Gaia Online builds a buzz with an online prom event

Gaia Online, an anime-themed social networking Web site, launched its first-ever virtual prom so that both new and veteran users could express their individuality within the time-honored tradition.

Gaia Online, an anime-themed social networking Web site, launched its first-ever virtual prom so that both new and veteran users could express their individuality within the time-honored tradition.

Gaia tapped Mullen PR to help its team create and promote the largest virtual party of the year.

“We wanted something that was general enough from a big-eye perspective that could resonate with [a new variety of] Gaia users... as well as the mainstream teen,” says Kelly Burke, account director at Mullen PR.

Strategy
The PR team created the virtual prom event because it knew that a popular, real-world teen event would attract new users, ages 13 to 18, as well as excite existing ones.

“Teens are a tough crowd,” Burke adds. “They're aware of when they are being spoken to.”

Tactics
The team tapped Christian Siriano, Project Runway season 4 winner, to be a spokesman for the effort. He designed an exclusive line of prom wear, and one Gaia user won an original, custom-designed Siriano garment. He also appeared on MTV's TRL and promoted the event.

The team surveyed nearly 60,000 “Gaian” teens on the stresses of prom to fuel pitches for media. The team also shot mock videos of getting ready for prom and posted it on YouTube, encouraging “Gaians” to film their own.

“Our users have strong personalities,” says Scott Kinzie, VP of creative and user experience at Gaia Online.

Gaia also sent all NYC users a message to storm CBS' Early Show on May 15 to promote the site and event.

Results

By 6am on May 15, nearly 200 “Gaians,” dressed in prom and Gaia gear, arrived at the CBS plaza. The teens appeared on camera and weather anchor Dave Price promoted Gaia and the prom. In addition, Gaia received more than 150 user-generated YouTube clips in response to its YouTube promotion.

Also, about 500,000 users attended the Gaia Prom.

Future

Mullen is working with Gaia on a Halloween party.

PR team: Gaia Online (San Francisco) and Mullen PR (Wenham, MA)

Campaign: Prom Crashers

Duration: April-May 2008

Budget: $100,000

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