When is "going viral" not always a good thing? And when it is really smart?

Recently, a promotional video for the Verizon Hum service--which gives you some connected car features, a speakerphone, and diagnostic information--went viral. It shows a car that can extend itself on stilts and drive over other cars in traffic. It reminded me of another concept video from a year ago (almost to the day) that shows a bus that can rise above traffic.

The problem? The Verizon Hum video is meant as a joke. Sort of. The car is real, but the product is not for sale. It doesn't come across as a ploy, and many people took to Facebook in the comments and complained. A few said they'd open their door and block the car. Others said they noticed how everyone had to turn their mirrors inward and how that is unrealistic. Barely anyone seemed to know it was fake.

Now, here's one issue. Since there were so many complaints, you have to wonder if the video ended up hurting the brand. I'm not sure if people knew anything about Verizon Hum. It's remarkably clear that Verizon is behind the video since the logo appears at the end. However, people don't typically watch videos all the way to the end. Once they get the basic point--a car rises up to drive over traffic--they move on, share it, or comment.

Also, I wondered if the video went viral because people were confused or mad. Among all of the comments (14,000 so far and counting) there are quite a few people who tried to explain that the video isn't really a new product you can purchase. The discussion devolved quickly and not in a way that helps you get the point that Verizon Hum can help you drive smarter and better. In many ways, it seems to be having the opposite effect: The video makes you drive dumber and not as safe.

Except for this. I'm writing about the Hum Rider right now. I watched the video. 448,465 people took the time to share the video link on Facebook. It's a massive hit.

It doesn't really matter anyway that people are confused or angry about the Hum Rider, because at least some percentage of those people are now aware of Verizon Hum, including you. I know I'm aware of it now. I've even asked for a review unit, and I plan on testing it out in a classic Range Rover I'm currently restoring.

In the final analysis of all negative viral ads, there is one constant truth: It's always about the eyeballs. The video doesn't really hurt the brand at all; it's not meant to be funny, and it's not even meant to be a joke in the sense that you feel cheated. Maybe someone will make the Hum Rider. Maybe someone already has. Also, maybe the people commenting don't quite get the concept or why you'd want to use Verizon Hum, but of those 14,000 comments there are just shy of 80 million other people who watched the video and will remember the Hum Rider.

Along with the rule about eyeballs, it's also important to think about the synapses. Seeing a viral video is one thing. Remembering a viral video is called Good Marketing. The Hum Rider introduces people, rather ingeniously, to the concept of automated driving.

Michael Krivicka is the cofounder of Thinkmodo in New York and his company created the viral campaign. I'll let him explain how it all came together.

"Just like many of our other branded viral videos, the messaging and branding comes at the end," says Krivicka. "We first engage the viewer with an amazing concept which we then bridge to a client's service and product. In this case, it was a smart device called Hum, which upgrades a car. The overall reactions we have seen so far have been very positive and the video's impact has been very effective for the brand and the product."

So how it is doing then? He explained it this way:

"The day before we launched the Hum Rider video, the official Hum Facebook page had 24,000 likes. Now it has almost 68,000. The ripple effect on the overall Verizon brand has also boosted their SEO, especially since the video went viral all over the globe, not just in the US. We have also tracked national TV news coverage of the Hum Rider video which has mentioned and talked about the promoted product connected to the video. That means that the Hum Rider has generated nationwide TV news coverage for the product, creating a large scale awareness for it. That is a success and it still keeps going."

I also asked if he felt it was confusing to people:

"That is the big difference between an ad, which is usually packaged a certain way (looks and feels like an ad) and relies on a media buy," he says. "Our videos do not. I also wouldn't call it 'confusion' when some people are not certain about the nature of the video. It is certainly a type of marketing, but it is up to the viewer to decide whether or not this is good marketing. The concept uses a relatable situation and addresses it with a fantasy scenario we've all had at some point in our lives--to be able to drive over traffic jams when stuck in one. We built the world's first car that can actually do that. It is real, and the video tells it simply and visually so everyone can understand it, without having to have to listen to anything."

Is it a trick? Are people who get confused still going to check out the Verizon Hum? What do you think about all of this? Send me an email.