By Brendan Spiegel Posted April 9, 2008, 10:30 AM EDT
This story is part of our series on building event buzz with online videos.
In a joint marketing promotion to publicize the 2007 release of The Simpsons Movie, 20th Century Fox transformed 12 North American 7-Eleven stores into Kwik-E-Marts, inspired by the parody convenience store frequented by Homer Simpson in the fictional town of Springfield.
Because of the tie-in to The Simpsons, a long-running show with a fervent fan base, the marketing event had particular resonance online. Fan forums and blogs were abuzz with news about where the makeshift Kwik-E-Marts would be. When the stores debuted in towns from Bladensburg, Maryland, to Burbank, California, excited fans at each location walked through with handheld cameras and posted their videos online. As a result, a marketing promotion that might have attracted only curious passersby instead reached a worldwide audience of tens of thousands.
“It was really mystifying and exciting to see that we created an event that was so popular we didn’t need advertising,” says Sterling Hayman, group account director at Tracy Locke Advertising, the lead firm among the ad and marketing firms that make up the studio’s virtual in-house agency, FreshWorks. “We were only able to do 12 states, but the consumer-generated interest brought the event to many more people online.”
The stunt was popular on the Internet because it was more than a typical marketing promotion; it was a happening that people wanted to see and be a part of—whether it was in their hometown or somebody else’s. “It was successful in video because we created an environment in-store that lived up to what would happen if you stepped into a cartoon,” Hayman says. “It wasn’t something you could just describe or show with a picture.”
The event didn’t really focus on 7‑Eleven or promote any of its products, but by putting a unique spin on something many people already love, the chain grabbed the attention of thousands.
“The mistake that most people make with online videos is that they start with the old rules of marketing—that you have to talk about your service,” says author David Meerman Scott. “But what tends to work online is focusing on the user. An online video needs to appeal