The ad, created by Innocean Worldwide Europe, depicted a man taping a hose pipe to the exhaust of his car in a suicide attempt, only to survive thanks to the clean emissions technology in the Hyundai iX35 car.
An open letter to Hyundai on the blog Copybot, immediately led a heated backlash against the brand on social media.
Hyundai pulled the ad and released a press statement the same day, publishing an additional statement alongside an apology from Innocean the following day.
Rory Ahern, partner at Rubber Republic – which has created online content for number of car brands and also the well-received Bodyform viral – said while “surprise” is the most potent tool brands can use to create shareable campaigns, they must predict the types of conversation it will spark and be happy to defend their position.
He adds starting with the product in such campaigns puts brands in danger of appearing “self-congratulatory” and ignoring there are much funnier, richer conversations already happening in the digital space. A better approach is finding a way to latch onto these in a relevant way and adhering to the “very simple ground rules” of creating such content [see box below], he says.
Dominc Sparkes, CEO of Tempero, which has managed social media for the likes of Sony, Cadbury and the BBC, advises if something does go wrong brands should tackle the issue “head-on” on social media. He urges brands to forget the “them and us” mentality and think about what they would want to know as a consumer.
He adds: “If the levee breaks and you don’t have a plan, at least get your key decision-makers in a room to work out honest messaging, commission some rapid social insight to see where the hotspots are and do not put out some half baked excuse, apology or reason.”
In order to get cut through brands are increasingly pushing the boundaries and being more controversial in their content output, which has paid off for brands like Kmart with its recent “Ship My Pants” video and Paddy Power’s campaigns which regularly push the boundaries – one of which was among the most complained about ads of 2012.
Creating controversial content is high risk and does not always go to plan, but sometimes it can drive awareness in an increasingly crowded space, according to Sarah Wood, COO and co-founder of Unruly Media, which has tracked and audited social video campaigns for more than 400 brands including Coca-Cola, T-Mobile, Microsoft and Adidas.
She adds: “2013 has been dubbed Empty 13, due to the fact that there are no big tent pole events, so it seems brands and agencies are creating their own dramas.”
Five ground rules for creating – and handling – viral ads
- Do not be seduced by chasing notoriety, create something your audience would be comfortable with sharing
- Predict the conversation around your content and be prepared to defend your position
- Be modest and respect that conversations already happening online may be more interesting than those about your brand’s products and services
- If things go wrong, react quickly by putting a senior human face to your apology
- Commission real-time social research to identify the hotspots of any backlash and respond accordingly