BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- The marketer behind a stealth viral campaign featuring videos of a fictional 16-year-old boy who wakes up one morning to find his "guy parts" gone and replaced with "girl parts" is none other than Procter & Gamble's Tampax.
The campaign from Leo Burnett, Chicago, is anchored by a blog featuring professionally produced videos at Zack16.com. Its main link to Tampax to date has been when title character, Zack Johnson, has his first period during French class and sneaks into the girls' restroom to use a Tampax vending machine.
The campaign's backer hasn't been the only thing stealthy about it. As of this week, the most viewed of nine online videos produced had been seen fewer than 6,000 times on YouTube, though it's had a few thousand additional views on such sites as Funny or Die and StupidVideos.com. The fictional Mr. Johnson also has a Twitter account, @ZackJohnson16, with 949 followers.
"It's a learning lab out on the net," said a P&G spokesman, who characterized the push as "just playing around with some different ideas. You can tell it's not very heavily branded at all."
He said he's not sure what the ultimate plan is in terms of revealing Tampax's connection to the effort. And it's not clear whether or how Mr. Johnson's Freudian nightmare will end. In a possible bit of foreshadowing, the fictional character's Twitter feed said today: "Watching gyro meat spin on a stick reminded me how things always come back around. Maybe it's a sign my guy parts will return?"
In the course of his change, the character has developed a new sympathy for and connection with his 14-year-old sister, an appreciation for the travails of menstruation and premenstrual syndrome, and an affinity for the Tampax brand.
"It was inexpensive for us to do this one little effort and kind of get a feel for how much pickup it gets, if it goes viral or if it doesn't," the P&G spokesman said. "For Tampax, we've got our Mother Nature advertising and Mother Nature effort," which he said remains the brand's main campaign. YouTube videos of those TV ads, in which Mother Nature crisply presents a woman with her "monthly gift" encased in red paper and tied with a bow, have gotten about tenfold the YouTube traffic so far of the Zack Johnson campaign.