Jeff Jarvis thinks VW is missing the point. The viral popularity of this ad, tasteless though it may be, is a good thing, Jarvis argues: "You are no longer in control of your message, advertisers. You can fight it or you can embrace it. . . If you embrace this, I'll just bet you will find something amazing happen: You will find that your customers are better at marketing your products than you are. "
Lee and Dan, wherever they are, are among a growing number of media savvy citizens who are creating unsolicited, often unwelcome advertising for companies. Others are going so far to pose as company executives and make statements before an unsuspecting press.
Earlier this year, one half of the now infamous duo the "Yes Men" posed as a Dow Chemical spokesman to claim, in front of BBC cameras, that the company would take full responsibility for the 1984 Union Carbide cyanide gas leak that killed 10,000 people in India. In restitution, Dow would pay billions of dollars in compensation to victims, the pseodo spokesman said. BBC World bought it, broadcasting the interview via its global satellite news channel only to discover later that they had been set up.
But Jeff's point, that the centralized advertising industry is facing the same "exploding" threat as television, music and other media industries, is well taken. As yet, no one knows Lee and Dan's motivations for making the unauthorized ad. We do know, though, that the project has likely drawn more public recognition of VW's "Polo" brand than any of their efforts via traditional advertisers. Whether that's good for the bottom line, remains to be seen.
1-31-05 Update: From phony UFO sightings in Durban, to faux suicide bombers and serial killers in the UK, advertisers are pushing the limits of media, and taste, to infiltrate their products into the public mind. But is any of it working? Read more . . .
2-01-05 Update: Lee and Dan have apologized to the car company, and Volkswagen has agreed to call off its lawyers.