I recently had the opportunity to teach a full-day workshop devoted to online communities and netnography for Nissan at their corporate retreat in Hakone, about two hours outside of Tokyo, nestled in the hot spring foothills of Mt. Fuji. It was a great session, and the feedback and comments were incredible. I’m very grateful to Hiroko Osaka, who planned the event, and to Nissan, which made it happen.
One component of the workshop involved getting Nissan’s best and brightest marketing managers involved hands-on in using cutting-edge netnographic techniques to understand how their customers made sense of their brand and the entire category online.
As we were going through different examples of online postings and communications about Nissan, a mystery emerged.
As I had been searching for popular online Nissan ads, that is, ads that were frequently shared and also commented upon by communities of consumers online, I had come across this ad. The ad was popular, it had been Digg’d previously and extensively, had lots of interesting comments on YouTube, and was around since 2006. Given that I was presenting to a mixed-gender group, and unsure whether showing this ad would make some people uncomfortable, I opted not to put it in my presentation. But here it was. It’s definitely jiggly. And in content, no doubt it’s all juggy. It spread around so it’s very viral. The Jiggly Juggy Viral Ad.
Here it is:
A group of managers, both males and females, were standing around watching this ad on their computer as one part of the netnographic overview of online communications and meanings they were examining for the program. I stopped them and asked “Why did you make such a risqué ad? What was the idea behind this.”
The manager from the USA looked at me and said, “As far as I know, we didn’t make this. I’ve checked into it before. No one here at Nissan knows where this ad comes from. It just appeared online. And that’s not even our font they are using. It’s totally not authorized and not created by us.”
Now, that’s an interesting little puzzle. I wonder if anyone out there had the answer.
Where did this Nissan ad come from?
As far as I can tell, there are only a few options if Nissan didn’t create this ad.
- It is user-generated content. Usually for something like this, that would be the most likely candidate. But the jiggling is pretty precise, and the production values are quite high. To me, this doesn’t look like a homemade video, neither in conception nor in execution.
- It is a fake ad planted by competitors. Sort of a little reverse viral undermining strategy. But it’s really not that offensive. It’s kind of cute, in an old Playboy mag, soft-core kind of way. If someone really wanted to undermine, I’d expect that they would go more for something more offensive or damaging to the brand.
- It was a spoof created by an advertising firm to try out an idea, then leaked. My money is on this theory. The conception, the production values, they all smack of an ad agency. But why did they use a real brand, the Nissan Pathfinder brand to showcase? And why would they choose to share it online? Was it created for internal use, and then liked by someone so much that it was leaked? If so, it was a very successful leak. The ad is one of the top Nissan ad’s online.
One of the reasons I favor theory #3 is the existence of the old fake terrorist ad for VW that was rolling around the Internet some time back and had everyone fooled for a while. In terms of feeling like it was conceived by advertising people, and the production values it clearly embodies, it reminds me of this Nissan ad (actually, they use the VW font so it’s even closer).
The VW ad is still very much around, and still apparently arousing controversy. Here’s a link to that ad.
According to a story in the Guardian, and many, many blog postings on the topic, it’s a spoof ad that was created by two advertising people as a gimmick. Some stories say that the ad was pitched to Volkswagen, who rejected it as offensive. Other stories say that the team (“Lee and Dan”) leaked it on purpose to create controversy and further a political agenda. They do say that it “got out accidentally.”
Well, I’m not sure how that happens. I have lots of video, and none of it so far has escaped my hard-drive without my say-so.
Finally, there are those who say that this was all a very clever and rather devious campaign by VW to stir up all kinds of weird word of mouth, while staying officially above the fray. They covertly commission a few clever producers to make this video and then leak it. Then they go into the press, distance themselves from it, while acknowledging it over and over again, officially and express extreme disgust, even threatening to sue them for damaging the brand. But all the while its being viewed, over and over again. (Just like it is off this blog….)
For those conspiracy theorists, I’d like to recommend the book Jennifer Government by Max Barry . In that book, the Nike of the future covertly commissions killers to murder people for their new Nike shoes, secretly creating a sensation that boosts demand for them. It’s a fun ride of a science fictionalized marketing-satirizing book and I recommend it.
I keep coming back to the production values. I wonder exactly how this was done, the physics and biomechanics of the operation. Was it CG special effects on the order of WALL-E or Final Fantasy IV? A person mounted on some sort of platform? A gifted and talented “breast actress” who needs no mechanical assistance whatsoever?
Any insights, speculations, inside dope, personal demonstrations, or even sheer guesses into any of these abundant mysteries would be most welcome.