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by Tim Beissmann

A creepy online advertising campaign gone wrong could cost Toyota US$10 million after the woman at the centre of the stalker-themed prank failed to see the funny side.

According to a Wired report, Amber Duick sued Toyota in the US in 2009 over its ‘Your Other You’ campaign, in which she became an unwilling target of a pretend stalker.

Created by the company’s Los Angeles-based advertising firm, Saatchi & Saatchi, the ‘punk’d’ style prank involved an actor who claimed to a 25-year-old alcoholic English soccer diehard called Sebastian Bowler.

As part of the elaborate prank, Mr Bowler sent emails to Ms Duick telling her that he needed to sleep at her house for a few days after getting into trouble at a motel. Ms Duick apparently became particularly distressed when she received an email from somebody claiming to be the manager of the motel, demanding payment for a TV that Mr Bowler had smashed.

Ms Duick was eventually directed to a video, which explained she had been punk’d as part of an upcoming advertising campaign for the Toyota Matrix.

The advertising company said the campaign was targeted at males in their 20s, because members of that demographic like to punk their friends.

Ms Duick was signed up for the prank by an unnamed friend without her knowledge or consent, and as a result sued Toyota, Saatchi & Saatchi and 50 people linked to the campaign for a range of offences including intentional infliction of emotional distress; and unfair, unlawful, and deceptive trade practices.

Toyota aimed to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that Ms Duick had agreed to online terms and conditions. (When the friend signed her up, Ms Duick was sent a ‘personality evaluation’ email, which made fleeting references to an “interactive experience”, which she agreed to.)

But a judge in California has since ruled that Ms Duick’s acceptance of the terms and conditions was void because the defendants had misrepresented and concealed the true nature of their conduct.

Ms Duick is now seeking US$10 million in damages.

It’s one of those situations where you just ask yourself, “What were they thinking?” Regardless of the result of the lawsuit, this one seems to have backfired big time on Toyota. What do you think?




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