Viral Marketing Done Right: Unexpected Performance

So, last week, I kvetched about the lies involved in viral marketing. But I do understand that there’s a basic truth to advertising: No one really likes the hard sell, and the soft one is often ineffective. So I wanted to offer a counterpoint — a positive example of viral marketing done right — because it is something that can be extremely powerful. Fortunately, the British viral marketing company RubberRepublic made my job a little easier by releasing Unexpected Performance last week.

In this clip, seven hidden cameras capture an impromptu musical performance in a terminal at Stanisted Airport (reminiscent of ImprovEverywhere’s Food Court Musical). Beginning with one custodian wailing out her desire for a packet of crisps, the piece soon explodes into a 14-person extravaganza, concluding with some brief text advertising, an online ticketing provider. Maybe I’m an easy touch for theater, but it’s one of the few ads I’ve ever seen that really inspired interest in the product advertised. What makes it so effective? Three things:

It doesn’t lie. While the video does not state up front what product it’s advertising, it doesn’t claim to be “found footage,” or an amateur recording, or anything other than what it is. In fact, it makes a big deal of mentioning up front that the production was put together by a large team of professionals. At the end, the text pops up, clear as anything. It isn’t exactly straightforward, but there’s no attempt at deception.

It’s really fun to watch. The performers are talented, the songwriting is tolerable and the hidden cameras do a great job of catching the surprised looks of those watching. I was more entertained by these three minutes than I was by the entirety of Chris Columbus’s Rent.

It’s relevant to the product being advertised. By capturing the looks on people’s faces as they’re ambushed by live performance, the ad is a poignant reminder of the joy of the theater. is a ticket-selling service, and the swift URL drop at the end of the video connects the message to the product.

See, advertisers? It’s not hard. Be relevant, be fun, and don’t lie. And the Internet will love you right back.

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