Viral marketing is often seen as an art, or luck. But done right it’s exciting, and few elements work better than those that combine mystery, suspense and surprise. This example is well, top notch.
It started on Reddit. Someone posted a bizarre story about a homeless man handing him a $50 note and an encrypted note on the New York subway. The Reddit hive mind sprung into action, and quickly decrypted the note as:
There’s plenty more money to make figure this out and prepare to meet july 19 fifty sixth and sixth hot dog stand outside [intentional left blank] cafe ask for mister [intentionally left blank]
Predictably this sent Reddit into a tizz.
Shortly after, someone posted a comment in the thread, claiming to be the mysterious homeless-looking person (verifying it with a description of the bag the poster had with him the first time, on the subway). This also comment contained further leads for the intrepid collective intelligence: A new encrypted message, which Reddit quickly deciphered as:
YOU HAVE MANAGED TO FIND THE MESSAGE WITH THE HELP OF FRIENDS. YOU CHANGED THE RULES NOW SO WILL I. JULY TWELVE FOUR PM. FIND THE BLUE JAY AT SIX AND A HALF AND FIFTY SIXTH AND TELL HIM YOU ARE THE LAST.
Again, the Reddit community rushed to the scene, and did an IP address lookup on the mysterious poster’s username. It turned out to originate from the US Department of Defense Network. Curiouser and curiouser!
Then, with all attention on the thread, mystery running high, a random Redditor went back to the message and figured out:
Anyone else notice that BASE Entertainment is at that address and they have a new ‘exhibit’ coming out: http://www.baseentertainment.com/show/spy: The newest interactive attraction at Discovery Times Square in New York, “SPY: The Secret World of Espionage”
Turns out the mastermind behind this amazing ploy was H. Keith Melton, head of said Spy Exhibition. One random public engagement (or perhaps it was a sock-puppet submission), one comment, leading to a Reddit post with almost 10000 comments, 32000 upvotes, 30000 downvotes. That’s good awareness, indeed!
Posted by Adriaan Pelzer