…there have been about half a billion hits to the Subservient Chicken website. And in each case the hits have come from people who’ve decided to go to the site because they’d heard it might be fun. Not a single one of these people had the site forced into their home. They went to be entertained. On average they spent seven minutes getting the Chicken to do all the things they doubted it would really do. On average that’s fourteen times the length of time they spend with a 30-second spot. Oh, and the site cost about $50K to create.
Subservient Chicken has become the shorthand in marketing circles for a viral phenomenon. “We want our Subservient Chicken” has been heard on the lips of lots of clients. But a phenomenon is different from a success. We have lots of success online. But this was different.
People think they are like snowflakes. In fact, we’re taught in school that we’re all different so that we feel special. We are special. But there is a lot of evidence that we are more similar than we actually feel. This website is part of the evidence. To create the site, we sent out a picture of the Chicken in a room and asked each person in the agency to fill in the box below with all the crazy requests they could think of. How many things can you ask a chicken in a room to do? You might think that the list would be infinite, but after about 500 responses all we got were the same requests over and over. We kept asking, but we just didn’t get any new ones. Now some were perverted, and since this was marketing we had to eliminate those. For instance, if you asked him to “fuck himself,” he would just wave his finger at you like, “Shame on you.” But if you asked just about anything else, we were ready. So when people thought they were being so clever and asked the chicken to “make a sandwich,” he would do it. At which point, people would freak out and wonder if there really was somebody in a room doing what was requested of him. And so they sent the link to friends and they sent to friends millions and millions of times over.
Bottom line: You are not a freaking snowflake. Sorry…” —Berger, W. (2006). Hoopla: A book about Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Brooklyn, NY: Powerhouse Books.