REVERSE ENGINEERED ADVERTISING
In the late ’90s, the Internet seemed like it was going to make everyone rich. Wild speculation led to fantastical new businesses, a ridiculous amount of advertising, filmmaking, and massive overspending in media. When no one could figure out how to monetize, everyone got nervous, and the market crashed. It was called the dot-com bubble. Every marketer ran for the hills—no more fancy crazy commercials. We were editing stock footage and making “buy now” commercials.
We still felt that there was quite a bit of missed opportunity in mixing traditional and burgeoning social media. The problem, of course, was that not one client was willing to try it because they didn’t understand it – no one did.
We decided to give it a go. And if everything worked out, we could invite clients to the party after the fact. So, through an internal exercise called TRUE, we create a piece of Internet entertainment based on the consumer insight that guys don’t have to say anything to say everything.
The resulting 3-minute film featured a bunch of friends saying, “Whassup”! to each other. Each utterance, having an entirely different humorous meaning. This film was placed online and then nurtured through the tools of the day — Craigslist ( yes, we are that experienced), email, and chat rooms. Within a month, the film garnered over 2 million views. It was one of the first viral sensations on the Internet.
On the surface, this piece of entertainment seemed like just a funny story that people liked to share, but by design, it was a piece of this strategic dynamite aimed at a few of our clients at the time – Budweiser and Miller beer. The Whassup film shared their DNA. Both beer brands bid on the opportunity but to use our intellectual property, but Budweiser won. Not only did they use the concept, but they also licensed the name of our internal exercise /the name of the original 3-minute film – True for their tagline.
The global success of the campaign shifted marketing as we knew it and helped brands, agencies, and production companies to understand the possibilities of our new technology. It was not just out of the box; it was out of this world.
We won every major award that year, including the Gold Lion at Cannes. And Budweiser launched a whole new, even more, profitable era for the brand.