How TNT Made The Biggest Viral Video Ad Of The Year—In Belgium

tnt ad

Photo: TNT

By now you’ve probably seen TNT Belgium’s insane guerrilla marketing stunt, in which gunfire, fistfights and bikers in lingerie are unleashed on an unsuspecting Flemish square after an innocent passerby pushes a big, red, mysterious button.

Here’s how they made it>
The ad, created by Belgian agency Duval Guillaume Modem, got 4.5 million views in its first 24 hours; 20 million in a week; and 30 million in two. The Belgian population is only 11 million people.

Even though it premiered on April 11, the video is set to be one of the most viral ads of the year. It has been shared more than 3 million times—making it the most shared ad in the world over the last 365 days, according to Unruly Media.

Marc Wellen, a managing partner at DGM, told us how the shop—which is famous for its eye-catching campaigns—not only pulled off the stunt, but also made it go so viral so quickly.

It was much easier than you’d think.

Duval Guillaume Modem was hired by TNT Belgium on Feb. 2 to announce the network's Belgian launch.

DGM is known for its surprising and exciting guerrilla marketing stunts.

Earlier this month, DBM had female dancers in lingerie line store windows near Amsterdam's red light district to dance to dub-step for intrigued tourists and cat-calling johns.

At the end, a haunting message was displayed: 'Every year, thousands of women are promised a dance career in Western Europe. They end up here.'

It once had a children's choir sing about arson and bullying in a mall. It was a stunt for a Flemish advice line for parents of out of control children.

According to DGM's Marc Wellen, it only took the agency five days to come up with the TNT idea.

There were no storyboards, just brainstorming. TNT approved of the idea on Feb. 24, after just one phone call.

DGM had some drama of its own picking a place to shoot the stunt.

'We had to look for a city that approved this,' Wellen said. 'At the time we had some bad news in France'--a gunman killed three children and a Hebrew school teacher in Toulouse--'and Switzerland with shootouts, so it wasn't a good idea to do a shootout in their squares.'

It also probably wouldn't have worked in America. Adult Swim tried a stunt in 2007 in which the network placed magnetic lights on bridges and buildings around Boston. The result: numerous calls to the bomb squad.

DGM went with a 'a little town in Belgium on a square where nothing really happens.'

The team rehearsed pieces of the stunt at 7 a.m. without the sound, so as not to wake the townfolk with gunshots.

The stunt men and women spent the day blocking fistfights and gunfights, and riding around motorcycles in red lingerie. All in a day's work.

Here's the cast and crew getting briefed.

Cafe patrons around the square were treated to a few runs of the stunt. DBM's crew asked them not to ruin the surprise for others.

Eleven different unsuspecting people pressed the big red button and were immediately surrounded by chaos.

Camera teams were hidden throughout the square to capture everyone's reactions.

The ad was shot on March 3 and posted online on April 11.

It had 4.5 million views in 24 hours, and 23 million in one week. Belgium has a population of 11 million.

So how did it go so viral so quickly?

It started when Duval Guillaume Modem's executive creative director, Geoffrey Hantson, Tweeted a link to the video.

He only has 1,251 Twitter followers, but given DGM's history of creative stunts, journalists and bloggers took note.

'We said we were going to write to blogs, send it to marketing blogs, but they picked it up themselves,' Wellen said. When the video premiered on April 11, it was only posted on TNT's YouTube account, DGM's Facebook page, and the Facebook's of enthusiastic DGM employees.

The media picked it up from there. DGM says that it did no additional promotion.

After only a month, the video has almost 33 million views. Here's the ad:

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