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11/22/2006
01:19 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
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Who's The Stupid Megacorporation Now?

Chevy marketers had this bright idea: As part of the campaign touting the Tahoe luxury SUV, they'd put some video clips and sound clips and stuff out there on the Web and invite users to come up with their own commercials. And the users responded -- with videos slamming the Tahoe for being an environment-destroying, terrorist-funding gas-guzzler, and ridiculing people who would buy the SUV. Sound like a marketing disaster, right? Actually -- not so much.

Chevy marketers had this bright idea: As part of the campaign touting the Tahoe luxury SUV, they'd put some video clips and sound clips and stuff out there on the Web and invite users to come up with their own commercials. And the users responded -- with videos slamming the Tahoe for being an environment-destroying, terrorist-funding gas-guzzler, and ridiculing people who would buy the SUV. Sound like a marketing disaster, right? Actually -- not so much.

Junker truck

One contestant, a 27-year-old Web strategist from Washington, DC, posted an offering called "Enjoy the Longer Summers!" which blamed the Tahoe for heat-trapping gasses and melting polar ice caps. An entry called "How Big Is Yours" declared, "Ours is really big! Watch us f**k America with it." The same contestant (hey, no rules against multiple entries, right?) created an ad that asked the timeless question, "What Would Jesus Drive?" On its own Web site, the Tahoe now stood accused of everything but running down the Pillsbury Doughboy.
Here's an interesting twist, though: Chevy knew it would get attack ads like the ones they received, and they went forward with the campaign anyway, and left the ads on their site.

By all measurements of Web marketing, the campaign was a success -- and that includes the most important measurement of all: Sales of the Tahoe spiked.

Even the hooting among marketing pros died down after Scott Donaton, the editor of Advertising Age, asked in a column for a show of hands from all those who think the campaign proved the dangers of user-created content. "Ah, yes," he wrote, "there's quite a few arms raised - you're all free to go, actually; the marketing business doesn't need your services anymore. We have a toy railroad set as your lovely parting gift."

And here's the moral of the story:

Donaton was taking aim at central tenet of "golden age" mass-media marketing: that by controlling the ad message, Madison Avenue can somehow control perception of the product. "When you do a consumer-generated campaign, you're going to have some negative reaction," Dilworth says. "But what's the option - to stay closed? That's not the future.....

Wired has a very good article, with a couple of video clips.

By the way, the article contains this surreal description of the sneaker company Converse: "Converse - best known for its Chuck Taylor high-tops, the sneaker of choice for nonconformists from Jackson Pollock to Kurt Cobain... "

In other words: Be a nonconformist! Wear the shoe that all the other noncomformists are wearing!

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