Bad Idea Central: Toyota Sued After Viral Marketing Attempt Convinced Woman She Was Being Stalked

from the who-comes-up-with-these-things? dept

Lots of companies are aiming to create all kinds of "viral advertising," and certainly automated "prank calls" that are really ads (often for movies) have become common in the last few years. But that doesn't do much to excuse Toyota's behavior. Apparently, the company put together a promotional campaign that allowed friends to freak out their friends, by convincing them they were being stalked. Here's how Toyota described it:
YourOtherYou is a unique interactive experience enabling consumers to play extravagant pranks. Simply input a little info about a friend (phone, address, etc.) and we'll then use it, without their knowledge, to freak them out through a series of dynamically personalized phone calls, texts, emails and videos. First, one of five virtual lunatics will contact your friend. They will seem to know them intimately, and tell them that they are driving cross-country to visit. It all goes downhill from there. The Matrix integrates seamlessly into the experience and you can follow the progress of your prank in real-time online. Each piece of the campaign assures that the experience is as Google-proof as possible.
Sound like fun? Not really. Especially not for Amber Duick, who "had difficulty eating, sleeping and going to work" after receiving a bunch of phone calls from this prank, believing that some "lunatic" stranger was on his way from England to see her. At one point, she even received a bill from a hotel that this stranger supposedly "trashed." Har har. Buy a Toyota.

How does Toyota defend the campaign? By claiming that Duick agreed to it. How, you ask? Well, Toyota sneakily inserts "permission" into a personality test it sends the "victim" of the prank, from the "friend" who initiated it. It's difficult to see how that kind of agreement stands up in court. Hiding an agreement for something entirely different (and pretty damn creepy) inside the agreement for a personality test from a friend? How is that informed consent?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    thublihnk (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 11:46am

    BIGGER QUESTION HERE:

    What in the name of ANYTHING does this have to do with convincing the customer to BUY A TOYOTA?

     

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  2.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 11:47am

    To me it doesn't matter whether the agreement was even hidden. I highly doubt it said that,
    "I Amber Duick agree that Toyota and all its agents and assigns have the full and legal right to pretend to stalk me."

    What the agreement probably said was that Duick was willing to accept marketing from Toyota. But that certainly didn't happen here. As you point out, how can this BS sell more Toyotas?

     

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  3.  
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    thomas, Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 11:54am

    Twits

    Advertising agencies see nothing wrong with threatening people to get them to buy something. If I was receiving an e-mail from an apparent criminal on the lam I would first call the police and the FBI. This is not a joke this is criminal act.

     

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  4.  
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    Robert Ring (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 11:55am

    High-larious

    Wow. This is so hilariously wrong that I literally laughed out loud when I read Toyota's description of the program. It sounds like something from SNL (when SNL used to be good).

    Now excuse me while I go use this prank on someone.

     

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  5.  
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    AG (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 11:56am

    Being sneaky was necessary

    If they had asked for permission to play a prank explicitly, it wouldn't be a prank anymore. So basically, for the whole pathetic idea to work, they had to somehow get her consent without her knowing about it. Uninformed consent was by design.

     

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  6.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 12:00pm

    That is just... bizarre. How did Toyota possibly let this get out the door when even the brief description makes it sound like a terrifying, terrible idea? I wonder if they thought that everyone in the world is a 4chan user, or if they just got so excited about "going viral" that they forgot about common sense.

     

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  7.  
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    thomas, Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 12:02pm

    Toyota marketing

    Toyota puts out TV advertising promoting all kinds of great deals on new Toyotas. I go to a Toyota dealer looking at a new Camry, and the first one I see has an extra $2500 tacked onto the sticker price for mandatory dealer options. Then Toyota wonders why I didn't buy a Toyota. humph.

     

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  8.  
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    senshikaze (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 12:03pm

    At what point did agencies start hiring douche bags to start Ad campaigns? I mean, I thought EA's the Inferno campaign was bad, but this is truly horrific. I hope Toyota is taken to the cleaners for being stupid.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 12:07pm

    Re:

    Seriously.

    I hope this chick gets lots of money out of this. Bloody morons at Toyota, who could think this was a good idea?

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 12:09pm

    "...Had difficulty eating, sleeping and going to work" after receiving a bunch of phone calls from this prank."

    You got to be kidding. I blame Hollywood. Think of the children, as well as the easily scared when you write your screenplays!

     

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  11.  
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    LumpyDog (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 12:18pm

    Re: Twits

    Yes, and I've heard guys named thomas see nothing wrong with making overly-broad statements about industries with which they're clearly not familiar.

