It’s not a grand enough topic for Great Debates, so I’m posting here.
Before the internet this was what’s known as “word-of-mouth” advertising. Examples of internet based viral marketing include the
Giftmixer 3000, Subservient Chicken and Ford SportKa ad video clips which get passed around. We get them from our friends, think they’re funny or cute or something and pass them on. We’re quite literally giving free advertising to some company. We know it; but do it anyway.
Do you think viral ads are effective? Do you pass them on? Does it bother you to do so; but you do it anyway? Is it any different than wearing a logo t-shirt or cap, especially if it’s a freebie?
I’m not sure they’re effective, although the Giftmixer might be. I’ve decided that if I enjoy them, I’m not going to feel guilty about it and will share with folks I know it won’t bug.
Internet viral marketing doesn’t bother me so much, because it’s usually pretty clearly advertising (except for message board postings), and you can ignore it.
It’s meat-space viral marketing that makes me want to take up arms. Paying some schlub to pretend to be engaging in normal social behavior while “stealthily” schilling for some product? It’s deceptive and insulting. Stop it!
These kind of practices are bound to eventually backfire by alienating the companies’ target market. That’s why I switched to Arm & Hammer’s new P.M. Toothpaste. They don’t treat their potential customers like mental midgets. It’s minty-fresh, too.
If someone posts a link to a funny ad on the board, I’ll sometimes send it on to friends who I think will enjoy it. It’s more “hey, this is funny, have a look”, than “wow, you have to buy this”. Like that virtual bartender, for example. My friends found it funny, but I doubt anyone will be ordering stuff from that website.
The “pass it on” mentality has existed forever - find something you like, tell people about it. The only difference now is that you can tell more people, faster, through the internet.