Emma Watson Hoax Just Ad Strategy?

Marketing has taken a sharp turn for the edgy and a full-page spread just won’t cut it anymore. Perhaps that’s what obscure viral advertising company, Rantic Marketing, was thinking when it created the site www.emmayouarenext.com.

The site, which threatened to release nude photos of Harry Potter star Emma Watson at the end of a countdown on the page, launched in the wake of her highly publicized speech on gender equality at the United Nations headquartered in New York.

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The company originally launched the page as 4chan, the site credited for leaking various celebrities’ personal photos in the past two months including Jennifer Lawrence, Ariana Grande, Kim Kardashian and Gabrielle Union.

But to the confusion of most, the countdown ended, not with career-ending images of the actress gone activist, but with a strange message from a company called Rantic Marketing. The company claims to be run by publicists who intend to spearhead the movement to make 4chan atone for its sins.

The image on the site was of the 4chan four-leaf clover logo, circled and slashed through with the hashtag “#shutdown4chan” below it.

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Users also found a letter to President Obama, urging him to press further on the issue of Internet censorship. The letter read:

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So does this mean Watson was just the poor unfortunate soul Rantic selected as bait for their viral movement? Likely.

But not everyone was happy with the sketchy company’s tactics and push for Internet censorship including infamous online hacker group Anonymous. The group hacked Rantic’s site and made somewhat of a mockery of their efforts. See for yourself here: http://www.rantic.com/

Amidst the race among companies to catch the audience’s eye, it seems they’ve retired the notion of minimizing harm. Assuming this was indeed the intention of Rantic, when then can we draw a new line for advertising?

Once upon a time there was a certain class and respect that went into advertising. While companies never shied away from proving their worth over their competitors, there is definitely a current lack of civility among some big names. Earlier this year, Taco Bell released its eyebrow-raising Ronald McDonald endorsed breakfast campaign. While it achieved its goal of turning heads, it was bold for the company’s ad history and some would even daresay tacky.

While many companies are resorting to some semi-tasteless advertising methods, there are still some key players that are giving us hope. Apple, even in the midst of rude competitors, has managed to take the high road and has continuously created ads such as their Mac vs. PC campaign, which are not only entertaining, but also creative and effective.

Like kids caught in the middle of petty parental disagreements, the public is forced to watch as companies take low blows at one another and individuals are put under fire.

So has advertising taken a turn for the worse? Will companies continue to use extreme tactics to capture their audiences? Technology and the Internet make it hard to predict. But one thing is certain: the world is definitely watching.

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