Crispin Porter Bogusky And That Viral Chicken

The April 2005 issue of “Fast Company” includes a fairly lengthy piece called “Ruling The Roost that chronicles life at super-hot ad agency “Crispin Porter + Bogusky”.

Online folks know CP+B primarily for their work on a certain viral marketing campaign for Burger King. The whole article is worth a read, but of particular interest to you will be the hatching of Subservient Chicken:

With plans in place to stage a couple of days’ worth of hot chicken Webcam action to go along with the Subservient Chicken spots, Benjamin wanted more. Then he got an idea (surprise!). If he were able to come up with an exhaustive list of commands that the film crew could shoot the chicken performing, maybe he could create a site where the chicken would simultaneously carry out millions of demands in real time. Burger King never pushed him or the agency to do this. He just thought it was cool. “Our approach has always been, ‘Follow the work,’ “ says account-services director and partner Jeff Steinhour, meaning if ever you’re in doubt about a decision, simply ask whether it’s going to make the work better.

Suddenly, the situation became a no-brainer. The film crew grabbed a friend’s apartment in L.A. and shot the chicken doing 200 different actions while Benjamin set to work on the Web site’s functionality. Even before it was finished, everyone in the agency knew they had a barn burner on their hands. When the site neared completion, Benjamin emailed the URL to several people within CP+B asking them to send the link out to friends to test. From that single email Benjamin sent on the morning of April 8 last year, without a peep of promotion, the Subservient Chicken site ended the day with 1 million total hits.

Like all good Internet phenomena, Subservient Chicken took off literally overnight. By the end of January, nine months after its release, the site had scored well over 385 million hits and was still getting 250,000 to 500,000 hits per day. “I guarantee they’ll take home some awards for Subservient Chicken this year,” says Joan Minihan Reilly, the associate director of the Advertising Club of New York, which hosts the International Andy awards this month for creativity in advertising.

Awards are nice, but results are even nicer. As Andy Bonaparte, a Burger King ad director, bragged to Adweek in October, the site helped “sell a lot, a lot, a lot of chicken sandwiches.”

If you haven’t visited “Subservient Chicken” yet, you know have a legitimate reason to do so. If your boss looks over your shoulder, just tell them it’s viral marketing research.

Originally published at on March 29, 2005.