Don’t try this at home

One of the things I really dig about this whole crazy Interweb-thingy is that if you know how to look you can find just about anything. Not only is it impossible to eradicate information (especially video – just ask Pam & Tommy Lee), it often seems to me that ‘forbidden’ content is the easiest to find and probably the most popular.

This morning’s Herald (I only buy it for the crossword, I swear!) covers the recent axeing of a Charlies TV commercial that features a couple of boys playing silly buggers with fireworks. Possibly not the best imagery to be circulating at this time of year, but piss-funny nonetheless – and once again the safety nazis got their way.

Or did they?

Apple’s 1984 ad heralding the launch of the Macintosh (directed by Ridley Scott) is arguably one of the most famous commercials ever made, yet it was only aired once, during Superbowl XVIII (there were many subsequent airings of course, but these were generally on viewer-request shows, documentaries etc and were not paid for by Apple). Many believe that brevity of its publication contributed largely to its appeal, and that if it had been shown repeatedly it would have slipped into history unnoticed.

So far the Charlies ad has had 166 views on YouTube, and the ads are also posted at the Charlies website**. My guess is that viewing numbers will increase dramatically over the next few days given the accompanying brouhaha about responsible advertising etc, and I’m beginning to wonder if there might be a valuable lesson there.

Putting an ad on TV can be useful for getting peoples’ attention, and pulling it can be just as effective. Once the ad has been pulled (assuming it’s sufficiently noteworthy) its online popularity can grow exponentially, yet online broadcasting costs are precisely zero. Is that the game now? Was that the intention all along? I’ll let you make up your own mind re Charlie’s, but let me take this opportunity to coin a phrase that I believe will soon be well-known in the lexicon of modern advertising:

‘Prank ‘n Yank’: A campaign that deliberately breaches advertising standards (in terms of legal codes of conduct and/or ‘good taste’), designed to stimulate online interest with the inevitible controversy surrounding its questionable / illegal broadcast and subsequent cancellation. Contrary to popular belief this is actually an online advertising concept, the TV element being little more than an expensive – yet highly effective – publicity stunt


20 minutes after posting, YouTube views are now up to 209.
2 Days after posting, 2,906 views.

I rest my case.

**Sorry, but I can’t link directly to the ads within the Charlie’s website, ‘cos some idiot built the entire thing in Flash. Is built entirely in Flash? No. And there’s a good reason for that. Examples like this REALLY piss me off! (See my earlier rant about digital agencies not acting in the best interests of their clients)


2 Responses to “Don’t try this at home”

  1. 1 sheinen November 3, 2007 at 10:49 am

    Speaking of responsible advertising, Im sure you’ll like this one..


  2. 2 tomhopkins November 9, 2007 at 2:04 am

    In the UK it’s Gorillas. Tell me they didn’t do this on purpose: Another one to add to your argument: the Honda Cog ad was only ever aired (on TV) four times (or something like that). But everyone’s seen it.

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