More On Viral Ads

Interactive Viral Campaigns Ask Consumers to Spread the Word

As more Americans become comfortable with the Web, though, major marketers are increasingly asking agencies to produce elaborate, interactive online campaigns – even for grocery store goods that hardly anyone researches or buys online.

One of the shiniest lures online is the developing field of viral advertising, in which companies try to create messages so compelling, funny or suggestive that consumers spontaneously share them with friends, often through e-mail or cellphone text messages. The goal is the exponential spread of ads that are endorsed by consumers’ own friends.

The best-known viral success may be the offbeat “Subservient Chicken” site, created to promote a Burger King chicken sandwich. The site, which shows a person in a chicken suit who seems to follow typed commands from Web surfers, has drawn 13.9 million unique visitors since it went live in April 2004, according to the agency that created it, Crispin Porter & Bogusky in Miami.