Ivar’s Undersea Billboards Hoax


By The Denver Egotist / /

A fantastic piece of viral marketing has revealed itself from under the Puget Sound off of Seattle this week. It seems Ivar’s Seafood Restaurant in Seattle crafted a story that its founder anchored billboards advertising the restaurant’s clam chowder beneath the ocean back in the mid-1950s – in anticipation of people one day traveling by submarine and seeing them. The restaurant and its ad agency, Heckler Associates, Seattle, then planted the story with the news that they were going to haul these billboards up for everyone to see. (Billboards they had planted weeks earlier in the Puget Sound.)

An ad campaign ran alongside the news stories touting that Ivar’s would roll back its chowder pricing to 1950s rates to celebrate the occasion and underwater discovery. They even had Paul Dorpat, a respected Seattle historian and first vice president of HistoryLink.org, giving legitimacy to the fake billboards even though he knew otherwise.

In September, when the campaign broke, sales of clam chowder more than quadrupled when compared to September 2008 – from 19,000 cups to 83,000 cups.

Damn, that’s genius. Welcome to advertising in 2010.

Quietglover posted these great videos that document the full story.

Thanks, Brad


  1. Paul Suggett

    Paul Suggett November 18, 2009

    THAT is all kinds of awesome.

    THAT is all kinds of awesome. I love it.

  2. Josh November 18, 2009

    Good stuff for sure with

    Good stuff for sure with tremendous results. But if humans have been conditioned over time to not trust a funny little :30 spot, stuff like this will breed massive distrust, lightening fast.

  3. Dan Barron November 18, 2009

    Yes, cool, but…

    Yes, cool, but…
    2 questions:
    Which had more to do with the quadrupled chowder sales, the advertising or the rollback to ’50s prices?
    And if the agency lied about the undersea billboards, how sure are we about the quadrupled sales anyway?
    Just wondrin’.

  4. Grant November 18, 2009

    I don’t understand how anyone

    I don’t understand how anyone can condone lying to the public to improve sales. Sure its only clam chowder, but don’t you think this will lead to greater and greater manipulations of the public and media? I guess I don’t get what is so great about this sort of “advertising”

  5. adam November 18, 2009

    no kidding. Fun concept but I

    no kidding. Fun concept but I was just thinking, “man, Paul Dorpat just flushed his credibility down the toilet.”

  6. Jessie Birks November 18, 2009

    Very creative. But this kind

    Very creative. But this kind of thing should be saved for April 1st.

  7. Lifter Baron November 18, 2009

    I think that you humans are

    I think that you humans are missing the point. First, Advertising is lying. Second, Advertising is unnecessary if you have a good brand.

    It is the 21st century and we don’t need pop ups on Youtube players or shitty commercials for Weedz in between our shows or anti-abortion billboards all over our buses. Its lazy and inappropriate for this day and age. Providing a genuine and beneficial service to the community will do it on its own. Everything else is less than important. Save your ad dollars and buy solar panels or get better meat in your store. BOOM.

  8. huthbot November 19, 2009

    I know its a drop in the

    I know its a drop in the bucket but Puget sound faces enough environmental impact being one of the largest shipping ports in the world without having some “genius” advertising ploy crapping tons of viral marketing into it’s waters. Even if only temporary those signs looked hand painted and faux-aged with god knows what, that seeped into Elliot Bay so that Iver’s could sell a few more bowls of clam chowder. Best part for me is that most of the time the toxin levels of the Puget sound are so high you can’t even eat the muscles farmed there, Iver’s has to import all their chowder clams from Canada. But if you are in Seattle Iver’s on lake Union is a sweet spot for happy hour.

  9. Nathan Hartswick | Asgood & Better November 19, 2009

    Wow, a lot of hatin’ going on

    Wow, a lot of hatin’ going on here. While I can understand the points people are making – outright lying to the public undermines credibility, better products/services are the best advertising, etc. – such is the nature of a hoax. The fact is it was a solid concept, they executed it well and it seemed to have an impact, so from an advertising perspective, this was a success (assuming, as Josh notes, they are telling the truth about the results). Personally I think it’s inspired out-of-the-box thinking that deserves a chuckle and a pat on the back.

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