Real life ‘Olivias’ and other mystery marketing campaigns

'Olivia, will you marry me?' is one of many campaigns that got people talking around the metro, and all over the world

SWEET? This proposal didn't end so well. Screengrab from YouTube (funnytimeCh)

MANILA, Philippines  Since Valentine’s week, pink billboards along main thoroughfares in the metro proclaiming the words “Olivia, will you marry me?” intrigued citizens.

What many believed to be a genuine marriage proposal, turned out to be a marketing campaign by Empire East.

(Exclusive: The story behind ‘Olivia,’ the big reveal, what’s next)

The Olivia billboards aren’t a first, however. Several campaigns around the world have also solicited excitement, confusion, as well as mild annoyance from the public. Here are other proposal gimmicks, mystery teasers, and grand marketing ploys:

Real life “Olivias”

Those disappointed by the “Olivia, will you marry me?” billboards would be glad to know that not all grand marriage proposals are make-believe. 

(WATCH: 7 crazy wedding proposals on Youtube: 2013 edition)

In 2010, Loubert Rosales proposed to his girlfriend through the giant LED globe found in SM Mall of Asia in Pasay. According to a report by 24 Oras, Rosales tricked Mira Chung, his girlfriend of 7 years, into believing their car had broken down. While waiting to fix their vehicle, the proposal flashed on the giant globe. 

“I wanted to let the whole world know how much I love her and how I’m proud to be her boyfriend,” he said in the report. He added, “World naman eh,” referring to the Mall of Asia globe.

GLOBAL PROPOSAL. One man declared his love using the Mall of Asia LED globe. Screengrab from MOA Facebook

Similarly, in 2012, a man from Minnesota used a billboard to propose to his girl. The proposal by Colin Buschette, whose brother-in-law works for a billboard company, stayed up for about a week, reported WDAY TV.

In April 2013, Steve English bought a full page ad in a newspaper for his proposal, reported Huffington Post. On the ad were the words “Hayley Groves will you marry me?” written in big bold letters, plus the couple’s picture and a touching message. New York Daily News also reported a man who did the same in 2008.

In addition, someone arranged for a custom-made crossword puzzle in the Washington Post in 2011, while one man slipped his proposal in a teleprompter, read out loud by his news achor girlfriend.

They all said yes.

Cadbury’s “Not So Sweet” proposal

Many people may gush at grand gestures, but this particular girl slammed a boy’s proposal back at him – literally.

In August 2013, a couple was walking inside a mall, when musicians suddenly started playing, and a hopeless romantic announced a heartfelt message. Naturally, onlookers paused and gathered to watch the scene. The crowd cheered him on as he got down on one knee.

She, however, wasn’t jumping for joy. In response, the girl snatched the musician’s ukulele, hit him hard on the head, and stormed off, leaving the crowd in awkward silence and the hopeless romantic in a hapless state.

Not so sweet, right? It turns out, it was meant to be just that.

The failed proposal is part of a campaign for Cadbury’s Bournville dark chocolate. In fact, the scene-stealing train towards the middle part of the clip was labeled with the words, “Cadbury Bournville fine dark chocolate. Not so sweet.”

According to Daily Mail, the failed proposal was part of a social media campaign where netizens suggested an exceedingly sweet scenario for Cadbury to turn into a video.

Dots game proposal

When Shawn decided it was time to take the next step, he contacted developers of smartphone game Dots to help him. He sent his “unusual request” through email, asking for a custom-made version of the game to be made, one embedded with his marriage proposal.

“How could we say no?” said the developers. On a sidewalk with dim romantic lighting, she played the game and shawn popped the question. She said yes – but was it for real?

Some said that the setting was almost too perfect, and that it was merely an ad campaign for the game, given its tagline, “Dots: A game about connecting.”


Marriage proposals aside, here are other marketing campaigns that created buzz among citizens:

“Wake Up.” Anti-Apple protest

How far will companies go to taunt competition? 

In 2012, an Apple Store in Sydney, Australia was mobbed by around 50 people in black shirts carrying black cards with the words “WAKE UP.” The protesters came from two black buses, also bearing the same message.

Coincidentally, YouTube blogger Nate Blurr happened to be in the area to capture the moment on video. According to The Age, it was eventually found that the blogger was planted, although Blurr denied being paid by the company.

Many assumed Samsung was behind it, given that the company was set to launch a new smartphone around the same time. Days later, the mastermind eventually came forward – it was Blackberry, in an attempt to salvage its dwindling market shares.

According to the report, Blackberry makers Research in Motion also flashed the slogan on billboards, a speedboat, a swimming pool, and a roadworks sign. The black mob also took a trip to a television studio.

The reveal was done through a website with a countdown, timed to the release of Blackberry’s new operating system. In the reveal, a video with text and a voice over sent the message accross. “Wake Up. Be Bold. Blackberry.”

“Deserve to die” campaign

In 2012, citizens of New York, Chicago, Seattle, and New Orleans were enraged by posters proclaiming that several kinds of people “deserve to die.” According to CBS, some angered citizens even ripped the posters off the walls.

The posters proclaimed that hipsters, cat lovers, crazy old aunts, the smug, the tatooed, and the genetically privileged all deserve to die. A website also featured the same images along with a countdown to midnight and a message that read, “Every year 160,000 lives are lost to a deadly disease. They didn’t ask for it, but many people seem to think they deserved it.”

The killer, it turns out, is lung cancer. The campaign by Lung Cancer Alliance was actually titled “No One Deserves to Die.”

The site provided statistics showing how lung cancer had claimed more lives than colon, breast, and prostate cancer combined. In the end, they encouraged people to change their profile pictures into something similar to the posters, this time, with the words “No one deserves to die.”

NO ONE DESERVES TO DIE. A mystery campaign spreads awareness on lung cancer. Screengrab from the website

HBO’s True Blood

HBO went all out in promoting the premiere of supernatural series True Blood in 2008, so much so that their campaign included integrating vampires into society.

By sending horror aficionados letters in ancient writing, and even vials of a “synthetic blood product that allows vampires to live openly among humans,” the network created a fan base, even before the show premiered.

As for the “vampire integration,” HBO created fictional documentaries about the vampire race’s struggle for their place in society.

Jay-Z Decoded

In 2010, advertising network Droga5 brought together rapper Jay-Z and Miscrosoft search engine Bing, in a massive campaign for the launch of the rapper’s autobiography Decoded.

Each day for one month prior to the book’s release, one page was posted in 13 major cities in America and abroad. Pages were released in locations relevant to the event on the excerpt.

Blown-up versions of the pages were printed on the usual billboards, posters, and walls. On several occasions, however, these pages were found printed on the most unlikely objects – dining plates, punching bags, hotel towels, electric guitars, burger tin foil, custom made Gucci jackets, a billiard table, a swimming pool, and even a car.

According to AdWeek, people who were first to find the pages and check them in online won tickets to Jay-Z concerts.

Similar teaser campaigns were done to promote the Despicable Me 2 movie and Katy Perry’s “Prism” album launch.

In June 2013, “Despicablimp,” a humongous blimp fashioned to look like a minion floated in the skies above the US. The film’s site was also transformed into an online command center, where fans tracked the Despicablimp’s journey.

A month after, a gigantic golden trailer truck hit the streets of the US, bearing the announcement of Katy Perry’s album launch. Fans who managed to tweet a photo of the truck earned a retweet from the singer. – Rappler.com

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.