent over in some prison showers because they thought they saw a piece of toilet paper was a winning lotto ticket.
The Internet can’t even be trusted with My Little Pony without drawing sex art. A sports utility vehicle had no chance of not being screwed. Besides, if random people loved Tahoes so much they made ads in their spare time, you wouldn’t need ads.
The result wasn’t just insults, it was a series of vicious attack ads from a brutal future where cars can be elected to government and their human slaves hate them.
You Can’t Steal Cool: Samsung Gangnam Style
Samsung created their very own version of Gangnam style, a mere ten months after it came out. That’s only about 9.99 months after everyone else on the Internet did it! It’s nice to see a major corporation is only almost a year slower than 12 year olds cutting together clips of Pokemon. Oh, and instead of “created” we meant “copied and destroyed.”
The corporate version of anything is never cool. It wouldn’t have mattered if they’d released theirs on the same day as PSY. It wouldn’t have mattered if they’d paid PSY to make Samsung style the original. Corporate re-wording takes a blowtorch to authentic cool.
So how do you create a viral hit? Simple. You don’t. You create authentic, original, interesting things and let the Internet do the rest.