When Does a Parody Video Become a Full-on Brand Attack?

When Does a Parody Video Become a Full-on Brand Attack?

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Parodies have been a popular genre on YouTube as far back as November 2005, when Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox of Smosh uploaded “Pokemon Theme Song Revenge.” Their original video was removed about a year later for copyright infringement, but the YouTube superstars just uploaded a parody of their parody in November 2010 and it currently has over 24 million YouTube views, more than 309,000 YouTube likes, and over 101,000 social shares.

Since then, we’ve seen lots of other popular parodies on YouTube. This includes “Sesame Street: Grover Stars in ‘Smell like a Monster,’” which has more than 11 million YouTube views, over 65,000 YouTube likes, and more than 665,000 social shares. There’s also “Introducing the iPhone 5S,” which has over 6 million YouTube views, more than 68,000 YouTube likes, and over 305,000 social shares, and “Dove Real Beauty Sketches – Men,” which has more than 3 million YouTube views, over 12,000 YouTube likes, and more than 343,000 social shares.

Even YouTube, which recently announced it will host a Halftime Show at this year’s Super Bowl, is planning to use “fake Super Bowl ads” to promote the counter- programming on YouTube’s AdBlitz Channel to what will be on TV.

Doritos ‘Crash The Super Bowl’: Parodies or Attacks?

So, maybe PepsiCo’s Doritos brand – which has consistently presented some of the most memorable and talked-about ads since Super Bowl XLI in February 2007 – should be flattered that its long-running and very successful “Crash the Super Bowl” contest is now generating some very popular parodies on YouTube. But I’d be shocked, shocked if any of the usual suspects at Doritos would ever say this – even off the record. Why? There are three key reasons:

First, one of the parodies is crushing all 10 of the finalists in this year’s “Crash the Super Bowl” contest. Based on my analysis over the weekend of the latest data from Tubular Labs, the most popular parody is “A Cheesy Love Story – The Ad Doritos Don’t Want You to See.” Created by SumOfUs, a global advocacy group, the parody has 1,092,237 YouTube views, 3,052 YouTube likes, and 4,114 social shares.

By comparison, the 10 Crash the Super Bowl finalist ads (by views) are:

  1. Baby’s First Word” by Travis Braun, USA, which has 200,946 YouTube views, 153 YouTube likes, and 165 social shares.
  2. What Could Go Wrong?” by Alex Pepper, USA, which has 193,963 YouTube views, 285 YouTube likes, and 908 social shares.
  3. Middle Seat” by Scott Zabielski, USA, which has 190,726 YouTube views, 262 YouTube likes, and 582 social shares.
  4. The Lemonade Stand” by David Horowitz, USA, which has 185,037 YouTube views, 211 YouTube likes, and 799 social shares.
  5. Doritos Angler” by James Bedford, UK, which has 178,229 views, 77 YouTube likes, and 270 social shares.
  6. When Pigs Fly” by Graham Talbot, Canada, which has 177,783 YouTube views, 140 YouTube likes, and 374 social shares.
  7. Selfish Sneezers” by Devon Ferguson, Canada, which has 173,496 YouTube views, 89 YouTube likes, and 165 social shares.
  8. Doritos Manchild” by Armand de Saint-Salvy, Australia, which has 169,642 YouTube views, 91 YouTube likes, and 431 social shares.
  9. Trouble in the Back Seat” by Jason Johnson, USA, which has 166,779 YouTube views, 84 YouTube likes, and 102 social shares.
  10. Mis-Spelling Bee” by Brian Kleinschmidt, USA, which has 163,052 YouTube views, 76 YouTube likes, and 97 social shares.

A second parody is hard on the heels of the 10 Crash the Super Bowl finalist ads in views, tied with the #3 ad for YouTube likes, and would rank #6 in social shares. Created by Newcastle Brown Ale, it’s “Newcastle presents ‘Chores.” This parody has 116,147 YouTube views, 211 YouTube likes, and 281 social shares.

Having one parody get over 5 times more views than your top finalist has got to be unnerving. And having a second parody get almost as many views as your bottom finalist has got to be humbling. So, I’d be surprised if any of the online video marketers at Doritos would argue that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Doritos, YouTube Parodies, and Reputation Management

The second key reason why the “Cone of Silence” will descend on virtually all of the well-recognized individuals at Doritos is because a few unnamed people at PepsiCo are now speaking on behalf of the company.

According to Advertising Age, PepsiCo said in a statement, “SumofUs’ continual mischaracterizations of our palm oil commitments are patently false and run counter to the positive reception our policies have received from expert organizations in this arena.” The company added, “PepsiCo has repeatedly stated that we are absolutely committed to 100% sustainable palm oil in 2015 and to zero deforestation in our activities and sourcing. This latest public relations stunt, focused on fiction rather than facts, does nothing to foster positive dialogue or affect positive change. We find our policies effective and stand by them.”

Do these unnamed people at PepsiCo top executives or do they work in the company’s legal or corporate communications department? It’s hard to tell. Is the anonymous spokesperson a recognized authority or Sum_Of_Uscredible expert on its topic? Would you trust the information presented by a faceless person at any company? Are unnamed people more likeable, open, humorous, and natural? These are not rhetorical questions. Whoever is speaking on behalf of PepsiCo is going up against Kaytee Riek, campaigns and training director for SumOfUs. Kaytee has over a decade of experience campaigning on issues of global social justice, with a focus on health and HIV/AIDS. In her prior work, she led the grassroots campaign to win a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar investment from the US government in HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention around the world. In her spare time, she’s a photographer, graphic designer, raises future service dogs, and is a member of ACT UP Philadelphia, an all-volunteer group committed to ending the AIDS crisis through direct action.

