Reports of a mysterious pattern in the Gobi Desert in China showed up on the interwebs on August 17th. Shortly after, the Chinese media, including magazines, newspapers and state TV stations, reported on the strange phenomenon, some of them even mentioning UFOs. The photos were first posted by a photographer at weibo.com.
A week later, BMW reveals that the UFO-like patterns were simply part of a viral marketing campaign that was created for the introduction of the new 2012 BMW 1 Series. The patterns were simply crop circles, symmetrical with 1-2 inches deep marks.
Sina, a major news portal, revealed BMW’s hidden hand behind the viral commercial on Aug. 25, shortly after BMW published an ad video. BMW explains its mischief by saying that the spirit of the vehicle–and its prospective drivers–is “UN1QUE,” and that this fits in with the fake crop circle news because UFO stands for “UN1QUE For One.”
The outcome of Sina’s story on the viral ad was reflected in over 300,000 reactions on the news portal.
As with any viral marketing campaigns, people’s reactions were split. Some of them were even furious with having been bricked creating another river of comments on the popular news site.