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When viral videos go wrong

Do you know the pesky myth plaguing marketers today? It's the idea that going 'viral' with your video equals instant brand success. When video marketing goes right, there's plenty of money to be made - but when things goes south - an entire brand name can be ruined overnight. We'll look at five companies who scrambled to put out a PR fire and manage mounting public opinion. Maybe the creative team missed the mark or maybe CEO's failed to own up to the mess made. Either way, it's hard to look away from these video train wrecks!

1. Pepsi protest ad featuring Kendall Jenner

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you've probably seen Pepsi's latest video fiasco. It's reminiscent of a protest scene out of the Black Live Matter movement. The (by now) infamous video shows culturally diverse youth holding incredibly vague signs like, "join the conversation", "togetherness", and "love". What made it so cringe worthy? Pepsi used a social movement to sell a product and likened their soda to a police brutality peacemaker. The backlash was swift and loud, and their apology and pulling of the ad came soon after. A hilarious SNL spoof followed, but we're still wondering how the ad was green lit in the first place. 
"Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize."

2. United flight fiasco

Heads up. This video is hard to watch. Sure, most airlines overbook flights, but United got caught in the cross hairs when a passenger filmed security removing a passenger against his will. After the video went viral, the response from the CEO made a bad situation even worse. By shifting the blame onto the 'belligerent' passenger, even more bad press exploded in the wake of his super lame apology. United stock dropped and attention turned to the controversial booking practice. Customers have phones at their finger tips with the power to create video, anytime, anywhere. The lesson for companies was clear: stay humble and fess up when you're in a compromising position!


3. Australia's  #Stonersloth

Australia's New South Wales government created an anti-drug video campaign that was both hilarious and ridiculous. It became an instant fail in its attempt to shame young people using marijuana. There's a fine line between stigmatizing marijuana and glorifying it, but unfortunately for them, people saw the ad as one big joke. The video took on a life of its own with parodies popping up, memes and sharing all over the web spreading like wild fire. Medical experts even weighed in and denied their support.

“The stoner sloth public awareness campaign has been designed to encourage positive behaviors in young people before bad habits start, and motivate discontinued use of cannabis before they become dependent.” -Department of Premier and Cabinet

4. Richard Gere for Fiat

Not even Richard Gere is immune to video controversy. At first glance, there's nothing jaw dropping or shocking about this video. While we're all for an independent Tibet, the Chinese aren’t, and considering their population, that’s a huge chunk of potential customers they alienated. The ad enraged the Chinese so much that Fiat was forced to issue an apology distancing itself from Gere and his political views. Even well produced videos with good intentions can fall victim to cultural and political controversy.

"Fiat reiterates its neutrality in connection with any political matter, be it on a national or international basis," it said. "Fiat Group extends its apologies to the Government of the People's Republic of China and to the Chinese people." 


5. Mountain Dew - Felicia the Goat

These videos ads are definitely the weirdest, so let's break it down. American rapper Tyler the Creator produced a series of ads for Mountain Dew in what we're guessing was an over exaggerated attempt to appeal to a younger, more trendy demographic. The series starts with a goat going on a wild rampage after drinking Mountain Dew soda, assaulting a waitress and getting arrested. The clips were called bizarre, misogynistic, racist, and offensive, sparking conversation about harmful stereotypes. One scholar even called it "arguably the most racist commercial in history". 

‘Hey guys – made a big mistake we’ve removed the offensive video from all our channels. #fail.’


From silly to insensitive to downright outrageousgood intentions don't always prevent viral video backlash! Big brands aren't above video marketing missteps, and unless you believe all press is good press, it's best to think through boundary pushing ideas before using them in your brand videos. But hey, if you follow the wisdom of Oscar Wilde, there might be an upside to all this nasty press. 

"There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” 

Want to craft great brand videos that get people talking in a good way? Reach out and we'd be happy to help! 😉




Tags: Strategy, Trends