Cheesy Web Sites a Big Viral Hit

Two new Web sites, Rubberburner.com and Supergreg.com, which appear to be the real personal home pages of two hopelessly unsophisticated Web authors, are causing quite a stir on the Internet.

Rubberburner.com, the home page of Curry, a man who describes himself as “a slim and handsome race car driver,” includes a dozen glamour shots of Curry wearing a leather Evel Knievel jumpsuit unzipped to his navel.

Supergreg.com, the home page of a Latino DJ from the “barrio,” is also full of snapshots, showing the Web page author wearing a bright red tracksuit, making gang hand signals or hanging with his “homies.”

Since they debuted a few weeks ago, these personal home pages have been receiving thousands of visitors every day. And the sites have been compared to Mahir, the quaintly naïve Web site of a Turkish wannabe stud, which became a wildly popular destination among Web surfers looking for a laugh.

The reality, though, is that the two sites are not the creation of real-live cheesy people. Rather, the sites, and a third, www.borntodestroy.com which profiles Roy, a self-taught martial arts expert , are the creation of the Fallon ad agency. It’s all part of a viral marketing campaign for The Lee Apparel Company‘s dunagarees. The apparent Web developers are actually the fictional “villains” who will challenge dungaree-wearing Buddy Lee, the doll who has been Lee’s long-time mascot, in a series of TV spots to air this fall.

The Web sites, which were created by Fallon as an offshoot during the filming of the Buddy Lee commercials, don’t give off the faintest whiff of advertising. There’s no branding, no mention of Fallon, and no banner ads– they don’t even link to the Buddy Lee site.

So what’s the point?

It’s a viral campaign, inspired by the idiosyncratic Mahir, explained Fallon associate creative director Mike Lescarbeau. The Fallon creatives who conceived this site, art director Paul Mahlmstrom and copywriter Linus Karllson, hoped people would see the phony Web pages, grow curious by the mysteriously offbeat characters, and then pass them on to their friends, like a virus.

The viral campaign was timed to run during the summer, before the Buddy Lee television campaign would debut. When the television component of “The Buddy Lee Challenge” launches this fall, Lescarbeau says, viewers may already know the characters. This, he expects, will enhance the commercial viewing experience. Says Lescarbeau: “We kind of felt it would give the characters more dimension than you’d find in a normal spot.”

During the summer, the only promotion for the three Web sites is a blind teaser campaign — fly posters (stickers), with the site’s address, were distributed in 12 major markets. In the fall, the Web addresses of the three sites will be included on the Buddy Lee TV spots.

Lescarbeau said he had no idea the viral campaign would take off so quickly and generate a “life of its own.” The Web sites were an after-thought. “It wasn’t costly,” said Lescarbeau, “We figured we had nothing to lose if we generated nothing.”

Visitors to the home page of Lee-wearing hero Buddy Lee, can download games, which enable them to “challenge” Super Greg, Roy, and Curry in a series of competitions.

And, alas, that’s where the sales part comes in.

The “gaming component” of the campaign has the added function of driving players to Lee Dungarees retail outlets. In order to advance to a higher game levels, players must retrieve a secret code from a Lee Dungarees product.

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