The 5 Most Awful Viral Video ads of 2009

{Bias warning: Large companies have no excuses for putting out poor quality work – they have the resources to develop the best creative on the planet. Sometimes however, they fail gloriously.}

There’s a big difference between ‘Ineffective’ and ‘Awful’.

‘Ineffective’ just means you spent a bunch of money and received very little benefit in return. Most viral videos ads fall somewhere between ‘Somewhat Effective’ and ‘Totally Ineffective’ usually because the video just isn’t that good or because there was no proper promotional/seeding program to help it get noticed.

The good thing about bad television advertising is that it seems to quickly go away – the negative impact is limited. On the web bad ideas live on. Not only are the following videos not effective, they cross into the negative side of the ledger where their existence most likely has a detrimental effect on the brand.

1. ‘Funny’ Lenovo Ad – W700ds

Company: Lenovo
Why this video is awful. This video is crass, not particularly well acted and just not that funny (even though the title suggests otherwise). Lenovo, the Chinese company that purchased IBM’s PC division really missed the mark with this approach. I doubt 13 to 24 year old males with limited social skills are a big market for this really expensive laptop but I can’t imagine who else this video might appeal to. And the ending is pure gold: “Man, that thing is huge”…“That’s what she said.” (Calling this an ‘homage’ to The Office, or a satire, or a parody doesn’t excuse it).  If you are a global brand trying to compete with Apple, Dell, Sony and HP you have to do much, much better than this.

2. Launch Party

Company Microsoft
Why this video is awful. You have to know who your audience is. I have no idea who Microsoft thought this video might appeal to.  It’s difficult to tell whether Microsoft made this video really bad on purpose, or whether they really don’t know how awful it is. If they were going for parody/cheesy they failed. If they made it bad on purpose to generate buzz – as some bloggers have suggested, then you really have to question this being a viable marketing tactic. Hurling farm animals off the roof of your corporate headquarters will also generate a buzz – but not necessarily a ‘good’ buzz. Is the old saying ‘any coverage is good coverage’ true? Perhaps if you are a B-list entertainer trying to rekindle a career, but if you are a global company competing with well respected global brands like Apple and Google, quality and consistency in your messaging  is critical.   Ten years ago when Microsoft was at the peak of their monopoly this video wouldn’t have mattered. Today it does.

3.Track Packages with Mobile Solutions by FedEx

Company Fedex
Why this video is awful. Unlike the previous Microsoft Launch Party video you know that Fedex intended for this video to be campy/funny. It just isn’t. Fred Willard is an interesting/inspired/bizarre/amazing/questionable choice for presenter but this video (and the others in the series of viral videos created) just don’t work. They are not funny or clever enough to be of interest, they don’t impart enough information to provide any real value and nobody is watching them. Like Pepsi, Fedex chose not to advertise in this year’s Superbowl. Pepsi has reallocated funds to launch a social marketing initiative that looks to have huge promise. Fedex, on the other hand took their SuperBowl savings and created this series of viral-intended videos. They aren’t viral.

4. Chevy Volt Dance

Company GM
Why this video is awful. (Note to GM Marketing team – it’s not the 60’s!) GM’s YouTube channel describes this video as GM’s official dance routine performed at the LA Auto Show and set to the official song ‘Chevy Volt and Me.” An official dance routine? This marketing program was created to promote the single most important car the company has ever launched. The ‘Volt’ is the future of the company and GM should be knocking us back in our seats with how remarkable this car is and showing us (the whole purpose of video) why this is the vehicle that is going to change the automotive world. Instead GM delivers a high school dance routine. Will this video appeal to potential  car buyers willing to spend $35,000 to $40,000 on a hybrid vehicle? Everything GM does right now has to be excellent – nothing less.

{Full disclosure: I want GM to succeed – they are a critical part of the North American economy and now we are all shareholders… but man, it’s frustrating when you see this stuff. My reaction should be “Wow! not, “Are you kidding me?!” Perhaps being ‘too big to fail’ renders all of these discussions moot.}

5. Microsoft Songsmith Commercial

Company Microsoft
Why this video is gawd awful. This video almost crosses the line of being so bad it’s good… but not quite. If nothing else, the YouTube comments are fun to read:

“I just threw up in my mouth”,
“I can’t believe I watched the whole thing and didn’t kill myself”,
“Epic Fail”,
“WTF – I think Microsoft is serious”

Did I miss one? Is there a viral intended video circulating that will probably do more damage than good. If so, let me know.

{Added Jan 14…}

Follow this link below to see how Toyota, one of the most trusted brands in the world ,  stumbled horribly with video and social media:


5 Responses

  1. Another one to add to the list is the Microsoft store dance: Much like your observations on the other videos, they completely missed the mark. What audience were they going for? Black Eyed Peas listening, electric slide dancing, PC buyers? I don’t care if my Microsoft customer service person can spontaneously dance the electric slide. They’re going to have to do a lot better than than to convince me to go PC. It’s not quite as terrible as the other Microsoft example (which by the way is WAY too long for a viral video at over six minutes), but it’s pretty bad.

  2. Yep Rachel, that’s another gem. It really makes you wonder how a company of that size, with virtually unlimited resources can produce video of such low caliber. Do they not do any focus testing?

  3. Alex, it’s an interesting use of YouTube functionality by Koodo, but I’m not sure if motion sickness-style video will catch on, or necessarily sell a lot of phones. I can imagine kids having fun with it (if they don’t hurl on their keyboards) but I’d be a little worried about the lingering effects of the creepy gingerbread man on impressionable minds. That character gives me the ‘willies’.

  4. Dont know how I missed this great post. I hope you are doing well. Want to write a guest post for reelseo again – 5 worst video ads for 2010?

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