Viral marketing stunts are irritating, exploitative, and dumb
Last month a video of a girl setting herself on fire in an unfortunate twerking accident appeared on YouTube and swiftly amassed several million views. This week, the reigning buzzed-about clip featured a 37 year-old man who turned the Astor Place cube into a cozy New York City apartment. They weren't real, of course. How long did it take you to figure it out? And did either of them make you want to watch Jimmy Kimmel or do meditation? Me neither.
The publicity stunt has been around since at least that time Jesus gave a big crowd that all you can eat fish and bread bowl. But in recent years, fueled by the need to grab eyeballs in our short attention-span culture, marketers have deploying the "Made ya look!" fakeout with an increasingly exhausting regularity. We now live in the age in which any wild, weird thing can still go viral – but it'll also soon after provoke a weary question of "Yeah, and what's it trying to sell?"