Guerrilla Marketing: What Filmmakers Can Learn From a Viral (?) Vinyl Video

This video of vinyl record stunts was produced by Conscious Minds (a production company that specializes in "branded content" for advertisers that want to spread their messages via social media without paid distribution) - achieving 400,000 views in just 10 days. Even though it looks like a lot of other YouTube videos - where young people engage in stunts with everyday objects (e.g., trick basketball shots) - the goal of this video was to promote an app (known as Music Bunk) for sharing music playlists with friends.

The commercial sponsorship behind the vinyl stunts was not immediately apparent. And that was the goal. The video may not have caught on if it was obviously an ad for Music Bunk. Instead, Conscious Minds designed the video to look homemade - encouraging fans to share something that was remarkable because it appeared to be real people engaged in extraordinary "real" stunts.

This sort of marketing raises ethical questions.

Should the marketing team have done more to disclose the sponsorship?

Or would more honesty have ruined the campaign?

This sort of guerrilla marketing - where users choose to spread the content because it's fun, and the sponsorship is subtle - is sometimes referred to as "viral." I hate that term - because it's misleading. Nobody really wants a virus. The key to effective social media marketing is to make content that is so desirable that people in the target audience actually want to share it.

But here's the ethical dilemma: Is it wrong to make the audience unwitting agents of a marketing campaign?

Is this sort of guerrilla marketing unfairly manipulative or is it OK?

What do you think?

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Randy Finch's Film Blog:

Thoughts from a film producer about making and distributing films.