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To Be, Or Not To Be Viral?

Create a once-off, localised out-of-home brand experience or stage a promotional public stunt, film it with multiple cameras, edit all the footage to dramatic effect, flight it on YouTube and you have created a viral campaign for a global audience. Job done.

Well, not quite. It may have been the creative intention, but it will remain a mere intention unless a sufficient amount of people find the brand activation entertaining enough to motivate wanting to share it with friends. Obviously, the more rewarding viewing the event is, the higher the online share figures are likely to be and the wider the spread.


Thinkmodo New York call themselves a Viral Marketing Company. They specialise in creating viral campaigns and have achieved many notable successes. They know what it takes to earn the attention of event bystanders and online viewers with sufficient impact to cause a viral sensation.

Production Logistics

Meticulous planning is required, nothing can be left to chance. In most brand activations of this nature, production crews have only one shot at getting it right.

A suitable location has to be found locally, props have to be designed and tested and hidden camera angles worked out. Furthermore, weather conditions need to be considered and the best time of day selected for staging and filming.

Consent also has to be sought from every bystander caught on camera for the permitted use of their recorded and reactionary responses in the final commercial.

1. YouTube Red, Cobra Kai, The Karate Kid Activation SoHo New York

YouTube Red is a paid streaming subscription service exclusively for YouTube in the United States, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, and South Korea.

The Karate Kid movie franchises which started decades ago have become part of pop culture. This new ‘Cobra Kai’ Karate Kid 10-episode series for YouTube Red stars William Zabka as Johnny Lawrence and Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso.

Thinkmodo’s successfully motivated viral launch campaign for the series generated more than 11 million views on Facebook within a week, and a trending spot on YouTube.

2. 20th Century Fox, Devil’s Due Activation New York City

Thinkmodo’s outdoor promotional campaign for the upcoming horror film Devil’s Due, featured a robotic ‘devil baby’ that caused scores of New Yorkers to flee in terror.

When passers-by approached the abandoned stroller, drawn by the sound of a baby crying, the remote-controlled infant screamed, vomited and chased people away. Their reactions were captured on camera and edited for a video to be posted on YouTube. It rapidly went viral and in a mere ten days motivated more than 20 million views.

3. Tic-Tac Brand Activation, City of Rouen

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Paris

This is still my all-tme favourite Brand Activation. It was a meticulously planned outdoor, one-off promotion, using live flash-mobs, aided by giant screens showing people falling over, and the entire event, staged in the French city of Rouen, was captured on film by hidden cameras.

The film footage was edited for a commercial to be flighted on the Internet and the weekend that ‘worst breath in the world’ was launched, it clocked up 200,000 views and caused an online sensation when it rapidly went viral globally.


There are a multitude of viral online videos about cats, dogs, wildlife and people doing extraordinarily talented, funny and dumb things that brands have to compete with to gain likeable attention. To break through this huge online clutter is an ongoing challenge for advertising communication practitioners.

The above brand activation campaigns are examples of how the challenge of taking a localised, out-of-home activity to cause an online sensation for a global audience, can effectively be achieved.