In 2004, Miami advertising firm CP+B launched a viral marketing campaign for Burger King in support of its TenderCrisp sandwich. The campaign captured audiences’ attention by using a level of interactivity only possible on the internet. This viral approach was actually quite novel, not following the usual script for creating viral content.
Eschewing a storytelling narrative, the viral campaign instead drew in viewers by interacting directly with them. What makes this particular campaign so interesting is that it does not have many of the classic elements usually involved in viral content. There is very little actual story involved. Yet, it does keep in stride with some thematic elements: A quick kick-off, shock value, a strong front-end campaign to market itself and, most importantly, a direct engagement to trend-setters.
The kick-off itself was a combination of traditional television advertising to start interest in the interactive content. While perhaps a more expensive route to take, the television ads guaranteed the initial push for visibility so vital in a viral campaign. As to shock value, the interactive elements were shocking to the point of pushing the boundary of good taste. Having a grown man in a chicken suite willing to do most anything for a largely unfiltered internet population is always a risk. But the very edginess of the campaign did allow for it to get more, free media attention.
What was most novel about this campaign was its appeal to the trend-setters of the internet. By offering something only feasible on the internet, CP+B built in an automatic lure for those wishing to be on the tech-savvy edge of culture. Like other fads on the internet, its time of popularity was perhaps limited. But for a marketing campaign, this was of little concern. The point of the advertisement was to generate marketing exposure for a new product. So long-term, sustained interest in the campaign was never truly necessary for the campaign to be considered effective.
CP+B effectively pushed the boundaries of how marketing could be done. In an internet culture where short-lived memes, games and distractions can reach millions of viewers, they capitalized on this with a tongue-in-cheek style marketing technique which would help shift the traditional understanding that marketing was necessarily to a passive audience. Nearly ten years later, it is easy to overlook how important this campaign was, but it was a forerunner of the interactive user experience.