Call the Internet: Viral Marketing or Performance Art?

Check this out: http://www.calltheinternet.org/.

I’m curious, so I give the number on the site a call. To my surprise, a man named Carlos answered. I spent the next several minutes trying to figure out what this is all about. Highlights from our conversation:

When I asked to talk to the “internet“, he patiently explained that the
internet was really a global network of computers. Silly me.

He works in a call center with “thousands” of others.

He offered to describe a site for me. When I gave him a URL of another blog,
he described it as a “bunch of pictures of elderly ladies eating hamburgers,
some in restaurants, some at home, some in their cars”.

This could be some type of local art project, like PostSecret, or it could be the nascent stages of some viral marketing campaign. If this is performance towards some marketing aim, it could get very expensive as it scales up. If the campaign gains traction, the number might generate thousands of calls per hour during peak times. Would it be worth the call center expense? Could this ever generate a positive ROI for any marketer?

Along those lines, was the Subservient Chicken worthwhile? That campaign is considered one of the most successful viral internet campaigns ever, generating north of 20 million visits. Doing a back-of-the-envelope calculation, even if Burger King spent $500k on the campaign (they probably spent more like $100k), their cost-per-visit is still only two and a half cents. It doesn’t take too many extra hamburgers sold to make up the costs of the campaign; any analyst should be able to pair web traffic data with product survey data to quantify this impact.