     

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  12.  
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    Pwdrskir (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 12:19pm

    Re: High-larious

    The people at The Onion are green with envy.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 12:21pm

    Re:

    Yeah. Didn't she know that she could have talked to her doctor about Zoloft®?



    Disclaimer:
    Zoloft is not for everyone. People taking MAOIs or pimozide shouldn't take Zoloft. Concomitant use of Zoloft with NSAIDs or aspirin may be associated with an increased risk of bleeding. Side effects may include dry mouth, insomnia, sexual side effects, diarrhea, nausea and sleepiness.

    You should tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, as there is a potential risk to the fetus with Zoloft. Like many antidepressants, Zoloft can be present in breast milk so tell your doctor if you are nursing.

    Zoloft is approved to treat depression, social anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) in adults over age 18. It is also approved for OCD in children and adolescents age 6-17 years.

    Zoloft is not habit-forming and is not associated with weight gain. So talk to your doctor about how Zoloft might help you. Zoloft comes in 25-mg, 50-mg, and 100-mg tablets. You and your doctor can discuss a dose for you.

    The health information contained herein is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace discussions with a healthcare provider. See http://www.zoloft.com for more details. All decisions regarding patient care must be made with a healthcare provider, considering the unique characteristics of the patient.

    This product information is intended only for residents of the United States. The products discussed herein may have different product labeling in different countries.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Re: Twits

    So you'd sit back and relax while you started getting strange stalker emails/phonecalls/texts?

     

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  15.  
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    Pitabred (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 1:17pm

    It was an asshole move by Toyota

    But I'm not behind the whole lawsuit thing. Her claims don't hold water... if she really thought she was being stalked, why didn't she call the police? File a report? Willingly letting that stuff keep happening... it may be just my default "I distrust humanity" viewpoint, but this sounds like she's just trying to get a deep pockets retirement. Kinda like the jerks that pull in front of you and slam on the brakes to get an insurance settlement.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 1:22pm

    Re:

    Ahh, but you are looking at this through the tunnel vision of Western eyes. This is probably fucking HILARIOUS in Japan. The country where there are whole TV shows devoted to force feeding disgusting food to people until they puke out their noses.

     

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  17.  
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    LumpyDog (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 1:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Twits

    Not at all, nor would I make all encompassing statements about an industry employing several million people based on the stupid behavior of one agency/client.

     

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  18.  
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    Josh (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 2:04pm

    Re: Re:

    Good point. Was this prank/horrible marketing idea going on in Japan as well?

     

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  19.  
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    helter, Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 2:06pm

    hilarious

    This is hilarious, though I really don't see what it has to do with buying a Toyota.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 2:09pm

    Doesn't this fit in with the ads that shout at us (being yelled at makes me want to run away, so I mute them), show us something that is disgusting (I turn off Light&Fit ads and forget to come back to that network), have phones ringing subliminally (my This Needs Attention alarm goes off in my head), show us the horrible things that will happen so their product can clean up, and the like?
    I think they teach getting the client to say yes to some irrelevant and nonthreatening topic (because saying yes once makes it easier for them to say yes to the purchase) in the same course where they teach that you should instill fear then offer your product to ease the fear. I wonder how buying a Toyota is protection from stalkers.

    Alas, just like the 80/20 rule that forgets that the long tail is often what gets the customer in the store in the first place, a lot of marketing is based on unsupported myths.
    The preponderance of marketing today seems very much like it came from Darren Stevens trying to cover up something that went horribly wrong for Samantha rather than trying to win customers and keep them.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 2:42pm

    I love Toyotas, and I'll continue to buy them, but this stinks a bit more of a stupid advertising firm than a company that makes cars. Yes, Toyota is to be reprimanded for hiring the fools that did this and approving of it, but as a company I just don't think this is something they'd dream up on their own.

    Great prank, though, and I'm sure a lot of less paranoid people got laughs out of it before the bad press.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Mike Moon, Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 2:56pm

    how 'bout this?

    This is for the victim, the author of this piece and nearly all of the other commenters:

    How about trying not to by a pussy about it?

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    anonymous, Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 3:03pm

    "Hiding an agreement for something entirely different (and pretty damn creepy) inside the agreement for a personality test from a friend? How is that informed consent?"

    It's worked for scientology!

     

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  24.  
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    keith (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 3:48pm

    where can i sign up?

