Toyota is Lurking Under the Bed

Viral marketing and alternate reality games are the great new thing in marketing. Saatchi & Saatchi thought it had a doozy of an idea for Toytota. They’d stalk Toyota’s customers.

Unsuspecting participants in “Your Other You” would receive a week’s worth of threatening phone calls and emails containing personal details about their lives before being let in on the hoax. Theoretically the target, charmed by this merry jape, would go on to stalk someone else.

In practice, one woman was so frightened by the bombardment of craziness–apparently loosed upon her by a “friend”–that she couldn’t sleep, couldn’t stop crying, and started keeping weapons in her car. She’s suing Toyota for $10 million dollars. Toyota claims she agreed to participate, in the sense that she failed to notice something in some small print attached to an online “personality quiz”.

Apparently it never occurred to anyone involved in this thing—not at Saatchi & Saatchi, not at Toyota—that “Your Other You” might not end happily. These people have serious trouble seeing things from the perspective of other humans—if they realize there are such things as other humans.

I first read about the situation in an article from Canadian Business magazine (found via this page). Canadian Business, of course, disapproves of “Your Other You.” Because it’s a nasty thing to do to people? No, because “it’s hard to see how this could have been an effective campaign.” There is no obvious connection between scary pranks and Toyota’s brand, and out-of-character ad campaigns don’t perform well. The fake websites set up for the campaign were not the sort of sites likely to draw in people looking to buy a car. Worst of all, “Your Other You” was expensive.

Canadian Business does not at any point criticize “Your Other You” for causing terror and serious mental anguish. That, I guess, is just business. And that must be what Saatchi and Saatchi and Toyota thought, too.

I have to ask… what, exactly, are all those business schools teaching?