While companies are turning to so-called Internet viral marketing campaigns to build buzz about their products, some are finding that messing with viruses can make you sick.
The latest example: A Web campaign for the Chevrolet Tahoe. As part of a promotion linked with "The Apprentice," Chevrolet invited people to visit www.chevyapprentice.com. At the site, they could use stock footage and music and add text to create a 30-second commercial for the new Tahoe.
Chevy and its ad agency, Campbell-Ewald, hoped that people would then share their commercials with friends, creating the buzz.
But not everyone is as thrilled as Chevy is with the redesigned full-sized SUV.
Since the program aired on March 13, several people have created ads that slam the Tahoe for its gas-guzzling qualities. Many can be seen by searching for "tahoe" at www.youtube.com. Sample lines:
"Chevy Tahoe. Weapon of Mass Destruction."
"Chevy Tahoe: Oversized Climate Changer."
"Buy today. Cry tomorrow."
Chevrolet spokeswoman Melisa Tezanos told The New York Times that General Motors would not shut down the attack ads.
"We anticipated that there would be critical submissions," Tezanos told the newspaper. "You do turn over your brand to the public, and we knew that we were going to get some bad with the good."