Ambiguous Imitations: DIY Hijacking the ’Danish Mother Seeking’ Stealth Marketing Campaign on YouTube
Keywords:Participatory and DIY culture, stealth marketing, YouTube, social media, imitation and mimicry
The purpose of this paper is to explore the concept of imitation as a key dimension of online DIY and participatory cultures on YouTube. The empirical point of departure is the viral stealth marketing YouTube video entitled ’Danish Mother Seeking’, produced by the official national tourist organisation (Visit Denmark), and selected extracts of the online responses to this video. Framed by the notion of participatory culture (Jenkins 2006; Burgess & Green 2009) and the concept of imitation (Tarde 1895/1903), we analyse how marketing initiatives buy into and borrow energy from engaged networked produsers, but also how these produsers can criticise marketing initiatives by ’re-imitating’ them. Following this, we argue that the case represents an interesting and fascinating example of consumer re-sistance and bottom-up voices insisting on being heard, rather than a simple example of the breakdown of a brand strategy. Looking at the response videos they furthermore reveal that imitation can be a rather ambiguous social strategy as it is used both to transfer energy from the imitated object and to deconstruct it. As part of this argument we replace the classical concept of ’mimicry’ (Bhabha 1994) with the notion of ’ambiguous imitation’ to be able to describe online imitation as both an act of critical voicing and energy transmission.
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