If you’ve boarded any form of public transportation in Chicago in the past two months, chances are you’ve crossed paths with the Kidnapped Chicagoan, a conversation starter of a campaign advertising a surprising product.
Train car interiors, bus exteriors and stations around the city hint at the whereabouts of an unnamed missing Chicagoan. Signs read:
- He’s not up here.
- He was last seen reading ads on the train
- As of yet his whereabouts are unknown
Perhaps the most alluring component of the campaign is the invitation to follow the digital trail of breadcrumbs to find out who this “he” is and where he is hiding.
- He’s just a tweet away (accompanied by Twitter handle)
- He mostly uses the “kidnapped” filter (accompanied by Instagram username)
- Pin him. See him (plus Pinterest page)
If you weren’t tempted enough to solve the mystery, we’ll reveal the secret for you. It turns our mystery man is safe and sound a few hundred miles away in the city of St. Louis. That’s right, it’s a plug to encourage Chicago’s young professionals to visit St. Louis, sponsored by the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission.
“This is a highly viral grassroots marketing campaign around the premise of a faux kidnapping and it’s very much tongue-in-cheek,” Brian Hall, the organization’s chief marketing officer told Medill Reports, a publication by Northwestern University graduate journalism students.
Kidnapping taboos aside, we think the campaign works for a different reason. It’s a sort of treasure hunt that sends the target audience (young professional public transit riders) to the very platforms with which they are most familiar: digital media stars of the minute Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.
With a bit of research we found out that this much talked about campaign is actually recycled. The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission ran the same campaign in the summer of 2010, but spruced things up this time around with current social media darlings Pinterest and Instagram.
What do you think of the Kidnapped Chicagoan campaign? Do these ads have you packing your bags for the Gateway to the West? If you’re a public transit rider, be sure to check out this list of Chicago transit apps.