Citizen Branding Through Fanboy Ads

The practically overnight popularity of YouTube and other video sharing sites has opened up a new channel in . One result is the fanboy ad, a consumer created video advertisement that is either a variation of an already-existing corporate produced TV spot, or an entirely new idea created by a citizen.

One of the most popular videos running on Google Video for a while was a citizen-created advertisement for the Jeep Wrangler. It’s a very simple piece with clean production value that looks as if it could’ve come out of any ad agency in the US. Except for the content: The Jeep fanboy ad consists simply of 15 seconds of a close shot of a young woman’s breasts bouncing as she’s driving a Wrangler. The fade-out reads: Jeep. Bouncy and Fun. Watch it:

As you can imagine, though the objectifcation aspect of the spot is potentially offensive, the spot is  probably not going to hurt  among the Wrangler’s target demographic of young men. Another fanboy Jeep ad at Google Video pits the vehicle against the old arcade video game character Frogger. The clip is mildly amusing and probably works for the Wrangler’s Gen X consumers.

The two Jeep fanboy ads are relatively harmless. But the citizen branding phenomenon can cut both ways, as this faux ad highlighting the difference in packaging approaches between Microsoft and Apple demonstrates:

But even this example of citizen branding is relatively benign, because it takes a general shot at Microsoft as a corporation but doesn’t really criticize or rebrand any of their products.

Burger King, on the other hand, may have their hands full. A search for Burger King at Google Video returns clips of the Burger King mascot strolling the beach with a bikini-clad babe, and the mascot flipping the bird in front of BK competitor stores to the tune of Men Without Hats’ Safety Dance.

And there are more that you probably don’t want to watch at work. This spoof of a Mastercard Priceless ad you definitely won’t want to watch at work and it will certainly offend some people, so you’ve been forewarned. But it is perhaps the best example of how citizen branding can completely mess with a company’s own branding efforts.

I’m not sure I know what the best response to these ads would be. It appears that for Jeep, Microsoft, Burger King, and Mastercard, silence is their approach and I don’t know that it’s not a bad response. I do know that it is a phenomenon that marketers and PR professionals need to think long and hard over, because fanboy ads are fundamentally changing the nature of product branding.

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