Cardosystems – Can Cellphones Make Popcorn?

May 6, 2009

By watching TV yesterday I have discovered the show called “Rude Tube” on channel E4, which I found very amusing. Basically, Alex Zane, a British comedian,  presents the most popular viral videos that have ever been shown on the Internet. On their web page, individuals can leave comments and rate videos, but they must sign up, as only registered members are able to leave a comment. A good way for a TV channel to take advantage of the numerous opportunities delivered by the World Wide Web in order to become more interactive. E4 have also achieved great success by launching a feed on Twitter, reporting the latest news of the popular TV series “Skins” and hit 10,000 followers in one day. You can follow them as well by clicking here. Skins is a British award winning TV series that tells the life stories of a group of teenagers living in Bristol.

However, one of the clips was the one, which all of you must have seen or heard about at some point. Once more, video sharing has served as a new media tool to create awareness. The original video shows four French people having a few kernels of maize on a table, surrounded by their mobile phones. Now they make all their phones ring simultaneously, and the kernels puff into popcorn. After a while a series of other cases from  additional countries appeared to make it look like like people tested it all over the world, but watch it yourself:

This video has currently 12, 869, 303 views on video sharing site Dailymotion, since it was released online in May 2008. For those of you who do not know it yet, it was all fake. The videos were part of a guerilla marketing campaign made by the American organisation Cardosystems, who tried to promote their headphones with new Bluetooth technology. The idea behind it was to encourage people to use headphones rather than the phone itself. In an interview with CNN the CEO of Cardosystems as well as founder of the campaign, Abraham Glezerman reveals all the secrets:

What a successful campaign with a return on investment of a 100% sales increase. Even marketing strategist Seth Godin refers to that case as a “vivid” marketing story. Nevertheless, one may argue whether this kind of campaign was ethically correct or not, as people were led to the conclusion that cell phones may cause serious health damage. Are there any negative consequences when marketing chooses to go the delusional way? Ehret claims in his blog “The Marketing Spot” that he would probably avoid Cardosystems if dealing in the Bluetooth industry:“I do have a hard time believing that there was no attempt at deception on Cardo Systems’ part. If I were in the market for Bluetooth, I would probably skip Cardo.”

The videos caused both excitement and outrage. Many people really liked the content and had a laugh about it, whilst others are in serious fear what their phone could do to their health. I suppose that the way in which news and information are distributed differs from country to country and hence, the perception caused by such marketing campaigns may differ depending on the culture. In this blog one of the readers claims, that the videos have scared many people in Israel.

Here is the final clip they launched to advertise their product:

In terms of awareness creation I believe that Cardosystems have done a great job. The video spread like wildfire on the web and achieved a stunning number of views and media response. The Internet is a great tool to get information, but this case also proves once more, that people have to be more critical about what they read or see. Everyone is able to publish content, so information that appears a bit dubious should be questioned by the reader and not trusted immediately. If Cardosystems had revealed themselves from the start, the video would have never achieved such a marketing buzz as it did. I find it difficult to judge whether they acted socially irresponsible or not, as finally, we all have the freedom to choose what we believe or not, but I think I tend to the view that they have not acted unethically and therefore, not broken the “rule” of corporate social responsibility, but I am open to a discussion.

What is your view on the subject? And did you know it was fake?



  1. That’s a fake?! I didn’t know…If it shouldn’t be a fake, so in future I’ won’t let more than two people with a cell phone in my apartment 😉

  2. I remember that I have seen the clip last summer and I thought it was crazy. The aspect that cellphones are no healty tool to carry with you is no new information, so I didn’t spent much time with deciding whether it was true or not. When I found out a couple of months later I thought it was a funny way of advertising, as so many people have sent it round. But I didn’t feel anggry or disappointed or what so ever. I agree with you and think: it’s up to ourselves what we believe or not. The internet delivers us so mcuhinformation within seconds… so why not digg deeper if there is something that appears to be alittle doggy?


