BBDO Netherlands, working for Chrysler, recently created a viral video ad for the new Dodge Nitro SUV. The ad showed the car electrocuting a dog. Chrysler was not pleased. (And they’ve had problems with BBDO Detroit’s ads before.)
Chrysler apologized and tried to have the video pulled from YouTube – apparently without initial success (it’s now down, “due to a copyright claim by DaimlerChrysler”). And the video has spread, to the Detroit Free Press, Jalopnik, SpikedHumor.com, and probably elsewhere.
It’s hard to pull an ad these days. Anything controversial will spread. Even if your ad airs once in an obscure market, or is placed only on a few low-traffic websites, if it’s interesting then someone’s probably made a copy to put online – and they’ll be rewarded with plenty of hits for doing so. (The most prominent example of a small ad buy provoking amazingly more free media coverage is the Swift Boat ads against John Kerry in the 2004 US presidential election.)
There have been media stories about ads being squashed for a long time, but the new element is that people can read the story and see the ad for themselves. It’s not one-day news. An ad you pull can still go viral, being forwarded from one person to another and being copied to too many sites too fast to stop.
But isn’t this what the advertiser wanted in the first place? Chrysler noted in its apology that “European commercials — especially ‘viral’ ads like this one — are often edgier,” so it seems likely that BBDO Netherlands knew its market. The comments at SpikedHumor are mostly amused. The previous BBDO Detroit ad, where a car gets a jump from a Nitro and is blown into the sky, seems different in degree of attack by the Nitro rather than in kind of attitude of the car. Even if this isn’t the brand message Chrysler wants (and if it’s not, they apparently haven’t conveyed that to BBDO anytime in the last six months), hasn’t this controversy helped reach the Nitro’s target audience?