Saturday, 26 September 2009

Danish mother video erased from YouTube - VisitDenmark director resigned

The fake video of "Danish Karen" searching for the father of her baby August was doubtlessly a well-meant viral marketing activity by VisitDenmark to promote the beauties of Denmark and the affable and liberal spirit of her inhabitants (see also the post from 16 Sept 09).

More than 1 million users watched the video in 4 days and numerous imitators took the mickey out of it by shooting and publishing their own videos. What more can you ask of a viral marketing campaign?

However, VisitDenmark has obviously not expected the backlash that followed when politicians and representatives of various organisations condemned the clip as "irresponsible and thoughtless" and harming the image of both Denmark and the Danes.

In the meantime the video has been removed from YouTube, allegedly due to copyright claims by VisitDenmark.

The consequences were as far-reaching that the managing director of VisitDenmark, who described the video as "the most effective thing we have ever done to market Denmark", had to resign from her job. If you had no chance to see the video on YouTube, here it is again.

What can we learn from this?

The intended goal of reaching a big audience in a short time by exploiting popular Web 2.0 channels was certainly achieved. The content of the video is arguable, but after all haven't we all learned that it is sex & crime that sells?
Further, the production costs for the video were cheap and so was the dissemination through YouTube. If only clicks and views and saving on marketing budget are the metrics - well done!

However, the recipients' perception and interpretation of the advertising message is influenced by parameters such as values, opinions, experiences and culture. Therefore, if anyone could be offended by your video message then don't publish it. Surely, bad publicity is better than no publicity but National Tourism Organisations' mandate is to carry out marketing activities which help to create a positive and decent image of the destination. And it seems that some cliches, no matter whether good or bad, should not be touched for exploitation by DMOs. Perhaps if VisitDenmark had not been the initiator but somebody else the impact might have been less fateful or even positive.

The question remains: has the video harmed the image of Denmark as a tourist destination or will it raise a smile and wink in the viewers or even bring more visitors to Denmark (i.e. if this was the call for action)?

Maybe VisitDenmark or someone else will carry out a survey to find that out!

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