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Hacker with iPhone take over NY Times Square screens - "Limitless" Viral Marketing Campaign


User BITcrash44 says on his youtube video description.: "The way it works is pretty simple: plug in my transmitter into the headphone minijack of an iphone 4 and play back any video clip. you can play it through the ipod feature or through the camera roll. the transmitter instantly sends the video signal to the video repeater and the video repeater overrides any video screen that it's being held next to. it doesn't matter what shape or size the hacked screen is because the hack video will simply keep its correct dimensions and the rest of the hacked space will stay black."

"I chose times square for my demo because it has lots of video screens to try it on. it is also one of the most monitored and secured areas in new york city and that made it that much more fun :). you can see in my video that the repeater is pretty powerful but the signal is not very stable yet. i'm working on that. i will post a new video later this week explaining how i made this prototype."

UPDATE (Thursday, March 17, 2011)

BITcrash44 posted the second video on his youtube account and as it turned out it was a viral marketing campaign for the movie "Limitless" starring Bradley Cooper & Robert De Niro. In fact the big Times Square screen was playing the actual movie trailer before the "hacker" decided to "hack" into it with the red balloon. The viral marketing campaign was designed by Thinkmodo. YouTube user BITcrash44 is Thinkmodo's founder Michael Krivicka.


I contacted Krivicka about the video. This is what he told me:

"We needed to create something that would get everyone's attention and that would go viral. It had to be something that has never been done before and it had to be in harmony with the movie's concept (concept: you take a pill and it enables you to use 100% of your brain). So we came up with the idea of creating a hack scenario on Times Square which would spark many conversations about technology, public safety, etc... The "inventor" would be a user of the NZT pill which enabled him to create a revolutionary device that lets him hack into any video screen. The subtle connection to the film is the actual trailer (playing on the jumbotron in the final scene) it is the trailer for Limitless, which is coming out tomorrow."

"How did we do it technically? Well, as you can see on the comments, 95% believed (and still believe) that it was all done in post production. However, all we really did was rent the screens and had our footage loop there for hours. The clips had visual sync points which allowed us to sync the iPhone version of the video. Once the sync was done, then it was a piece of cake from there. The actor was familiar with the timing of the "hacks". We did hundreds of takes on each screen."

"The camera was an HVX and we shot it in full HD 1920 X 1080."

"Viral marketing is the future of advertising. Traditional advertising is dying and new forms of advertising have to rise. What we at Thinkmodo are trying to do is to be creative, engaging, and to stay original. Here is our previous viral called "The Shaving Helmet". It was also a revolutionary device that was original. The entire video is a one-take recording. Many people thought we made an edit in there, but all we did was use twins. We reached a total of 10 million people (online, tv, radio, etc...) The client - HeadBlade - was super happy because their sales went up by 31%, and nowhere in the video is "HeadBlade" mentioned. We basically asked the viewer to be active and engaging and to figure out what the shaving device is and who makes it."


The video currently has over 1.200.000 views on YouTube. While very effective, there are some serious ethical questions and concerns about the viral marketing promotional method.