  3. ohhh nooo! i was debating a lot about this video with friends and scared them as well. since it come out as a marketing joke it appeases me. now it should be discussed about social resposibility. generally i am not supporting marketing strategies using the power of fear just for the increase of their sales figures. but in this case i have to say that it fulfills unintentional a second job. i am pretty sure this video increases awareness of people using mobile phones in terms of radiation of their brains. no one knows of long-term consequences so far. so one can say this video is educational in some way.

  4. I’m not a massive fan of popcorn. They should invent a bag that you can put your phone in and it makes a bag of popcorn.

  5. I’m glad it was fake because I would hate to think that it was frying my brain. Not too sure about the false advertisement. Are they allowed to get away with making you think that phones do that to make you buy a product?

  6. hey really intresting post and topic, I was’ nt know that it was fake, in my point of view fake videos like this impact on the marketing understanding by the customers.

  7. I’d like to take up the point that the way news and information are distributed differs from country to country and thus marketing campaigns cause different perceptions depending on the culture.

    It is the same in Public Relations: A PR campaign that succeeds in one country may be a complete failure in another one if you forget to take the different perceptions into consideration.

    That is why I think it can be seen as an overarching step in all communication disciplines to think about the culture and the perceptions in the targeted country at first to succeed with communications instead of causing outrage.

  8. A very clever campaign, although I think you may well be wrong about them not acting unethically. I feel that if a similar thing had been tried in the normal advertising sector (although it isn’t very likely) then complaints to the regulator would have seen the ad banned. The mobile companies may also have had something to say about it.

    The “beauty” of these viral campaigns is that companies are able to take more risks because they can be a number of stages removed from the content.

    Having said that, I also find it difficult to believe that people could think this was real. Microwaves have an output of several hundred watts, if mobile phones put out even a tenth of the energy, they would be impossible to hold as they would get incredibly hot.

  9. i remember this clip very well. we tried very hard to make our own popcorn. as soon as we had some friends at home we startet to point as much cellphones as possible on this 3 grains of maize, but it never worked.
    i can remember how i buyed grains to try. i threw them away some weeks ago, as i usually never make popcorn at home 🙂 maybe somebody should analyze if there’s been an increase of maize selling when this clip was spread around the web. btw, i got it through facebook.
    i didn’t know till today that it was a fake. i was kinda disappointed that it didn’t work, even if i should had been very happy that it didn’t!!!

  10. Maybe that is why you have to turn your phones off in the cinema?! Otherwise you could make your own pop corn!!

  11. Clever clip, although the internet and YouTube footage is very common marketing tool now-a-days often replacing the traidional media channles of TV, Radio and broadsheet. I think to keep interesting then fabrication is often used in ads with and without our knowlegde.

  12. good post. this is a really clever and interesting marketing campaign. i remember this program in E4 once and it was so funny….haha,,,crazy

  13. good post! this is a very clever and interesting marketing campaign. i remember this program in E4. it was sooo funny and crazy

  14. Great post, this is an excellent marketing campaign, very well thought out.

    I just wish it actually worked…it would be a novel way to make popcorn! 🙂

  15. @sam parish: 😀

  16. A really interesting and insightful piece. Young brands like E4 have really embraced the online space and create some fantastic digital campaigns.

    I would argue that marketers don’t create viral; what we create is fantastic content and if that content is creative, of genuine interest and relevant to your target audience you have a good chance of going viral. Seeding can obviously help, but the key to creating online word of mouth is providing users with a ‘social currency’ which they can share with friends to deliver a trusted brand message. As with other mediums, the brand message is critical to awareness and generating greater propensity to purchase.

    Viral marketing is an additional channel for existing marketing comms and, whilst the content may be tailored specifically for the purpose, the traditional metrics remain the same; to generate results the content and message must be unique and tailored to the brand and audience.

  17. great! love that spot. and to be honest, its not the first time someone says something was bad just to sell their stuff! its not their fault that people dont think and believe everything! 🙂
    good job!

  18. hh.. funny 🙂

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