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176 voters

The Worst Viral Marketing Campaigns

Updated January 4, 2021 375 votes 176 voters 36.9k views18 items

List RulesVote up the worst viral marketing campaigns that failed the hardest.

It's the 21st century and weird viral marketing campaigns are everywhere. It used to be that you could walk down the street and not worry that every passer-by was trying to sell you something. But now, everywhere you look, you've got to worry that you're being tricked by viral marketing. The best kinds of viral ads are the campaigns where you don't even know you're being advertised to. Volvo, Old Spice, and Dove come to mind when we think of companies with the best viral ads, but that's not what we're talking about here.

This list is made up of the dregs of viral marketing - the worst commercials that don't even know what they're trying to sell and the public stunts that backfired horribly. This is the list of the worst viral marketing fails ever.

On a day to day basis, the average person is inundated with a bazillion pieces of advertising, and it's on the companies themselves (or their marketing firms) to make their ads stand out from the white noise that permeates the air. But usually, the disconnect between the people at those companies and the people they're marketing to makes for some epic fails. 

Take a look at these viral marketing fails and vote on which ad campaigns failed the hardest.

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  • 1

    The Dennis Quaid On-Set Freakout That Everybody Suspected Was Fake

    Video: YouTube

    The biggest tell for when a piece of viral marketing isn't working is when everyone in the world says, "Oh, this is viral marketing." In the case of the fake Dennis Quaid freakout that showed up online in 2015, everyone called it, but also, no one knew what it was for. 

    It's not so much a viral marketing fail as a viral marketing mystery. Warning: the video above contains plenty of strong language.

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    Bad ad?
  • 2

    The Fake Hoverboard That Fooled Everybody

    Video: YouTube

    When the videos for HUVr appeared in 2014, every nerd on the planet had an aneurysm. This is what they'd been waiting for their entire lives. Finally, they had the chance to be Marty McFly. But just as quickly as their dreams were realized, they were snatched away.

    How so? It was revealed that the boards were nothing more than viral marketing for Funny or Die.

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    Bad ad?
  • 3

    Cheetos Orange Underground, When Cheetos Thought They Were Tyler Durden

    Video: YouTube

    In 2008, Cheetos went full Fight Club and started recommending that we, the orange cheese dust consuming masses, started smashing societal norms while munching on puffed corn. Some people thought it was a brilliant deconstruction of the modern patriarchy.

    Others thought it was unabashedly bringing down democracy as we know it. Maybe try Takis next time. 

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  • 4

    The Hyundai Ad That Featured A Guy Trying To Harm Himself

    We imagine the meeting for this ad went something like this: 

    Ad Exec 1: How do we let people know that our new cars let out fewer emissions than ever before?
    Ad Exec 2: Easy. We show a guy trying to harm himself with carbon monoxide poisoning. 

    Then everyone high-fived. The insensitive car ad was pulled shortly after it made it to air.

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    Bad ad?