Contrived and Stealth “Viral” Campaigns Still Controversial

indiana jones legoA few amateurs created a giant lego ball and videotape their friend dressed as Indiana Jones running from it down a San Francisco hill, where it crashes into a car. Of course the pieces stay intact, and the ball appears to be stryofoam dressed with legos. What’s wrong about this video? We think the fake lego ball wasn’t the only inauthenticity in what may have been “stealth marketing.”

Lots of online buzz suggesting this is a stealth campaign… for the new Indiana Jones Movie? A lego product placement? Either way, how about a little transparency?

The San Francisco Citizen posts that the work is that of Teak Motion Visual, but BoingBoing has a comment naming Sausalito marketing group “Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners.”

Either way, what did anyone get out of concealing a potential sponsor (if indeed there was one)? Maybe fewer people would have seen it? It has 800,000 views to date, so maybe it would have lost 10% or 20% of those views if it had a “thanks to (insert sponsor’s name here) for funding this” at the end? Instead we have bad buzz about stealth marketing, specific producers and sponsors. 

What’s wrong with transparency? I know films aren’t yet forced to list paid sponsors in end-credits, but I still believe amateurs have an obligation to their audiences to let them know when they’re enjoying a product on its own merits or for a kickback.  At a recent conference, we asked if anyone would care if there was a sponsored product in a viral video. Most don’t care about product placement unless it’s obtrusive and transparent.

The bottom line? Video advertising that’s not forced must entertain. But it shouldn’t masquerade as pure entertainment if it’s funded with a sales objective. There’s nothing dirty about wanting to market your brand virally, but doing it “stealth” will raise ire from the online-video community every time.  They’ll see the brand as deceptive and the creator as manipulative. And the next time that creator appears, the viewers will scan for logos and comment about further selling out.

16 Replies to “Contrived and Stealth “Viral” Campaigns Still Controversial”

  1. My life sucks at the moment. I’m listening to my kid fake cry at midnight and I can’t keep the little fucker in his room. Whoever hired the marketing firm who did this video should be shot. Shooting someone sounds really fun right now. I volunteer for the job.

  2. I wondered about the guy that owned the car and how pissed they were gonna be… “Ohhh we’re in trouble now..” Never got the stealth aspect though.

  3. I saw this video and thought it was an amateur video. They mention that they used 5 million Legos©, which is impossible because the ball would be way too heavy. I personally never considered that it could be product placement, but I suposse that is possible. Pretty lame for a promotional video though.

  4. I just figured out who the “Zack Scott” who keeps commenting on this blog is, and Mom, I do not appreciate you meddling in my life.

  5. I know I was paid by Steven Spielburg, and Ashley furniture to make my Indiana Jones video, I don’t know about those guys.

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