This Halloween, Take This Lollipop

October 21, 2011

Just in time for Halloween, there’s a new viral sensation making the rounds on the social web that may be one of the most surprising and unexpected uses of Facebook Connect yet. You may have seen posts in your news feed encouraging you to “Take This Lollipop,” describing it as an “Interactive Live Action Facebook Connect experience.” If you have a thick skin, like a good scare, and haven’t clicked on it yet, you should.

Don’t worry – it’s not a throwback to the days when your friends would send you a link to a photo you stared at, only to be freaked out and thrown out of your seat when a screaming zombie appeared. That’s old school. In an age where over 800 million people are active on Facebook, Take This Lollipop taps into collective fears about privacy and personal information in social networking on a much deeper level.

After clicking on the link from your feed, you are directed to a landing page where you can launch the app. The Facebook Connect logo appears, making it clear that the app will use your login and profile information if you provide access to it. There is also message reassuring you that none of your information will be stored, and nothing will be posted without your approval.

If you’re a fan of horror movies, you’ll get a familiar feeling as you are taken down a dark hallway where faint light emanates from a room. Distorted sounds and a broken soundtrack immediately create an unnerving atmosphere. As the camera enters the room, you see a malnourished and disheveled man at a desk.

His scarred face, damaged fingernails and aggressive look gives you the idea that he is clearly disturbed. Maybe you’re not yet scared, and when you see that he is on Facebook, you may feel a sense that this is probably going to be lame. That feeling of false security quickly fades as you see the profile he’s logging onto: it’s yours.

Feelings of dread overcome you and your attention is immediately gripped as you see him hovering over your profile, your posts, your photos and posts from your friends, and there’s nothing you can do about it. As he further trolls your profile, he grows unstable and desperate, unable to decide what to do next. Soon, he knows, and is back to typing: he’s looking up your address on Google maps. For a moment, he is eerily calm as he creepily caresses his screen. If you’re not disturbed yet, you will be: his head turns slowly toward you, revealing a delivish grin on his face.

Next, he appears in his car, driving furiously to your location. Cut scenes show him gripping his steering wheel in anger, at times even screaming and looking very dangerous. He finally arrives at his destination, and as he is shown exiting his car, the final scene shows the camera panning over to reveal your profile photo on his dashboard. Creepy. The app concludes and you are taken to a final screen. The ride is over.

After a few moments and once your heart is beating back to normal, you breathe a sigh of relief: it’s all just a trick, and you’re safe. There is no creepy cyberstalker on his way to pay you a visit. Most importantly, no one’s hacked your Facebook account, and all of the stuff you never wanted the world to see is still private. Or is it? Just kidding — it really is, I promise.

At the time of this writing, over 350,000 users have Liked Take This Lollipop, and Google News locates over 40 articles written about the website. Though who was behind it was a mystery at first, it was later determined to be the work of Los Angeles-based director and experienced digital marketer Jason Zada, the brain behind the highly successful “Elf Yourself” interactive campaign for Office Max.

Though Zada said in an interview with the New York Times that he is not promoting any product or brand, and he simply created Take This Lollipop to entertain and thrill, he has managed to capture the attention of hundreds of thousands of people. If nothing else, by letting his work speak for itself, he has found an intelligent way to further market himself and enhance his reputation as an interactive and experiential marketing expert.

Why it’s smart

  • Uses Facebook Connect integration for quick and easy login
  • Draws from a user’s Facebook profile and photos to create a compelling and personalized experience
  • No brand or product associated, leaving participants curious about its origin and motivations of the creator
  • Perfectly timed to release close to Halloween

Why it’s effective

  • Taps into collective and individual fears about privacy and information on social networks
  • Makes people feel vulnerable: it’s disturbing to see someone looking at our Facebook profile, one of the most personal digital properties anyone can have
  • Emotional impression haunts the viewer long after the interactive experience is over
  • The cinematography and production value is high, and Bill Oberst delivers a chilling performance as the cyberstalker

Facebook Privacy Settings and Previewing Your Profile

Have you tried the app? If so, I bet you’re feeling like now would be a great time to double-check your privacy settings, even if the cyberstalker in Take This Lollipop was shown as somehow having your password. If you haven’t looked them over in a while, the interface may be unfamiliar because it has recently changed.

In the new Privacy Settings area, you can select the audience that you want your posts to be visible to by default. You can make all of your new posts public, visible only to friends, or even keep certain lists of people from seeing them by selecting the custom option.

Also, from this area you can control how people find and connect with you, whether you want to enable others to tag you, and what applications and websites have access to your profile. For each item in each of the sections, you have extensive control over what you share publicly or with friends, and the level of access you wish to provide to apps, websites and features within Facebook.

You can also control what information from your profile is visible to the public and your friends. To do so, go to your profile page and click on the “Edit Profile” button in the top-right corner under the “Home” link. In the drop-down menus next to each item, you can select who can see that detail of information.

Once you’ve fine-tuned your privacy settings, you can preview your profile to see how it looks to others. On your profile page, simply click on the “View As” button next to the “Edit Profile” button.

You can type in the name of a friend or acquaintance you’re connected with, and see a preview of how your profile appears to them.

You an also click on the “public” link on the preview page to see how it looks to anyone who’s not on your friends list.

Though your profile is all set, you’re still not finished: you still have photos to secure. To control privacy settings for pictures, go to your Photos section and click on the button under the right corner of the thumbnail for a photo album. In the drop-down menu, select the audience you want to share its photos with.

Going through your privacy settings periodically is always a good idea. However, this only keeps people who aren’t on your friends list from seeing your personal information and content you wish to keep private. If someone has found a way to hack into your profile, everything will be available for view. Keeping passwords secure, electronic devices like phones and iPods safe, and logging out of Facebook on public computers is the best way to keep creepy guys in dark rooms from getting access to your account.

Have you taken the lollipop? Post your reaction in the comments – we want to know what you have to say.

About Jo Rogel

I’m an experienced digital marketing professional living in the Mile High City. From content management, production design and web development to social media marketing, SEO and paid advertising, I’ve enjoyed wearing many hats throughout my career. These experiences have enabled me to see the bigger picture and help companies and organizations develop marketing strategies that span across multiple platforms and integrate diverse practices efficiently and effectively. I'm an Account Lead at Room 214, and work with clients such as Vail Resorts, Udi's Gluten Free, Farm Fresh Direct, WhiteWave Foods and SolidFire. Previously I've worked as the Social Media Strategist for Gaiam, and as a consultant, my list of past clients includes 1% for the Planet, Guidespot, and Partners Relief and Development. In my spare time I love playing football (soccer), building my music collection and enjoying my records and turntables, watching good films and AMC shows, and traveling the world. Also, I have an unhealthy obsession with 20th century modern architecture, design and furniture. I've presented at Ignite Denver twice: first on how I used surveillance footage and Facebook to track down thieves who stole my wallet in 2010, and how to find mid-century modern furniture in Denver in 2011.

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