I sometimes think the adoption of the expression 'viral marketing' is one of the most ridiculus missteps in nomenclature since Chevrolet decided on releasing the Nova ('doesn't go' in Spanish) in the predominantly Spanish speaking Central and South American markets.
Think about it, when was being infected with a virus ever a good thing. "Excuse me, …I'm feeling a little under the weather, I have spot of necrotizing fasciitis…"
Ad agencies and interactive companies that promise their ideas will 'go viral' are deluded and probably disreputable. Recent examples of fraud being perpetrated to create an artificial 'buzz' include the phony (no pun intended) guy who camped outside the Vodafone store on Auckland's main street, ostensibly waiting to be the first person in the world to get their hands on the G3 iPhone - a stunt organised to promote the Yellow Pages (I know, hard to see the connection). The media were duped - and therefore their audience were lied to. Either editorial standards have completely slipped (what happened to fact checking?) or the media are in on the deal - never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
Another trend is for agencies to release ads that their clients haven't approved. The Volkswagen suicide bomber ad is a classic example.
VW would never have approved this ad for use in any market. Saatchi & Saatchi recently found themselves in a similar situation with a fake ad for JC Penney.
Call it viral, if you will, but I call it scamming. The advertising industry needs to come clean and develop a code of conduct for non-paid media.
It seems cynical and pointless to try to contradict the consumer trend that demands transparency and authenticity from advertisers.
That aside, most campaigns contrived to be passed on virally don't stick because they are lame. Advertising people struggle to connect with consumers every day. Sadly they don't try hard enough.