The Simpsons Folder
Traction with ‘Simpsons’ clip/Reuters
FRIDAY, MARCH 10, 2006
LONDON A video that recreates the introduction to “The Simpsons” with live actors is spreading across the Internet faster than Homer can say “Doh!” – and it is part of a “viral marketing” campaign for British Sky Broadcasting.
Created by Sky and the advertising agency Devilfish, the video was originally intended as an on-air promotion for the Sky One network, which airs new episodes of “The Simpsons” in Britain.
The company decided to release it on the Internet as part of a word-of-mouth brand building exercise, tapping into the popular Web video sector.
“If we had only showed it on air, you might turn to someone and say that was really cool,” said the BSkyB communications director, Matthew Anderson. “Putting it online, there’s a fantastic discussion between millions of people – it’s bringing the Simpsons to them instead of having them tune in.”
In less than a week, the video has been viewed millions of times at online video sites like YouTube.com and Google Video.
The move to create word-of-mouth “viral” content follows similar guerrilla marketing efforts from major advertisers such as Nike and Microsoft, and comes amid a concerted push by traditional media companies to expand their online businesses.
The live-action Simpsons video is a remarkably faithful re-enactment of the animated show’s title sequence, although diligent fans quickly picked up on small discrepancies that betrayed its British origins, including Marge Simpson driving a car with the steering wheel on the “wrong” side.
The boom in Internet video has raised fears about online piracy like the file-sharing that has hurt the music industry.
The Simpsons video was intended to spread freely, and Anderson said that Sky worked closely with Simpsons producers and the show’s creator, Matt Groening. The global media conglomerate News Corp. owns “The Simpsons” as well as about a third of BSkyB.
In recent weeks some media companies have cracked down on unauthorized distribution of their content.
YouTube was forced by the U.S. broadcaster NBC to take down video from “Saturday Night Live” that had been widely shared online. NBC now has the video clips, including a spoof gangster rap by the actress Natalie Portman, on its own site.