#MakeBoringBrilliant: Subway Surprise

As a digital marketing consultant, I am regularly approached by publishers and advertisers with the same request:

“What is native advertising? How do we do branded content? How do you make a video go viral?”

I can never sum this up in a few sentences. But from now on, I will reply with these three words, “WATCH THIS VIDEO,” before I even begin to launch into best practices. And, please do (click on image below). It’s two minutes of your life and it’s worth every second.

#MakeBoringBrilliant Panhandler Prank

Why This Video Went VIRAL:

  • It’s relate-able to those who commute by subway
  • It provides a SURPRISE
  • It’s less than two and a half minutes
  • It’s FUNNY!

Why Advertisers Love NATIVE ADVERTISING:

  • Video Views (Over 100,000 as of this post and it was posted 5 days ago!) — it is hard to reach that with a purely branded video
  • Vitamin Water is integrated seamlessly into the content which is true to the College Humor brand
  • Vitamin Water-branded landing page on trusted College Humor web site provides authenticity


  • Video is also hosted on YouTube — reaching even more eyeballs and appearing in search results
  • The opening billboard contains both the College Humor and Vitamin Water logo, and the hashtag: #makeboringbrilliant which ties in organically with the content


  • There is a post-roll video ad — which is super-effective, because it’s yet another funny video ad, but this one is completely Vitamin Water
      • Viewers HATE pre-roll, akin to “banner blindness, where users are frantically searching for the X button to end it NOW!
      • BUT it you have a post-roll video ad played at the end when viewers are already engaged, they’re more likely to absorb and remember a brand’s advertising message

I’ve admired Vitamin Water’s #MakeBoringBrilliant campaign underground and I love the online extensions. Content Marketers take note — this is an excellent example of native advertising.

Vitamin Water, you have made my DigiDay!


Vitamin Water: #MakeBoringBrilliant

Last night, I was walking through the 59th St. subway station when a large video screen billboard caught my eye:

“Bored? press here for brilliance.”

I’ve been waiting for the day to be recognized by a digital billboard, “Hey Rainbow, where ya going? Why the hurry? Hey, your shoelace is untied!” While we’re not quite there yet, I do appreciate any type of entertainment that distracts me from the mile-long walk underground from one platform to another.


Being “bored” and in a somewhat empty station at night, I did it — I pressed the BIG RED button.


I was greeted by a clean-shaven man who painted his face with “hair” and moments later had a full beard. I waited a few minutes, looked around and pressed the red button AGAIN.


This time, two figures boxed it out with zero gravity. Pretty cool. So who’s behind the campaign?


Vitamin Water and their hashtag, #makeboringbrilliant. I like it, my quirky mind can go places with this. And this is only the Out of Home promotion. It goes much, much bigger. Vitamin Water enlisted Damien Dante Wayans and music artists B.o.B, Matt and Kim, Santigold and Yung Skeete to transform the town of “Boring, Oregon” into “Brilliant, Oregon”. You can catch the “Brilliance Uncapped” promo on Fuse.

How exactly do they make a boring waiting room brilliant? Well…see below.

This is a great example of Branded Entertainment that makes you want to participate! This fully-integrated campaign uses Out of Home, TV, Digital, Experiential Marketing and Social to tie it all together, and the branding is seamless. Check out their digital banner ads:


A ninja hand chopping crackers…this would make a great Vine video…ok, I’m on it!

VitaminWater, you made my DigiDay!