I recently found two pieces of viral marketing that I commissioned at lastminute.com around 2002/2003.

The Office Flirt Test

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The idea was to mash up the Excel-based quizzes doing the email rounds in those days and the “how sexy are you” questionnaires omnipresent in women’s magazines – no-one can resist finding out just how fabulous they are.

The fact that the generated flirt profile was 100% random (irrespective of the boxes ticked) just made it all the more marvellous.

Office Flirt Test was conceived and written by Jon Davie and myself. It cost £10 all-in (for the URL) and generated over ten million visits.

Disco Squirrels

The marketing team had loved the then-new breed of barmy animations doing the rounds (especially this one) and wanted to do something similar – again for Valentine’s Day . I commissioned Rob Manuel of b3ta fame to generate something that was both noticeable and loved-up. The result was the quite extraordinary Disco Squirrels…

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Learnings I took from these experiences:

  1. Gotta make the sender look cool
    Virals only propogate if the person emailing it thinks the recipient will think them that bit cooler for introducing them to something remarkable
  2. Hard to repeat
    We tried to follow up the flirt test with something similar six weeks later. It went nowhere.
  3. Keep an ear to the ground
    Good marketing always taps into emerging memes – so subscribe to lots of quirky webfeeds.
  4. Push the boundaries
    Both of the ideas would never have got through blinkered management or focus groups. Sometimes you’ve just got to take a flyer. Remember – the great thing about viral marketing is that if it’s rubbish, no-one will know.
    I always loved this unhinged techno remix of the Michael Winner e-sure ad. At the time I was managing the Johnny Vaughan launch campaign and still wish I’d given our Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner ad the same treatment.
  5. Product viral
    Truly effective viral marketing is not something separate – it’s embedded in the product. A good example is how “sent from my iPhone” is appended to every email.
    The sender doesn’t mind the marketing message as it tells everyone “Look I’ve got an iPhone! Me!!”