March 9, 2006

Live-action “Simpsons” video goes viral online

By Adam Pasick

LONDON (Reuters) - A video that recreates the introduction
to "The Simpsons" with live actors is spreading across the
Internet faster than Homer can say "D'oh" -- part of a viral
marketing campaign by UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

Painstakingly crafted by Sky and its ad 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 the UK.

The company decided to release it on the Internet as part
of a word-of-mouth brand building exercise, tapping into the
red-hot Web video sector.

"If we had only showed it on air, you might turn to someone
and say that was really cool," said 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."

After less than a week, the video has been viewed millions
of times at online video sites like YouTube
( 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
live-action 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 in a car with the steering wheel on the "wrong" side.

The booming popularity of Internet video has raised fears
about online piracy after the boom in file-sharing that
decimated the music industry.

The "Simpsons" video was intended to spread freely, and
Anderson said that Sky worked closely with Simpsons producers
and creator Matt Groening. 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 recently forced by U.S. broadcaster NBC to take
down video from "Saturday Night Live" that had been widely
shared online. NBC is now hosting the video clips, including a
spoof gangster rap by actress Natalie Portman, on its own
advertising-supported site

"Now, instead of searching the web for 'borrowed' NBC
highlights, you can go to the source! We've taken your viral
favorites and gathered them into one convenient location," the
site reads.