Rules Of Engagement

Music, chickens and hoaxes dominated the online landscape this year, as marketers sought to appeal to consumers through free downloads, offbeat humor and mind-bender mysteries.

As a part of its “Never Follow” campaign, Audi hosted an online mash-up contest that challenged consumers to create a mix of David Bowie songs for a chance to win the TT coupe. The promotion, from Havas’ McKinney + Silver in Durham, N.C., garnered 1,769 entries, which might not seem substantial. But, a closer look reveals that participation required significant time—including seven minutes to download the appropriate software—indicating a highly engaged consumer.

Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” was likely one of the million songs downloaded as part of Pepsi’s iTunes promotion, which was introduced via a Super Bowl spot from Omnicom Group’s BBDO in New York. A flurry of marketers, including Heineken and McDonald’s, followed suit, teaming with services like RealNetworks and Sony Connect to offer free tunes.

McD’s rival Burger King forged a similar partnership with AOL Music, but that was overshadowed by the Subservient Chicken—a campaign for the TenderCrisp chicken sandwich that centered on a Web site where visitors directed an actor in a chicken suit to submit to various commands. The site, which reflects BK’s “Have it your way,” tagline, had 361 million hits by mid-November. BK followed with the Chicken Sandwich World Championship, a fight between TenderCrisp and Spicy Chicken that aired on DirecTV and was determined by visitors to (The former won, but it’s being disputed.)

Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the Miami-based, MDC-backed shop behind the BK efforts, was also responsible for a campaign that documented a scientist who created robots from BMW Mini parts. That was one of several pieces of interactive fiction that launched this year in an attempt to get consumers actively involved with a brand. In a Sega ESPN NFL Football videogame push from Wieden + Kennedy in New York, a fictional game tester, Beta-7, contacted other users, claiming that the game made him black out and tackle people.—AMM