When Virgin Mobile in Canada put out an ad with a Spitzer Sex Scandal theme just a day after the story broke, it was impressive. But any further Spitzer-themed ads that came to our attention after that just seemed derivative. Unless they managed to get themselves rejected by major media outlets for bad taste! Then, that would be a story. It's a strange situation when the marketing of an advertisement is far more clever than the ad itself, but that's what happened in the case of this ad from Scotch whisky brand The Balvenie. And here's why we're telling you this weird story at all:
Earlier today, we got an email with the ad attached, billing it as "The Ad that NYT, WSJ and FT would not publish." The FT and the Times both confirmed that they rejected it—the FT without explanation, and the Times telling us, "We felt it was in questionable taste and capitalized on an embarrassing political scandal solely for commercial purposes." The WSJ declined to comment.
Okay, fine. We were still on the fence about the item. Adrants had a bit about it last week, although without the crucial "rejected by the media" angle. It could still be a legit media story—except the ad's fundamental derivative nature made us lean towards forgetting it.
Then, the same marketing guy who had sent us the ad in the first place emailed again to say, "Actually, they don't want this released. Sorry. I hope I can yank this—legal got mad." Oh, an unwanted corporate leak story! Now we were definitely gonna go with it!
But wait—were we being used? Was this routine about "legal" getting mad just a clever bit of reverse psychology to trick us into publishing this mediocre ad, giving the company a good deal of free publicity? Or was it a serious plea for secrecy?
The question was answered when our intrepid correspondent sent over a link to another blog with the item in it, in a further attempt to bolster its case. Why would that happen, if they didn't actually want the item to run?
So, for what it's worth: now you have seen the Spitzer-themed scotch ad that was TOO HOT for the major papers! This is how viral marketing is done.