Silent Bill Creates a Buzz Heard Around the World
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Silent Bill Creates a Buzz Heard Around the World

Where do you find a person that doesn’t speak, wraps his head in rubberbands and throws-up on your computer screen! Meet “Silent Bill” – the star of a series of seven edgy e-mail videos sent to 60,000 teenage recipients.

Paul Holmes

 

Where do you find a person that doesn’t speak, wraps his head in rubberbands and throws-up on your computer screen!  Meet “Silent Bill” – the star of a series of seven edgy e-mail videos sent to 60,000 teenage recipients.  Silent Bill’s mission was to spread the word that “txtng” is the hottest trend to hit the teenage world since mood rings.  The e-mail, which ultimately promoted talk w/out talking with Motorola’s Talkaboutä T900 two-way messaging device, directed viewers back to a talk w/out talking Web site to learn how to join the “txtng” trend.

OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES

Motorola was interested in generating genuine ground-level buzz around the launch of the Talkabout T900 in North America and managing the positioning of the product with the ultimate aim of increasing sales.  The target audience were tech-savvy college kids – the “core cool.”

The challenge existed to develop a campaign around a strategic need to provide the target audience with a figurehead and a leader, someone they could interact with and own while having some fun, all in a totally speechless environment.

RESEARCH

Motorola partnered with Hill and Knowlton and Blueberry Frog, a guerrilla marketing firm based in Amsterdam, to identify trends among the 18-to 24-year old market.  Youth culture trends were studied through on-the-street interviews with teens and by reviewing popular culture publications which led to the development of the Silent Bill viral campaign.

PLANNING

The first step in developing this campaign was to identify the number one communications channel for the “core cool” audience.  Once the Internet was decided upon as the key channel, the team developed an experiential strategic and creative route that would surprise, entertain and allow the message to reflect the medium.  Out of this process was born the simple strategic tagline, “leavesyouspeechless.com” and the simple but powerful call-to-action from Silent Bill to join him in his silent world by communicating using a Talkabout T900.

A Web site was developed to reach the “core cool” group.  The aim in using this channel was to exploit its unique strengths by creating the right conditions for the idea/message to travel like a virus through the target group. This was achieved through a series of digitally compressed, short 30-second movies that were designed to be passed-on as e-mail attachments and enabled click-through to the “leavesyouspeechless.com” Web site.

The movies were designed to be humorous and edgy in style and tone to ensure they grabbed the audiences' attention long enough for them to want to show and endorse the movies to a friend or colleague. The overreaching goal was to have the movies passed on and for the word to spread in exactly the same way bacteria spreads. 

Objective: The main objective of the Silent Bill campaign was to drive Internet traffic to “leavesyouspeechless.com” so the viewer could find out more about Motorola, “txtng” and the T900.

STRATEGIC APPROACH

Throughout the development of the Silent Bill campaign the team adhered to four primary strategies:

  • Speak to the target audience in their language
  • Develop a character the target audience would relate to – Silent Bill  
  • Choose recipients that had registered on other sites to accept “special online offers and discounts,” increasing the exposure to the movies 
  • Leverage Web site and viral movies to drive the underground movement

Campaign obstacles included:

  • Ensuring that the original recipients would forward the e-mail
  • Asking recipients to open an MPEG file from an unknown source

EXECUTION

Motorola sent 60,000 e-mails with the Silent Bill video attachments to registered users of Web sites that are popular with 18-to 24-year olds in hopes that the e-mail would be forwarded to their peers as well as start a buzz about “txtng” and the T900.

The e-mail featured the adventures of Silent Bill, a fun-loving character who gives up talking and only communicates through his T900.  At the last frame of each segment visitors could link to “leavesyouspeechless.com” to see more of Silent Bill’s antics and learn about the T900.  Visitors could also enter their e-mail address to win one of 200 limited-edition T900s.

A key attribute of the execution was to promote the T900, but without making obvious reference to the product.  The campaign used the Silent Bill character, dressed as a self-styled superhero, whose mantra was leaves-you-speechless, to highlight the fun and potential of the product. 

The video attachments featured the “leavesyouspeechless.com” URL and a link to the site. Viewers could also download the video attachments, spoof features such as Silent Bill’s manifesto and learn how to make a Silent Bill costume.  The site also provided a link to the Motorola corporate site and a data capture facility integrated into the overall creative approach. 

To develop the proposition of an underground cult, the Web site was created in three different incarnations, each with a different color scheme and copy and each with added functionality and features.  This gave the regular user the impression of a growing community that they could be involved with.

RESULTS

The Silent Bill campaign proved to be a phenomenon and a youth marketing success story.  Although gauging how often the e-mail was forwarded is a difficult and impossible task, the e-mails generated 300,000 unique web hits per week and in turn boosted awareness for the T900.  

Ensuring that the original recipients would forward the e-mail did not prove to be an obstacle because of the overall response to the “leavesyouspeechless.com” Web site. 

SPECIAL NOTES

Imitation proved to be the greatest form of flattery with the Silent Bill campaign.  Twenty-four e-mails were submitted to the Web site from people who had their own version of being “speechless” – including a man that completely wrapped his head in rubberbands.
The power of grassroots peer-to-peer endorsement or viral marketing is clearly reflected in the campaign results as the segments found their way independently to quite a number of different countries around the world, including Australia, England and France.

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