I was on my placement year at Leo Burnett working on McDonalds and thoroughly enjoying it. However my time was nearing an end at Leos and the Saatchi & Saatchi Scholarship Scheme was approaching. I rang Saatchi & Saatchi who told me that my brief to enter into the scholarship was to take their logo “Nothing Is Impossible” which would be supplied on an A3 poster and place it somewhere topical and interesting.
I toyed with ideas which were terrible, like taking a photo of a homeless person outside the Dorchester holding the poster. Really base line poor stuff. But, whilst having a cigarette outside Leo’s with my friend who was working in Arc (same building) we were talking about hacking websites and how people do it etc. Then, I thought, that could be a sweet idea to place the Saatchi & Saatchi poster on a website, and what better place to do it than on the agency they love to hate and vice versa M&C Saatchi. We both pretty much pissed ourselves laughing at the audacity of the idea. We were then joined by another of my friends from Arc (both worked in digital one being a project manager and the other a designer). We ran the idea past him at which his face broke into a smile. I had no idea on how to hack a site, make a website or anything like that so these guys were really the people who made this idea work.
However, everything got a bit out of control and I’ll explain why. There was quite a bit of press coverage about this, namely The Times and Campaign. Both thought that I had actually hacked the official M&C website. Thing is I hadn’t, I just convinced digital illiterate people that I had, such as the press. My friends constructed a site that replicated the M&C one. I had bought the domain name http://www.mcsaatchi.gov (Maurice and Charles are avid Tory fans and create their campaigns so it seemed like a potential money earner in the unlikely event the Conservatives won the 2004 election). Anyway, the site was constructed showing the image of the Saatchi & Saatchi poster falling on top of the M&C Saatchi logo.
I then took it upon myself to spread this far and wide to stir a bit of noise before I sent it on to Saatchi & Saatchi. I posted it as the actual M&C website on advertising forums and emailed it round to as many contacts as I had as well as the whole of Leo Burnett who in turn passed it on to their contacts. Before I had even sent it to Saatchi & Saatchi I had a viral website as we were able to track it being viewed up to 300 times a day and travelling from London to New York to Rio.
I then thought it was best to get this over to Saatchi so I emailed their HR department telling them this was my entry to their Scholarship Scheme. I rang them up the next day asking them to make sure that the people who needed to see this saw it and quick as my spidey sense knew there was trouble ahead. They applauded my audacity and from there I had an telephone interview and was told that I was accepted onto the scheme. Sweet I thought, but this viral website started to travel further and further.
Cue the phone call from M&C’s lawyers informing me of my breach of intellectual property, that the website had been pulled down by the domain owners and that I was facing court action. Laughing in the face of danger isn’t exactly how I would describe my reaction, more like a desperate need for my mum and that I was unable to stop saying sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. After this lovely chat I rang Saatchi & Saatchi who calmed me down, told me it would be fine and if there was going to be any trouble they would step in. That was great and I had started a little fisty cuffs with two adversaries that had been quite dormant in dispute..
To cut a boring story short, Campaign and The Times covered the story, convinced that I had actually hacked the real M&C site, which was fine by me, M&C dropped any court action as they were starting to look silly for chasing me, I rocked up to Saatchi & Saatchi where most had seen my website and the pats on the back were very encouraging indeed and then the website stills I kept were entered into the DMA Awards 2004 and helped to win Gold.
So that’s how it happened. I placed the stills and the Campaign article in my portfolio and flashed it at every interview which went down a treat. Other than that it’s not the kind of thing I bring up over dinner with clients.
You can check out the website here on a secure server: