Viral marketing has gotten a lot of buzz, and many companies try (and most fail) to create something viral online to tap into all that free media. Some companies however have used their creativity to come up with some big ideas that have not only gone viral but have dramatically increased profits.

One of the very first of these campaigns was done by the ad agency Chiat Day L.A., in 2007. Their client, Sony Playstation was preparing to launch its new adventure game Shadow of the Collosus. Adventure games had been declining in popularity so Sony gave it a rather small advertising budget.

Chiat Day came up with a brilliant idea to make the best of their small budget and increase sales. They invented Giantology. The first step was creating the fictional character, Eric Benson, with a blog dedicated to his passion of uncovering evidence of prehistoric giants that once roamed the earth. 28 year-old Eric had a job, parents a girlfriend and lived in Illinois.

Then they spread clues all over the web in different places and even languages. This web of mystery was created with videos, radio interviews, photos, blogs and websites. The information was collected by the fictitious Eirc Benson and posted on his blog, where he argued the validity of Giantology.

The public responded and people were following the trail all over the web, discussing if they thought it was real or not. In effect the public became the messengers which is the defining essence of a viral campaign. Eventually the giantology info connected to the game and people became aware that it was not only an extremely successful hoax but also that they had been playing a big game.

The campaign was wildly successful in several ways. First, off the campaign was viewed by over 25 million people in 110 countries. The campaign received several awards including a golden effie (that’s a big deal). Most importantly the game outsold its predecessor by 50% and past its 1 year expectations in just 6 weeks. My favorite part is that the invented people and bloggers received offers for funding, books and radio interviews.

Phil Sanders