Discovery’s shark stunt goes awry, but gets the word out

Bell Media and Nissan looking to promote Shark Week Rogue programming

Discovery Channel cut short a marketing stunt after its video of a fake shark swimming in Lake Ontario had people seriously worried about what was lurking in the water.

On July 10, a video showing three guys fishing and what appears to be a bull shark was posted to YouTube. In just a week, the video generated more than 500,000 views and considerable media coverage that raised questions about whether or not it was safe to go back in the water.

On July 17, the Bell Media-owned network issued a press release revealing the video is part of a marketing campaign for Discovery’s Shark Week and presenting sponsor Nissan, which is promoting its Rogue vehicle in the programming.

“We expected there would be a frenzy of online debate about whether or not this was a real shark sighting and there would be a discussion about sharks in Canada,” Paul Lewis, president and GM of Discovery Networks told Marketing. “We got that for a very short time. But then our rogue shark campaign went rogue on us.”

When stories surfaced of mothers not allowing their kids to go swimming and that the shark was being discussed at the Ontario Legislature, “we realized that we needed to, unfortunately, do the reveal a couple weeks before we intended to,” said Lewis. “It would have been irresponsible for us to have an impact on people’s summer.”

Though Discovery pulled the plug early, the video far surpassed the network’s expectations. “I think we captured lightning in a bottle,” said Cosimo Prochilo, brand partnerships manager, Bell Media Specialty. “No one could ever have anticipated this type of pick up, which is fantastic. We galvanized the public around the question of sharks in Lake Ontario, which is what we set out to do.”

As part of Nissan’s Shark Week sponsorship, the Rogue will be featured in a five-part web series called “In Search of Canada’s Rogue Shark.” In the series, Teddy Wilson, host of Discovery’s InnerSpace, travels across Canada in a Nissan Rogue. The series aims to educate viewers about sharks and tell the story about the “burgeoning shark population in Canada,” said Prochilo. “It’s learning about sharks on the west coast and the east coast and looking at how far inland sharks can really come.”

Campaign promos began rolling out on July 21, asking “Could sharks surface in the Great Lakes?” When Shark Week begins on Aug. 10, nightly interstitials will drive viewers to (which goes live on July 28), which will house the Nissan Rogue series.

“The [Rogue] integration shows the capabilities of the vehicle as we go across Canada,” said Prochilo. “Nissan wanted to showcase the vehicle’s all-wheel drive and [other] features of the vehicle. When finding these locations, it’s always about showing off what the Nissan Rogue can do.”

The campaign was developed by Bell Media’s Brand Partnership team in collaboration with Nissan’s marketing partners, OMD and TBWA.

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