It's pretty much a "duh". If your target is young adult males, sex really, really sells. That combined with the word "beer" pretty much explains why 10 million visitors hit the site.
But, what if you're not marketing to young men, you can't use sex, nor does your brand involve liquor. Are there lessons to be learned? Yes! In fact we suspect some clever b-to-b marketer will come up with a "virtual CEO" soon, inspired by this campaign.
Brand campaign was conducted for: Beer.com
Launch date of campaign: November 2004
Target audience/demographic: Males 18-34
To drive millions of 18 to 26 year old males to beer.com which will, in turn, help establish the site as a top-tier advertising vehicle for advertisers trying to reach that audience.
Our creative approach was to use a simulated live response mechanism similar to Subservient Chicken from Burger King. It had the appearance of being a web cam looking into a bar - Just a video window and an area to type in requests. The differentiator was what happened in the video windows.
Virtual Bartender was a beautiful blonde beer.com girl ready and waiting to respond to some pretty bizarre requests. Everything from pour me a beer to take off your top, turn into a man, kiss another girl; even fight like a Jedi. We had also built in different responses to requests that were too vulgar or ones that hadn't been included. Aside from the beautiful model, the fun was in figuring out what she would and wouldn't do. It was exciting to see people posting lists of commands that they had tried on the many blogs around the world. Measurement was done through dthree's proprietary "IntelliMaxx" platform and cross-referenced with Akamai reports.
10 emails were sent out to friends of beer.com on Thursday Nov. 4, 2004 between 9:00 p.m. and Midnight. No other form of marketing was used and there weren't any links from our home page or any other sites. No search engine marketing, banner ads or offline media have been used to promote this piece. It's success was purely driven by people forwarding the link to others.
There were many articles in national newspapers and trade publications.
Penthouse Australia did a spread dedicated to Virtual Bartender as well.
At one point, somebody had hacked into Interpol's site and posted a picture of our Virtual Bartender on the home page!
Specific (Goal-Related) Campaign Results:
The success of this project was overwhelming!! Those 10 simple emails led to 75 sessions later that night, 15,000 the following day and then began to double, then triple. Beer.com became the most popular website in the world for the month of November 2004 and achieved more than 800% growth in traffic with more than 10,000,000 user sessions in only 28 days! - 7 minutes per session on average. We also signed up 205,000 people for the Virtual Bartender fan club and made the Media Metrix Top 400 list for the first time ever.
The traffic pattern can be seen here - contrasted against Subservient Chicken - note that Virtual Bartender exceeded the Burger King traffic and that the traffic pattern was virtually the same with a second wave of interest hitting approx. 40% of the initial surge in popularity.
There is no way to predict how an audience is going to react to a given piece. We believed strongly that Virtual Bartender was going to get millions of visitors, but this exceeded our wildest expectations. The toughest part was getting sponsors on board ahead of time. After the success, the phone started ringing off the hook, but it was almost too late as you can see by the Alexa traffic chart. There is so much to learn from an experience like this and almost no way to prepare for it if you haven't been through it before.
If I could do it all over again, I would make sure that we were able to capitalize on the Asian traffic opportunities - they were VERY big Virtual Bartender fans! Now that we've been through it, we know how to prepare and what to do.