There's a new kind of viral advertising in town. Over the past year, careful observers of home-grown influencer trends on Instagram, for example, will have noticed a common tactic: every now and again, an influencer will shill a product while seemingly mistakenly including instructions they had received along with ad copy sent to them by the advertiser.
Stupid? Thousands of comments will say so. And then the commenters share the silly post. Eventually, the only reason somebody who is not already a fan/follower of said influencer would ever see this ad post is because others had made it viral by sharing it as a “stupid mistake” – while in reality, it's about attempts at clever marketing looking to achieve one goal only – reach as many people as possible. Embarrassment sells – or at least, marketers hope it does.
The influencer and the advertiser often get what they want: clicks, likes, shares, in a word, they get the attention, and create a buzz that hopefully surfaces their brand/products.
But now, it seems like this particular kind of marketing previously reserved mainly for D-listers is gaining foothold among proper corporations. Or is it?
That's the debate on Twitter now – as Sweden's fast-fashion company H&M has been running ads with an error for a solid 10 days, featuring a winter sales promo graphic – along with text giving a choice of two versions of copy to whoever might be in charge of running the ad.
Social media commentator Matt Navarra posted about this on Twitter to get considerable, if not exactly viral exposure for his tweet. The screenshot is accompanied by him saying, “H&M social media manager problems.”
H&M social media manager problems pic.twitter.com/UTQYLtZd3F
— Matt Navarra | ? #StayAtHome (@MattNavarra) January 19, 2020
Direct-to-consumer advertiser David Herrmann also picked up on it.
Guys they've been running since Jan 10th. They are still active! What agency is running your ads @hm for real, FIRE THEM. pic.twitter.com/EXoNJVbLbc
— David Herrmann (@herrmanndigital) January 20, 2020
“Guys they've been running since Jan 10th. They are still active!” he said, calling out the agency running the ads as the guilty party.
But there's a healthy dose of skepticism among these marketers' Twitter audience about whether all of this is intentional, or just an honest mistake by an overworked employee on a weekend, or an inexperienced intern.
Those who err on the side of intentional, cite the fact that this has been going on for over a week now. Those who say it's just a mistake say proof is in the fact this hasn't really gone viral. Yet.