    Does no one else think this is quite possibly the greatest ad campaign ever? I have at least 5 friends whom this would be absolutely hilarious to 'sign up' .... off to Google "Toyota stalk campaign"

    Having said that, if there is any liability, shouldn't there be some on the friend who signed her up in the first place, and not just Toyota? After all, it was her friend who gave them the link/info.

     

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  25.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 4:06pm

    Re: how 'bout this?

    How about you make a point out of those words.

     

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  26.  
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    lux (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 4:50pm

    RE: It was an asshole move by Toyota

    "it may be just my default "I distrust humanity" viewpoint, but this sounds like she's just trying to get a deep pockets retirement. Kinda like the jerks that pull in front of you and slam on the brakes to get an insurance settlement.

    What's your wife's phone number, email and home address? C'mon, it'll be hilarious, won't it? Wrong. Get a grip dude, this goes way beyond the line of 'practical joke', just like all those shows where they 'simulate' people breaking into your house in murdering you (I think the show's called 'scare tactics'). They are just exploiting human fear for entertainment, and its extremely shameful.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    ChimpBush McHitlerBurton, Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 6:43pm

    Re: Re:

    "who could think this was a good idea?"

    Well, if you've ever watched a Japanese Game-Show, or their version of "Candid Camera", you'd know exactly who could think this was a good idea: The Japanese.

    My God, they are downright cruel.

    ...but hilarious.

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5rzYr8GnE8

    CBMHB

     

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  28.  
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    Danny (profile), Oct 22nd, 2009 @ 8:05pm

    Re:

    Yeah! That was exactly my reaction.

    What in the name of ANYTHING does this have to do with convincing the customer to BUY A TOYOTA?

    Does anyone have a clue as to how they think this will help them sell cars?

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Mike Moon is a Pussy, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 1:57am

    Mike Moon is a Pussy

    STFU pussy.

     

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  30.  
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    Rich Kulawiec, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 4:59am

    Where's the criminal prosecution?

    The people at Toyota responsible for this should be spending the next ten years in a federal prison, finding out what it's like to be "stalked".

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Sean, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 6:41am

    They stole the idea...

    from The Game with Michael Douglas. Great movie. This prank is almost identical in setup.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119174/

     

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  32.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 7:06am

    Re: Re:

    "Does anyone have a clue as to how they think this will help them sell cars?"

    No I dont know how this would sell cars .... but if a I see a woman screaming by the side of the road everytime a toyota drives by, I will ask if her name is Amber Duick ....

     

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  33.  
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    Nick Tepper, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 10:42am

    The idea was not to sell cars to the victim. It was to sell car's the friend who set them up by creating the victim/entertainment for them to "watch" virtually for five days as they were terrorized. The victim, in this case, my client Amber Duick, was just a loss leader who they cared nothing about other than to ensure she did not know what was really happening (ie advertising), was terrified, and then was humiliated. That's the essence of her suit.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Nick Tepper, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 1:18pm

    The idea was not to sell cars to the victim. It was to sell car's the friend who set them up by creating the victim/entertainment for them to "watch" virtually for five days as they were terrorized. The victim, in this case, my client Amber Duick, was just a loss leader who they cared nothing about other than to ensure she did not know what was really happening (ie advertising), was terrified, and then was humiliated. That's the essence of her suit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    Yeebok (profile), Oct 27th, 2009 @ 4:01am

    #35 is spammy :)

    I think the idea's appalling. Sure it would likely be OK in Japan but someone shoulda realised someone in the US was bound to sue .. Not much else happens over there does it ? :)

    Not sure about 34 tho either :)

     

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  36.  
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    Craig Badings, Oct 27th, 2009 @ 3:26pm

    Classix PR faux pas

    In today's world of privacy and permission marketing I am surprised at the naivety of this campaign. It is a classic case of a supposedly clever creative idea with little thought given to the broader PR implication for the brand.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Mike Moon, Oct 29th, 2009 @ 12:19pm

    Re: Mike Moon is a Pussy

    oh no. my feelings are hurt. i must be a pussy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
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    tony, Aug 5th, 2010 @ 8:05am

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
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    linapayne (profile), Sep 12th, 2010 @ 8:31pm

    ??

    I was talking to the guy changing my oil at a NJ Toyota dealership and neither one of us know what this has to do with convincing people to buy a toyota?

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    porno, Dec 11th, 2010 @ 4:37am

    selam

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Rap, Jan 7th, 2011 @ 8:52pm

    Thank you for sharing.. Good works! Hiphop, Rap, Trke Rap, Beat indir, Rap Beat indir,

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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