Safety Comes First in Symantec Branding Campaign


Theoretically, a buzz-building campaign for a computer security product shouldn’t work, seeing as such an issue gives us a slight chill in this age of deadly viruses.

But somehow, the folks at Symantec have succeeded on both a creative and educational level with their new “SafetyTown” microsite, which launched this week. “To spread the word, we want to hit a common language and touch on something that everybody can enjoy as opposed to giving them a fact sheet or being very dark—which is probably very easy to do with something like this,” explains Scott Cohn, creative director of New York’s Night Agency, which built SafetyTown from the ground up.

Take a stroll through this sim city, and you’ll be treated to web games, contests, an outlet for user-generated content, and most significantly, a theater which unspools a handful of weekly-updated, live action movies based on Internet crime scenarios. “The theater should give a sense of the sort of logic of the site—the intuitive logic…in that you can click right in to the movie theater and watch the films, or you can go to the concession stand and download mp3s,” Cohn says. “We wanted to try to make it as immersive as possible. If you’re out in the world and you see something you like, you want to reach out and grab it. So, the things that are shiny on our site are intended to be clicked—even if they’re not narratively related what’s happening on the site.”

The first of the four films running now is entitled “Phished”, which of course tackles online phishing while subtly pointing to Symantec’s offerings. The series follows the adventures of an average Joe as he tracks down the villains who stole his identity through the Internet. “We say that the tie-in is thematic,” adds Cohn. “Particularly for this first film series, Phished, it’s to spread awareness in a fun, fictionalized version of something that’s a very real crime and really a popular kind of theft. People are still unaware of the terminology. So, ours was obviously a hyperbolic scenario, a silly satire, an adventure that could ensue from getting phished—when the reality is probably not quite as interesting. ”

The most unique concept in this film series is perhaps the audience participation feature, which lets theatergoers dictate from time-to-time what the protagonist should do next. Cohn adds, “As opposed to being dogmatic and catastrophic about it, we figured if people could learn or get a sense of the issue. And then at the end of the movie, there’s always a link where people can click back to Symantec’s actual company site, which is loaded with information on what kinds of scams are out there and how to really protect yourself against them.”

The comedic bent of SafetyTown is in fact the greatest appeal of this year-long marketing campaign. Without the need for media buys at the moment, Night Agency is instead relying on media aggregators, social networks, niche blogs and send-to-a-friend to spread the good word about this promotion, which is running under Symantic’s banner “Freedom to share.” “Basically, that just highlights the positives of having security software,” Cohn says regarding the slogan. “It allows you to venture out into the Internet without the fear and to enjoy the freedom and sharing that the Internet allows. With that in mind, we felt that they had already taken that mental leap of avoiding that kind of negative advertising. Luckily, they were very open to fun, new ideas of how to tie their product into something that could be really entertaining and softly branded.”

Just like the actual Sim City itself, Cohn says that SafetyTown will undergo expansion as the campaign develops. “There will be road signs where, instead of just being a movie theater, now you can go down Main Street and peruse all different kinds of shops—an arcade, we can build a sneaker store, each one housing some kind of unique content that would correspond to any number of the client’s marketing goals. We really wanted to grow this thing out, but at the same time we didn’t want to give people so much information at one time that it would be too much to digest.”

Having been given 100% creative control by the Symantec powers that be, Night Agency came through in spades, creating a promotion that’s easy to swallow and immerse yourself in. “The creative idea was to come up with a sort of utopian physical town that you could navigate through online with this intuitive interface—if you see a door, you click on it, if you see people, you click on them,” Cohn concludes. “We wanted an interactive micro-site, we wanted a viral video series, and some kind of interactivity and some kind of games and sweepstakes. So, instead of doing all of those as piecemeal initiatives, we came up with the idea of SafetyTown which would house all of those initiatives simultaneously and, hopefully, seamlessly.”

Who said virus protection can’t be fun?

Take a ride through SafetyTown at


  1. The Safeytown Theater is such a neat concept! It’s really fun, but I wish the “movies” were shorter & tighter. A little more editing will go a long way to making the plot more compelling so people want to come back.


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