Lame and lamer: 10 dumbest viral marketing campaigns

You can't force anything to 'go viral' on the Internet, but that didn't stop these 10 companies from giving it a big, dumb try. Guess who topped the list.

Sure, it looks easy enough. Post a video of yourself wiggling your butt on Wii Fit, dancing your way across the globe, or practicing your Jedi Knight moves, and — presto! You're the next Web sensation, swept along by the viral nature of the Internet.

But corporations, politicians, and others who have attempted to manipulate the Net to their own ends have discovered that it isn't as easy as it appears. True viralness can't be manufactured, no matter how many phony blogs and tasteless videos you generate.

Whether you're selling Chevys, shilling for Cheetos, or simply trying to rise above the noise, certain rules apply: Don't fake it. Don't pretend to be cool when you're not. And never underestimate the intelligence of the crowd or its sheer delight in exposing you as a fraud.

The following ten campaigns didn't follow these rules, earning them a permanent spot in the Marketing Hall of Lame.

10. Mike Gravel: 'Rock'

Mike who? A 78-year-old former senator from Alaska running for president on the Cranky Old Guy platform was a long shot at best. Gravel hoped to overcome the odds using viral video, of which the most notable is titled simply "Rock." The video shows Gravel standing in front of a pond; he glares at the camera for 71 seconds, walks over to a rock the size of a soccer ball, heaves it into the water, and then walks slowly off into the distance as ripples spread across the water. Is he angry at the camera, the rock, or the fact that only 47 people voted for him? We'll never know. Needless to say, the words "President Mike Gravel" won't be escaping anyone's lips any time soon.

Lame: Hoping that YouTube would make people vote for you despite your not having held public office since 1981.

Lamer: Gravel's Shatneresque rendition of "Helter Skelter." Look out! He's coming down fast. Yes, he is.

9. Chevy Tahoe: Roll Your Own Commercial

When General Motors teamed up with NBC's The Apprentice to promote the Chevy Tahoe SUV in March 2006, somebody had a brilliant idea. Why not let viewers build their own commercials on the Web? Promotional spots on the show directed viewers to ChevyApprentice.com, where viewers could build ads using GM-supplied video and music and adding their own creative text. (That URL now just redirects you to the Tahoe site.)

But instead of loving paeans to urban assault vehicles, hundreds of videos appeared portraying the Tahoe as a gas guzzling, safety-challenged ego enhancement for environmentally irresponsible dorks with diminutive sexual organs. After a couple weeks of abuse, GM scrubbed the videos from its site, but many live on at YouTube. We don't know who came up with this brilliant idea, but we can guess what happened next. To quote Apprentice-master Donald Trump: "You're fired!"

Lame: Allowing people to create their own marketing messages, and then being surprised when they do.

Lamer: Donald Trump's hair.

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Dan Tynan

PC World (US online)
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