NEW YORK McAfee believes people have been ignoring the threat posed by hackers to their computers and personal and financial information. Instead of seeing this as a real problem that affects millions of Americans every year, consumers assume they will never become the victims of such invasions.
Enter Janella Spears. The California woman was bilked out of $440,000 in an e-mail scam. Her story and those of other victims are front and center in McAfee's new Web documentary series, "H*Commerce: The Business of Hacking You."
The Silicon Valley company is rolling out a new episode every two weeks over the next three months. In all, the H*Commerce series has six episodes, typically running five-to-eight minutes in length. The videos will live on a campaign site that includes offers of a free Web virus scan and options to purchase McAfee computer-security products.
"People need to be educated on what to do," said David Milam, chief marketing officer at McAfee. "They go into a state of denial and shut down."
The Web effort marks a sharp shift in tactics for McAfee. In past campaigns, the company has relied heavily on print, spending little online. This time around, the effort is almost entirely online, save for some posters in New York and San Francisco. The push is the first since McAfee named digital network Tribal DDB as its lead agency last September.
Tribal San Francisco worked on the campaign with DDB West. OMD is handling media placements, including a Web campaign that runs nearly a half-billion banner impressions.
Tribal DDB and DDB hired Seth Gordon, who lensed the movie Four Christmases last year, as director.
Milam said the Web films strike a balance between education and alarmism by pointing out the dangers lurking online without sensationalizing them.
In one episode, viewers are introduced to a security consultant Chris Roberts, who cases a neighborhood and hacks into unsecured home networks. A child, with her face obscured, is shown playing in a yard. The video flashes: "A new type of crime. A new breed of criminal. Billions of targets. All online, all vulnerable."
The episode recounts the history of hackers, going back to "phone phreaks." It runs slightly less than eight minutes. Subsequent installments zero in on individual tales of woe.
"This is a new medium to tell these kind of stories," Milam said.
McAfee is bucking one Internet trend: it is not taking a purely distributed content approach. While trailers and snippets of the series will be available on YouTube and elsewhere, the goal is to drive users to the H*Commerce site. The videos at that venue aren't embeddable on other sites.
"All the other platforms are mechanisms to grab people and pull them on the site," said Milam.