How Should Marketers Guard Against Viral Backlash?

Remember that Palm Pre ad we found so creepy? Well, perhaps in a sign of just how odd that ad was, the commercial has been remixed–thus achieving a surprisingly pants-crapping result:

If you’re a marketer, something like this must keep you up at night. I mean, say that creepy remix of the ad become an Internet meme, spawning hundreds of versions, each of which is increasingly insane. And the collective views start tipping into the millions. What then? All that time you’ve spent on carefully branding and focus-grouping that ad comes to zilch.

Microsoft is already seeing a similar thing happen with its Laptop Hunters campaign. The commercials have spawned a slew of parodies like this one, which already has over 175,000 views on Funny or Die, and is the first in a three-part serie [NSFW]:

Granted, 175,000 views isn’t much if you’re a behemoth like Microsoft. But consider: The very same people that see these sorts of videos are likely to be the demographic you’re trying to sway. At that point, has the ad done more harm than good?

If you’re a marketer, the question is: How could you stop things like this from ever happening, without resorting to innocuous ads? Is it something that’s worth thinking about in the “risk assessments” that frequently cap the ad-development process? Is there a way to hire clever Internet trolls to critique your ad? Or is something like this too unknowable to protect against? If so, isn’t the best protection an advertising team that doesn’t shut its bullshit detectors off once they sit down to work?


Related Stories:
What’s Wrong with this Palm Pre Ad?
Apple Takes the Bite Out of Microsoft’s Bargain Hunter Ads
Microsoft’s “Laptop Hunters” Campaign Eating Away at Apple

[Via Gizmodo]