ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

In the past few years, stealth advertising has also been increasingly popular, especially on the Internet.

Elizabeth Blair reports that it's recession-friendly because it's cheaper than traditional TV advertising.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: Stealth advertising is so low-key it doesn't look like advertising at all. When it works, it's usually pretty clever.

Take the video of guys jumping and back-flipping into jeans.

(Soundbite of Levi's stealth ad)

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #2: (Unintelligible)

BLAIR: The video was paid for by Levi's at a fraction of the cost of a TV commercial. Levi's then paid a relatively modest fee to the Feed Company, which planted the video and a conversation about it on the Web.

Josh Warner, president of the Feed Company, says the video has been viewed about 14 million times.

Mr. JOSH WARNER (President, The Feed Company): Your marketing, if you're successful, is going to be done by your actual audience, and it's where you're getting a return on your investment that can really, really explode through the roof.

BLAIR: The media also helped promote Levi's by showing or writing about the jump-into-jeans video: the online versions of the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, David Letterman, MSNBC and "Good Morning America."

(Soundbite of TV program "Good Morning America")

Mr. SAM CHAMPION (Co-anchor, "Good Morning America"): But it is really cool stunt work.

BLAIR: And what would it have cost to buy a 30-second spot onto those networks?

Mr. WARNER: Oh, you know, you're talking about $100,000, $200,000 on a primetime morning show.

Mr. WARREN BERGER (Author, "Advertising Today"): Stealth ads are very cheap to execute because you generally don't have to buy any expensive media time.

BLAIR: Warren Berger is the author of the books "Advertising Today" and "Hoopla." He believes we will absolutely see a lot more stealth and viral advertising during the recession.

Mr. BERGER: I think you're going to see lots more of it, not only because of the recession but just because we're in a more - environment now where viral messages can be very effective.

BLAIR: But they're risky. There's no guarantee a quirky video will get passed around the Web. And that's why Eric Hirshberg of the agency Deutsch LA thinks we'll see less of what he calls advertising party tricks.

Mr. ERIC HIRSHBERG (Deutsch LA): I think during the recession, you'll see less of an appetite for that from clients because, you know, there's an intensity and immediacy to their need to sell.

BLAIR: But Hirschberg says he doesn't necessarily think that's wise. He says now, more than ever, people need to be charmed, and creative viral advertising can do that.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

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