I had cause to strike up a conversation last week with my son and his wife about viral advertising.
Viral advertising is brand and product advertising cleverly disguised as entertainment. If successful, it is propagated (at no cost to the creator) via social media platforms by often unsuspecting individuals, that is, by people who don’t realise that by sharing the content, they have effectively become the advertising medium.
Below is an example by Coca Cola (and yes, it pains me to share it, even to demonstrate my point … aaaarrgh!). It’s a 2 minute video.
In our conversation, I expressed my reaction when someone sends me such a link. I might look at it but once I realise it’s viral advertising, I stop and delete it. I very rarely, almost NEVER pass it on or share it.
They were really surprised as they felt it quite natural to share something funny or clever regardless that it was promoting a brand. They felt they might even want to support and promote a brand they liked. I listened openly as I always do, trying to understand and appreciate the changing values of the younger generation.
But I had cause for reflection. My concern is around the attempted invisibility of the advertising, the cloaking of consumerism as entertainment. The clever fairly seamless distribution, engaging willful actions of a public largely unaware of the impact of their actions. It makes me feel uneasy.
Is it really that harmful? Where is it leading us? Does it empower corporations to infiltrate our everyday life in ways we never imagined before? Or is it simply a mechanism to affirm the brand commitments we already hold for goods and services we want to avail ourselves of anyway?
Love to hear what you think?