To generate a buzz leading up to the season premiere of Parco PI on the American network Court TV (now truTV), a show that revolved heavily around the subject of adultery, a campaign was conjured up that – at first glance – looked like every cheating man’s worst nightmare. A fictitious character called Emily seemed set on exposing her husband’s adulterous ways for the whole world to see and having her revenge. In a blog Emily drew readers into the story of how she came to realize that her husband was cheating on her. Within several days, the blog had received over a million hits and Emily was getting requests for media appearances at a national level. The narrative laid the foundation for a series of billboards on which Emily declared “Fourteen Days of Wrath” against her cheating husband, Steven. Four of the Fourteen Days of Wrath were actual staged events in New York City. When Emily threw out her cheating husband’s belongings, the drama was captured on a hand-held camcorder and uploaded to video-sharing sites.
The campaign as a whole was covered by over 200 news sources on-air, online and in print.
Public Hath No Fury, Even When Deceived
From New York Times. By Julie Bosman (July 24, 2006)
It was the pitch-perfect vengeful Dear John letter, blown up on a billboard in the middle of Manhattan by a furious and apparently deep-pocketed spouse.
“Hi Steven,” it began, cheerily enough. “Do I have your attention now? I know all about her, you dirty, sneaky, immoral, unfaithful, poorly endowed slimeball. Everything’s caught on tape. Your (soon-to-be-ex) Wife, Emily.”
The billboard created interest, and not just from an unfaithful Steven. A booking agent from “Good Morning America” sent an e-mail to Emily inviting her on the show. British Glamour wanted to make her the subject of a feature article.
But when pictures of the billboard proliferated on Gawker, Defamer and other blogs, readers quickly dug in. One fact soon emerged, thanks to camera phone pictures: the billboard was identical to others in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Chicago. Someone else discovered that Emily was keeping a blog, thatgirlemily.blogspot.com, detailing Steven’s infidelities. More digging showed that one Emily blog entry was oddly similar to a synopsis for an episode of “Parco P.I.,” a reality show on Court TV.
Another “source” sent an e-mail to Gawker suggesting that Court TV was behind the signs, pointing out that it was a viral marketing campaign to promote one of its programs. Mystery solved.
The bad news for viral marketers who use these kind of devices: executives at Court TV said they did not really want to be discovered so quickly. The good news is that even after the ruse was discovered, people visited the Emily blog, pushing it to one million hits by the end of Thursday. A fake surveillance video on the blog, supposedly from a private eye capturing Steven holding hands with his paramour, hit YouTube and became one of its most-viewed videos. Did it even matter that Emily was fictitious?
“Emily is really an amalgam of all of us who have been cheated on,” said Marc Juris, general manager for programming and marketing at Court TV. “Clearly, this really resonated with people.”
Whether it resonates into higher ratings for “Parco P.I.” is another matter. The “Emily” ruse was originally intended to be a stunt to help promote the start of the show’s new season on Aug. 15, but Court TV’s marketing group liked the idea so much that they made it a large part of the campaign. The second phase — ads for the show to be stamped over the original billboards — was to start next Monday, but Court TV moved it up to July 26 after all the attention.
Mr. Juris was still marveling: “It’s like a flash investigation took place, and within 24 hours we were busted.”
Advertising Agency: Amalgamated NYC, USA
Copywriter: Tommy Noonan
Copywriter: Jon Yasgur
Account Manager: Judy Goldfarb
Creative Director: JASON GABORIAU
Creative Director: Doug Cameron