Magazine article Information Today

The Art of Generating Buzz

Magazine article Information Today

The Art of Generating Buzz

Article excerpt

I first saw Ask.com's most recent ad campaign in California without knowing I had seen a campaign for Ask.com.

Driving into town from the San Francisco airport, I spotted a billboard that read, "The Algorithm killed Jeeves." Later I saw another billboard with "The Algorithm is from Jersey." And I see on the Web, there was also one that said, "The unabomber hates the Algorithm."

The algorithm campaign was created by advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CPB; www.cpbgroup.com), an agency famous for viral marketing campaigns that are designed purely to generate buzz. So the campaigns are vague, sometimes controversial, and often outlandish.

The same agency produces what I personally regard as the weirdest commercials on television, the ones with the large-headed king for Burger King, including one in which the creepy character peers at a woman through her window.

The CPB billboard campaign for "The Algorithm" did indeed generate buzz, though most that I saw on the Net was not positive. At TechCrunch (www.techcrunch.com), a posting called The Algorithm Is Offensive received more than 70 comments, including one from a guy named Adam who wrote, "Their [the agency's] modus operandi is to get people to talk about their ad campaigns no matter."

Ask.com admits as much in its own blog post, praising the innovative work of the agency (http://blog.ask.com/2007/05/the_algorithm_i.html).

I'm not sure how the new TV ad, which Barbara Quint (bq) comments on in her Up Front with Barbara Quint column this month, relates to the billboards; the commercial was created by the same agency, and Ask.com admits that it is an extension of that campaign. One thing is clear though: From the amount of space we alone are dedicating to it this month, it's sure to generate the much-desired word-of-mouth buzz that marketers covet. …

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