In this conflict, who looks like Goliath and who appears to be David? Was it smart for PepsiCo to fight back with an aggressive statement? It’s hard to say. Does this statement provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic? Does this statement contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious? Does the statement describe both sides of the story?

These are not rhetorical questions, either. In response to this statement, SumOfUs distributed a letter signed by a coalition of environmental groups – including Greenpeace and the Union of Concerned Scientists – sent to PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi last July. The letter states that the groups are “encouraged by PepsiCo’s recent adoption” of policies involving forestry stewardship and palm oil. But the group added that:

It is our view that a number of clarifications to strengthen these policies and associated implementation plans are still needed to ensure that PepsiCo’s impact and capacity to drive much-needed changes in its global supply chains is realized.

In this debate, who looks unreasonable and who appears to be reasonable?

Over the weekend, I shared a link to the Ad Age article to the Web Video Marketing Council’s LinkedIn Group and asked, “If you worked for Doritos, what would you advise them to do about this parody?” Tony Coll said, “They need to come up with an honest answer. Do they use palm oil? Are they looking at ways to replace it? Are they doing environmental stuff to offset their use of palm oil? They need to think through all this stuff, then tell people about it, simply and honestly. They don’t need to make a video to match the slickness of the parody, but they do need to reply with a YouTube video, linked to it so that it’s clear it’s a response.”

Big Name Brands: How to Respond to an Online Video Attack

The third key reason why the online video marketers at Doritos are likely to stay mum is this: they seem unsure of how to respond to an online attack on their brand’s reputation when it comes in the form of a parody. They aren’t alone. I’ll bet most of the online video marketers who read ReelSEO would like to know what to do in the event of a similar attack.

Well, I spoke about Brand and Reputation Management at Search Engine Strategies London in 2008. I wrote an article entitled, “Online Reputation Management Requires Cabinet War Rooms,” in Search Engine Watch in 2008. So, let me summarize the strategic insights, critical data, tactical advice, and trends in the digital video marketing business.

Attacks on your brand arrive at lightning speed where it is weak. In the 1930s, the French built the Maginot Line along their border with Germany from Switzerland to Luxembourg. So, the Germans attacked in 1940 through Belgium, going around the Maginot Line. For the past nine years, a qualified panel of judges, including executives from the Doritos brand, has been selecting the finalists in its “Crash the Super Bowl” contest. So, both SumOfUs and Newcastle Brown Ale simply bypassed the judges and created their own unofficial entries.

Although crisis events are unpredictable, they are not unexpected. During the next five years, 83% of companies will face a crisis that will negatively impact their share price between 20 and 30%, according to Oxford-Metrica. So, “Plan now for a reputation crisis,” advises Andy Beal, consultant and blogger at Marketing Pilgrim. And he suggests that you determine:

  • Who is on your crisis team? List their names, titles, and all contact numbers.
  • Who is your online media spokesperson?
  • Who will be your advisors, for seeking counsel before reacting to a crisis?
  • Who are your key offline/online stakeholders needing information during a crisis?
  • Do you have a crisis-blog (or YouTube channel) ready for deployment?

You need to prepare now for the inevitable crisis to come. To deal with the speed of online attacks on your reputation, you need to have The War Room that Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign had in 1992. Or, if you are on the other side of the pond, you need to have the Cabinet War Rooms that sheltered Winston Churchill and his government during the Blitz. Down a corridor from the Cabinet Room was the Map Room, which was the hub of the whole site throughout World War II. The Map Room remained open day and night and the chief task of the officers manning it was to collate and summarize all relevant information on the war’s progress and present it on maps, which would be constantly updated. Brands and marketers need to have a Map Room, too. They also need software and services to deliver actionable insights to help their brand weather the crisis successfully.

For example, we’ve already seen the number of YouTube views, YouTube likes, and social shares that a dozen videos have received to date. But these are marketing outputs, not business outcomes. I’d want to know if “A Cheesy Love Story – The Ad Doritos Don’t Want You to See” was hurting the Doritos brand, or if the parody was having a bigger impact inside PepsiCo than it was having in the online marketplace. Since the video is part of a “five-figure ad buy,” I’d also want to know if SumOfUs was using paid media to promote discovery of its content, so I could figure out if I should leverage paid media to accelerate views and shares of my content.

At the same time, I’d want to know if the 10 Crash the Super Bowl finalist ads were helping the Doritos brand, or if the nine-year-old contest was more popular inside PepsiCo than it was in the online marketplace. Heck, I’d also be curious to see if “Newcastle presents ‘Chores’ was helping, hurting, or having no impact on the Doritos brand.

You need to follow the 10 / 90 Rule for Magnificent Web Analytics Success. Avinash Kaushik, who is an author, Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist, and the Co-founder of Market Motive, says on his blog, Occam’s Razor, “Numerous studies have pointed out that while almost all Fortune 500 companies have great investments in ‘Web Analytics’ they still struggle to make any meaningful business decisions. Most people complain that there are tera bytes of data and giga bytes of reports and mega bytes of Excel and PowerPoint files. Yet no actionable insights, no innate awareness of what is really going on through the clutter of site clickstream data.”

He adds, “Through my humble experience in this field I have developed a rule to fix this problem and achieve Magnificent Success. I call it the 10 / 90 rule. Here it what it says……..

  • Our Goal: Highest value from Web Analytics implementation.
  • Cost of analytics tool & vendor professional services: $ 10.
  • Required investment in ‘intelligent resources/analysts’: $ 90.
  • Bottom-line for Magnificent Success: It’s the people.”

Do you have any thoughts on the parody video subject? Let us know in the comments below.


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