Mar 17, 2011 at 01:58 PM
written by

Undercover Sponsor

The New York Times today writes about how most successful viral videos don't directly plug sponsors, but only hint at their presence in passing, if that. The article was spawned by the Times Square video hack viral that was posted on YouTube on Monday and managed to rack up 1,200,000 hits in less than three days. It was eventually revealed that the video was part of a promotion for the soon-to-be-released film “Limitless.” Here's the viral:

“We’re pushing the engagement of an idea which leads you then to the product,” the creators of the video, James Percelay and Michael Krivicka, told the New York Times. “It just is a whole new mind-set where you don’t have to wrap everything up in a bow and if you don’t, people are going to be a lot more interested in you and what you’re selling and what your message is.”

In a follow-up video posted to YouTube two days after the viral, they explain how the hack was a promotion for Limitless and NZT, the pill that makes the leading character 'limitless' (and lets you hack giant video screens). Not surprisingly , that video only got 700 views and not surprisingly generated some negative feedback in comments. Still, it worked.

In a world where many marketers still think of event sponsorship as a practice of simple brand exposure, perhaps more sponsors could use some mystery to move beyond the limits of their traditional activations?