Time Warner Cable Aims for Viral Hit: Will quirky 'Fame Star' effort by OgilvyOne become the next 'Elf Yourself'?

Brian Morrissey
October 21, 2008

NEW YORK Many clients aim to create viral hits that consumers share by the millions -- work like OfficeMax's "Elf Yourself" and CareerBuilder's "Monk-e-Mail." Add Time Warner Cable to this group.

The nation's No. 2 cable provider this week launched a quirky site clearly geared for the kind of viral pass-along success some other efforts have managed -- but many have failed to generate.

With "Fame Star" (, users can choose from stock images or upload a friend's photo or their own. The site then lets them customize a True Hollywood Stories-type video that chronicles the subject's rise to -- and fall from -- the dizzying heights of pop-culture celebrity.

The biopic push includes several hallmarks of successful viral campaigns, such as customizable videos, "trash-talk" themes to encourage people to send the work to friends and, ultimately, an offbeat montage.

The application, created by OgilvyOne with technical assistance from Oddcast, complements a recent series of spots the client released as part of its "Power of you" campaign.

Rather than a typical banner campaign, which Time Warner uses for customer acquisitions, the company is aiming for a word-of-mouth buzz with "Fame Star," said David Korchin, creative director at OgilvyOne, part of WPP Group.

"You can have the end effect of thinking of the brand in a new light," he said. "[That] Time Warner Cable is the place where I can do something."

The application clearly touts the Time Warner brand, flashing product messages from the company while loading.

The effort is also separate from the purely "competitive" advertising Time Warner Cable is running to combat rival Verizon FiOS. The ultimate goal of "Fame Star" is to align Time Warner's high-speed Internet service with entertainment and consumer empowerment.

Korchin learned key lessons from past viral hits, including the need to keep it simple and light. And unlike some e-mail-only efforts, "Fame Star" includes several social networking options, such as MySpace and Facebook profiles.

Ogilvy is measuring its success by how many people create and send "Fame Star" messages. Korchin declined to predict the effort's ultimate impact, but sounded an optimistic note that the campaign would reach a large group of people -- and change their perceptions of the client's brand.

"It's hard to say it's going to be a huge 'Elf Yourself,'" he said. "It has the potential to be very large."

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