• Michael Weeding

Are all campaigns that achieve a viral status creative?

The world is a busy place and it is hard for any organisation both large and small to get the attention of their target market. One agency out of Perth has found an interesting way to get the world’s attention but the way they have achieved this outcome was not at all pleasant. It poses the question, are all campaigns that achieve a viral status creative?

The agency that I am referring to is Henry & Aaron and the campaign was the viral video which purports to be commissioned by the Learn for Life Foundation in Western Australia. The video was a very well-produced shockumentary that profiled a number of school kids who skipped school and after spending the day on the beach they all except one were blown up. It appears they could not read a sign that warned that the beach they were trespassing on was actually a live explosive test area.

The campaign was not for the Learn for Life Foundation as it appeared but was a hoax complete with supporting research documents and a PR machine promoting the campaign. It worked, the media were fooled and talked about the shocking nature of the advertisement. In the first few days the video was viewed over 3 million times on YouTube.

So it achieved a result that many campaigns can only dream about. The question then, if 99% of brands could not leverage such techniques does a campaign like this really showcase the skill of the people who created it?

If the true value of advertising is to change consumer behaviour then this campaign would have failed in many ways. I am sure many of the school kids who do skip school are not stupid and most would be able to read, in fact they probably learnt to read long before they learnt how to skip school. In that case they would have been able to read the danger signs.

We live in the social networking era and teenagers are one of the most active users of this channel. So you would expect in the real world the community of school kids who skip school would have warned each other of the dangers of this beach, so it is not likely they would have turned up to a remote location and being blown up.

So teenagers may have found the advertisement amusing but not something that would have made them stop skipping school as it did nothing to address real issues.

So the campaign may have been clever in the way it manipulated the media to achieve a viral outcome and many would say this is creative despite its flaws. I guess success in this case may only be able to be measured by the line of marketing managers queuing at Henry & Aaron’s door in the hope that they can replicate the same success for their brands?


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