Digital Marketing: Does “our power” equal “our responsibility”?

Spiderman’s Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” This post doesn’t have anything to do with defeating the Green Goblin, but this quote always comes to my mind. When thinking about emerging forms of media, we’re constantly reminded that technology is only getting smarter. More sophisticated forms of technology enable more interactive, immersive experiences for marketers to create for prospective customers.

For example, Toshiba is developing “digital changing booths” that allow customers to virtually try on clothes through a display using 3D scanners and cameras. While this technology has been attempted by brands in the United States and Europe in years past,  none have reached Toshiba’s level of sophistication. Imagine the impact that such a fully formed, developed technology could have on fashion retail marketing. It could be revolutionary. It could improve the lives of individuals who cannot change clothing without assistance, or those too ashamed of their bodies to try on new clothes.

Now, on the other hand…

Sophisticated technology can also have some pretty scary implications for marketing, too. I’m specifically referring to a 2013 “prankvertising” stunt in Brazil to promote the release of the latest Chucky film, horror’s lovable red-haired “doll.” (Yes, that Chucky.)


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Sorry for the scary image. I don’t like it any more than you do. Unless you like these movies. In that case, my sincere apologies.

In a lighted billboard at a bus stop in Brazil, an actor dressed like Chucky actually stood inside the billboard to spook unsuspecting transit riders. No one knew that a real actor was actually posing as Chucky. A normal bus stop poster/billboard it most certainly was not! Hidden cameras captured riders casually waiting for the bus. After a few seconds, Chucky’s signature laughter would be heard and the lights would flicker. While this spooked some, many still seemed relatively unfazed. However, a few seconds after that, the actor playing Chucky would suddenly “bust” through the poster, running after petrified and unsuspecting patrons with a toy knife. You can see the petrifying video here.

Personally, I don’t think such an adver-“prank” would ever “fly” here in the United States. I was shocked to discover that Universal actually approved this prank, given the potential for lawsuits. I don’t find such a prank to be funny at all, especially given current circumstances. Being chased by a “doll” wielding a knife, while perhaps “sounding” somewhat harmless, would actually be horrifying – and potentially scarring to many. Growing up in the United States, have I become too “PC” or do you agree with my thoughts?

Do you think that this is another example of a company using their marketing power for “evil” instead of “good”? Do we agree with me that we have a “responsibility” as marketers to consider the implications of our decisions? Let me know in the comments below!

Digital Marketing: Does “our power” equal “our responsibility”?