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This week in ad games

General Motors wasn't laughing after a do-it-yourself ad campaign for a GM SUV was hijacked by critics of the company.

General Motors wasn't laughing after a do-it-yourself ad campaign for a GM SUV was hijacked by critics of the company and thousands of negative ads flooded the Web.

As part of a partnership with the TV show "The Apprentice," GM launched a contest last month to promote the Chevy Tahoe SUV. The contest challenges viewers to create their own digital commercial about the SUV at Entrants must choose from a range of video clips and soundtracks and write their own text to create their ad.

Over the weekend, hundreds of people used the Internet to circulate thousands of videos that charged GM with contributing to global warming, protested the war in Iraq or just demeaned the Tahoe's quality. Some videos also contained profanity or sexually explicit messages.

Of course, not all consumer-generated marketing is negative. Perhaps the best Sony "ad" last year was created by an 18-year-old customer. The slick video features a stereo system that shape-shifts its way into different electronics devices courtesy of mind-bending "Matrix"-like special effects.

In a world where blogs are as common as bumper stickers and has made viral videos as hot as Napster downloads were in their heyday, it's no wonder marketers are looking to John Q. Public for ideas. Corporations are jumping on the viral bandwagon in an attempt to appeal to a population for which disparaging advertising has become a rallying cry.

Meanwhile, inexpensive digital cameras, more-powerful computers, easy-to-use editing and publishing software, and the proliferation of broadband makes it easy for anyone with a laptop and some imagination to express himself or herself in hitherto out-of-reach ways.

Certainly, advertising is getting more personal--or at least it seems that way for Google. From the looks of a new Web page on its Google Base site, Google must be . A visit to the main page of Google Base shows among the numerous categories--ranging now from coupons and clinical trials to events, jobs, cars and housing--is an area called "People Profiles." Clicking on People Profiles brings up a page with seemingly recent submissions. So maybe Google's April Fools' Day prank about launching the Google Romance dating service wasn't a joke after all.