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2004 Campaign was one of the Internet’s all-time biggest viral sensations

BK Chicken ADSBack in 2004, before YouTube could take a funny looking cat’s face viral, before #HashTags, Reddit and Instagram memes, Burger King’s weird Subservient Chicken became one of the Internet’s first and biggest ever viral sensations. Now he’s back, sort of.

The Subservient Chicken, a man dressed in a giant chicken suit complete with a garter belt (??!) – who’d do anything you asked him, as long as it wasn’t x-rated – is back, but he’s missing.

In a 2004 take on the chain’s “Have it your way” slogan, the Chicken, sitting around in a tacky, dimly lit living room, appeared to follow visitor’s commands. If you told him to dance or blow his nose or pee on the couch, he’d obey. If you asked for something randy, he’d walk toward the camera shaking his finger at you. The actor had been filmed in hundreds of acts and the site programmed to respond to typed commands

One billion pageviews propelled new online interactivity
The site got 100 million views within two weeks of its launch according to Burger King, eventually netting more than one billion. The stunt took the Internet in a new, interactive direction. And I freely admit that I spent many hours bossing the Subservient Chicken around.

The brand followed with a lot of strange promotions that failed to move chicken, but certainly were amusing. Recently, Burger King’s use of social media consisted mainly of its super creepy King and it Twitter account being hacked.

The chicken’s missing
BK Chicken TweetLast Thursday, on the campaign’s 10 anniversary, using the popular Throw Back Thursday hashtag #TBT, Burger King posted an image of the iconic chicken on Twitter, writing “We miss you, Subservient Chicken.”

On Sunday half-page ads resembling missing persons bulletins, asking whether readers have seen the chicken, ran in the New York Times, the Houston Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and others.

At 9 a.m. ET Wednesday, April 30, BK will post a 10-minute video that chronicles the chicken’s life over the past decade, “highlighting the chicken’s rise, fall and reinvention,” says Eric Hirschhorn, chief marketing officer at Burger King. The digital video, titled “TBD,” also includes a cameo by actor Dustin Diamond, who plays the dorky Screech on “Saved by the Bell.”

Will the Chicken fly?
BK Chicken sightingsThe chain has also revived, where, instead of a man-sized chicken ready to take orders, visitors see an empty room with a couch and a pop-up message in a style circa 2004: “Help, There’s a chicken on the loose and we are desperately trying to find him.”

The site also includes photos of the mascot’s last known whereabouts, illustrated surveillance-style via security stills from convenience stores and parking garages. Consumers are asked to help find the chicken on digital and social media channels and to use the twitter hashtag #FindTheChicken.

Will it fly in today’s crowded landscape? My bet is that it will.

The Barbarian Group and CP+B are not involved in this reworking of the campaign. The resurrect campaign, which ostensibly sells BK’s new Chicken Big Chicken, was created by Ogilvy’s David, Code & Theory and Horizon.