This event, part of a larger public relations program, had several key goals:
- Dominate the busy PC Expo trade show floor with a “show-stopping” event that actively engages the site’s core audience – people who are passionate about technology – in a live setting.
- Generate substantial media coverage, particularly broadcast coverage.
- Quickly build traffic to the new site.
To meet these challenges, CooperKatz developed a publicity stunt: the ExtremeTech “America’s Fastest Geek” competition. The contest, which was designed to marry extreme sports and extreme technology, took place over two days, June 26-27, in a 20’x 30’ booth on the floor of PC Expo at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York.
The “America’s Fastest Geek” competition featured contestants racing against each other and the clock to assemble and boot a fully functioning PC from its basic working components (memory, hard disks, CD ROM drives, etc.) and then get it browsing the ExtremeTech home page.
To facilitate the event, Ziff Davis partnered with PC manufacturer Systemax, which provided the computer hardware as well as technical assistance throughout the competition. ExtremeTech editor and industry personality Bill Machrone served as the event’s MC, while the rest of the site’s staff acted as judges. The stunt featured ten timed heats (five per day), each with four competitors, from a raised platform at the ExtremeTech booth at PC Expo.
To generate excitement and interest in the event, CooperKatz placed a story on the MSNBC Web site the week before the competition. As a result, hundreds of eager IT network administrators, software programmers, developers, product engineers and just plain old tech “junkies” lined up over the two days to get a shot at the title and, of course, to take home the grand prize – a custom-designed, top-of-the-line, chrome-plated PC.
The timed PC-building contest drew huge crowds of spectators (at times 20-deep) and captured more attention than virtually any other single exhibitor at the show. The event also garnered widespread print, online and broadcast coverage, including: the New York Post, MSNBC.com (three separate stories), AP, CNBC, UPN New York, FOX News Channel, NY1, Tech TV and dozens of local television stations via b-roll we shot during the two-day event and distributed nationally by satellite. The event was so engaging that some television reporters even tried their own hand at building a PC from scratch to see if they were up to the ExtremeTech challenge.
Finally, on June 27, 2001, ExtremeTech’s Machrone crowned Nelson Abreu, a 24-year-old freelance network administrator from Nutley, New Jersey, “America’s Fastest Geek” after he built and booted a computer system in just six minutes and 26 seconds during the final competition run-off.
The widespread media coverage and excitement on the show floor achieved by CooperKatz with this stunt helped the site register over four million page views in its first month – a staggering number that exponentially exceeded Ziff Davis’ expectations.
The “America’s Fastest Geek” competition was part of a broader campaign to launch the new ExtremeTech site. Prior to PC Expo, CooperKatz secured an exclusive story in The New York Times in the Monday Media Business section. This placement was followed by a press release distributed via PR Newswire and a media tour/outreach that resulted in coverage in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CBS Marketwatch and The San Francisco Chronicle.