The 10 most annoying online viral marketing campaigns of all time

The 10 most annoying online viral marketing campaigns of all time

We list the world’s 10 most annoying viral marketing campaigns; the one’s that had you wondering ‘WHAT THE!?' from the moment they popped up in your inbox or clicked on them in YouTube.

There are many great viral ads that circulate the web today, though most of those are a little too obvious in promoting their brand.

Typically, a successful online viral campaign is:

- Short in length
- Seen by many
- Pretending to be user generated content (e.g shot on home video).
- Elaborately composed to generate speculation and/or controversy.

We especially hate the ones that surprise us, lead us to think it’s real and then proceed to annoy the heck out of us when we realise we were duped.

Viral marketing campaigns are so invisible now, that even the most innocent looking YouTube video could be a secret ploy to sell you something.

10) QLD Tourism – best job in the world


Tegan, the tatoo woman

Earlier this month, the QLD Tourism board created their very own viral marketing campaign with their world’s best job promotion. It seemed like a simple ploy – the QLD Tourism board will select one lucky applicant (presumably from zillions of desperate applications) to swim, snorkel and generally lay about the beach all day on an island in the Great Barrier Reef, all with the hopes of raising the profile of the reef as a iconic travel destination.

Oh and they’ll pay you $150,000 for the privilege too.

Naturally, thousands of applicants jumped on board for the big chance to get paid to walk around like Robinson Crusoe and count seashells by the sea shore.

Sure enough, it’s been up picked up by just about every news source around the world and all kinds of people have tried to apply, with many already posting their applications on YouTube.

However, it seems that some of these applicants are not so innocent, but the machiavellian scheming of the same QLD Tourism campaign, designed to deceive us further.

One supposed applicant, called 'Tegan', went as far as tattooing a giant Barrier Reef advertisment on her arm and pretended to be in the running for the position.

After her video appeared on YouTube, Tegan was later outed by various news sources, including the Sydney Morning Herald as a complete fake and made up by the QLD tourism board to influence other applications in her style.

By now, we’re half expecting that the dream job was never real to begin with in the first place. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Annoyance rating:

About as enjoyable as being told you’ve won a big cash prize in one of those fake radio station gags.

Significance in viral marketing history :

Forget it, this will likely be forgotten as quickly as a frolic along the beautiful QLD coast. The original Youtube video has since been taken down and only screenshots exist.

Who is the real 'Tegan Hamilton'?
Who is the real 'Tegan Hamilton'?


9) Cloverfield


The curious case of the cryptic Cloverfield websites

Cryptic dates, cryptic websites and cryptic lies – sound familiar? In 2008, a trailer appeared showing grainy shaky-cam video footage in what was director Matt Reeve's debut flick featuring an alien monster that goes on a New York rampage.

To maintain the film's secrecy and mystery, Cloverfield marketers set up a treasure trove of fake websites, with fake names and diary entries from characters such as 'Ethan Haas' designed to give fans and over-stimulated YouTube fanboys something to do with their oodles of spare time.

Pages and pages of idle speculation were written about the web mystery, as well as the names, links and possible clues hidden in the various parts of the website’s text. Message boards went into overdrive with talk regarding all kinds of hopeful speculation. Some even insisted that it was for a new Voltron film.

Eventually, it was all revealed to be for the film Cloverfield, but not until enough people had been well and truly taken in by the elaborate ruse.

The new 2012 trailer (playing in cinemas currently and on Youtube) is trying a similar approach by asking fans to type in 2012 in online search engines.

This tactic will naturally link you to all kinds of fabulous nut-job conspiracy websites and by doing so, ensure potential audiences will have something to say when the film is released later this year in Novemeber.

Annoyance factor:

Don’t believe everything you read. Seriously.

Significance in viral marketing history:

The marketing for Cloverfield is a textbook copy example of how to use online viral marketing to lead an audience to theatres. The film opened huge, all thanks to the epic fanboy speculation funnelled by online viral leads. Future geek films will look at this as an example of the one that worked.



8) All I want for Xmas is a PSP


The PSP Christmas Rap

A bunch of supposed 'kids' setup a little website with terrible URL and spelling, aimed at trying to convince one of the kid’s parents to buy his mate a PSP for Christmas.

Not long after, they posted a Christmas PSP rap by their gangster cousin, made to look like it was shot on home video and later uploaded to Youtube. But the joke was on SONY, when viewers learned it was a fake video from an external viral marketing agency hired by SONY.

The kids are not real, the website still sucks and suddenly it’s clear that not everybody wants a PSP for Christmas.

Annoyance factor:

Epic Fail Sony. Sony were caught in the middle of a viral campaign for a must-sell product, that only hampered the delivery and real advertising of the PSP upon release.

Significance in viral marketing history:

Infamous for being so unsuccessful. When it was learnt that SONY was behind the viral marketing trick, Sony fanboys were outraged and a number of Youtube videos responded angrily to SONY.

Today, the faux PSP website is no more, but thanks to Youtube, the rap video still exists.

Using a lame rap idea for your viral campaign can often be the kiss of death, unless you’re dealing with chicken McNuggets. One particular viral campign featured McDonalds and a couple of happy teens rapping their to own jingle.

The viral video was super successful and inspired numerous copycats – the unofficial seal of approval for a viral branded message.



7) Aqua Teen hunger force


The cartoon sponsored terrorist alert

It was realistic enough to put the entire city of Boston on a high terrorist alert; streets were blocked off and bomb squads called in to investigate the small devices that lit up strange lights, promoting images of the boxy shaped cartoon characters.

News of the confusion spread around the internet quickly; millions of online bloggers and international news outlets reported on the mammoth screw-up and most (excluding Boston’s emergency services), found it very, very funny.

Annoyance factor:

The campaign was the brain child of Turner Broadcasting, who own the cartoon network, where the Aqua Force are screened late at night.

The blinking, laptop sized devices were placed in 10 cities around the country, but it was only Boston who took the joke a little too seriously. That forced Turner to issue a direct apology to the city, while a number of congressmen blamed the Turner executives for the poor taste of the publicity stunt.

Significance in viral marketing history:

Not since Orson Wells invited mass panic with his radio broadcast of War of the Worlds in 1938, has a media stunt ended up so wrong. Still, it generated the type of mass awareness money can’t buy, as numerous television bulletins, print outlets and websites reported on the controversy, aiding the marketing of the film.



6)Cadbury Gorilla


Gorilla wants to play drums

Phil Collins. Gorillas. Milk Chocolate. Do they have anything in common? No. Should they? Well, not according to Cadbury, who increased the product awareness of their milk chocolate with this bizarre tribute to 80’s pop.

Millions of people have watched the simple video of a gorilla playing the drums to the classic tune, ‘In the Air tonight’ on YouTube.

Annoyance factor:

Regardless of the obvious Cadbury slogan appearing at the end of the clip, it’s actually quite entertaining. You can’t help but watch the Gorilla, as he waits for his big drum cue. It’s only really annoying unless you happen to despise Gorilla suits and classic Phil Collins tunes.

Significance in viral marketing history:

Expect to see more product campaigns utilising simple effective stunts (Gorilla suit) to the sounds of classic tunes. The success of this campaign is an example of the power of strategic minimalist advertising.





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