By Lauren Lehocky
The last time I heard about crop circles I was six rows back, elbows deep in a bucket of popcorn watching Signs with my preteen friends. I had never thought about aliens before, let alone that they might try to communicate with us. The idea was as terrifying as it was exciting.
Who knew that a decade later a graphics company would use the same tactics to gain some buzz?
In late December California-based computer graphics company NVIDIA created a successful publicity stunt in the form of a 310-foot crop circle. The design, made to resemble their new computer chip Tegra K1, popped up seemingly out of nowhere in a barley field 100 miles southeast of San Francisco.
In a sea of models eating hamburgers and product placement hidden in our favorite TV shows, this company’s creativity and ingenuity proved successful, especially because many initially believed it to be true extra terrestrial communication.
The idea came up in a marketing brainstorming session after CEO Jen-Hsun Huang gave them a shoe-string budget. The outcome? A simple tagline: “Impossibly advanced.”
After swearing employees to secrecy, they got to work and flew in a British group experienced in making crop circles. By calling anonymous tip lines for Bay Area news stations and creating an amateur video with two employees marveling at the “mysterious” design, the marketing team at NVIDIA got the noise they were looking for. Within days visitors began to flock to the site. Theories about possible alien communication went viral and the crop circle garnered national media attention.
Within a week rumors of NVIDIA’s possible involvement became stronger, as clues within the design pointed to the Silicon Valley giant. Unfortunately the owner of the field plowed over the design before a definitive answer could be discovered, but eventually NVIDIA took responsibility.
Huang boasted of the new chip and its newfound celebrity, saying that it brings next generation’s graphic on a mobile device for the first time. “Tegra K1 is probably the most ambitious project we’ve ever worked on,” Huang said at a press conference this past weekend. “It’s impossibly advanced.”
The design may be gone but its imprint is undoubtedly etched in our minds. NVIDIA took the hard-to-grasp concept of new computer technology and made it accessible to the everyday American, one who is always looking for the next conspiracy theory, one who just might believe in aliens.
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