Author’s Blurb: So, there’s this 2-year old marketing stunt making its rounds on social media again, with many finding it humorous and maybe even smart. Personally, I immediately saw a few problems with it and found it to be no laughing matter.
The Facebook post that the pictures and statement “Marketing level 9999” were pulled from was made on February 22, 2018, by a page called Pen Hitam.
It’s unclear what company made it, as Googling the keywords on the ad brought up nothing specific, and calling the number led me straight to voicemail.
Nevertheless, with netizens buzzing about it once again, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the situation because no matter how old it is, some less-than-honest companies might see the buzz as a positive thing and be encouraged to carry out a similar marketing stunt.
But before you conclude that I’m just no fun at parties, here are my 4 main arguments about why we should be actively discouraging these kinds of ads.
1. Clickbait In A Physical Form
In the 1.5k comments on the Facebook post, the majority of people found it hilarious that someone had been tricked into picking up what they thought was money.
On the contrary, I failed to see what was funny with it. I don’t agree with the way this marketing tactic plays on people’s emotions at all. It’s clickbait in a physical form, which many of us don’t appreciate when we personally fall for it.
Sure, the ad itself is innovative in the sense that it’s something different from the rest and definitely draws attention to itself.
But for some reason, my mind keeps going back to the people who might have had to clean these ads up from the streets.
These unsung heroes keeping our streets clean may belong to the lower-income bracket, always struggling to make ends meet.
Think about how they might have picked up the ‘money’ thinking that their day (or maybe even week) was made—until they turned it over.
2. A Marketing Stunt At The Cost Of The Environment
And speaking of keeping our streets clean, these ads simply add to the pile of litter we already see by the sides of our roads.
About 60% of 32 million Malaysians already lack the habit of disposing their trash properly, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said in January 2019.
Do you really think we would pick these ads up to dispose of them properly then? I’ll place my bets on ‘no’.
Not only is litter ugly to look at, but it also impacts the environment in many ways.
These ads probably leached toxic printer ink into the ground once they were broken down by sun and rain, and if they were washed away, they probably contributed to our clogged drains.
Furthermore, these ads were printed on paper (that would go to waste), so add that to the list of environmental crimes that the company behind it committed.
3. Encouraging Malaysians To Gamble
Nearly all forms of gambling are illegal in Malaysia, apart from licensed casinos and lottery services.
Online gambling is a bit more of a grey area, but ultimately, it is also assumed to be illegal.
But legal or not, I’m a firm believer that gambling can only bring misfortune. Unless you’re a pro making big bucks off competing in poker or similar, the odds for an average person will most likely not be in their favour.
Yet they still do it. And ads like these are only encouraging Malaysians to do it more.
Some commenters (2 years ago) even asked the original poster why they didn’t blur out the number so that people wouldn’t be inclined to call it and get roped into gambling.
Malaysia already has its fair share of social ills, and we shouldn’t be adding gambling to that list.
4. It Could Be More Dangerous Than You Think
I’m no longer talking about the fact that it’s encouraging gambling. Instead, I’m thinking of the physical danger that this ad could put someone in.
Imagine if the wind managed to pick up these small pieces of paper and fly them onto a tall ledge or into a large drain.
Some people might notice it and think that it was actually money. They might then put themselves in a dangerous situation where they could fall from a height or into the drain trying to retrieve the ‘money’.
Kids might be more gullible to this and could run across a busy street to grab the ‘money’, putting them right in harm’s way.
Yes, you could argue that I’m overthinking it, but as Murphy’s Law states, “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong”, so such a situation is not a complete impossibility.
In any case, perhaps the stunt didn’t work as well as the company intended it to, since it would appear that they’re no longer operational.
Or maybe they received too many prank calls the first time the post went viral, and had to switch phone numbers and tactics.
Bottom Line: What I’m really hoping for is that the dismissive attitude Malaysians are giving this deceitful marketing stunt will not encourage other companies to follow in its footsteps. Let’s at least try to be creative and innovative in a way that wouldn’t hurt the citizens and the environment.
Featured Image Credit: Pen Hitam