Cryptic Clues about UCLA’s Internet Celebration

Did you know that the first Internet message was sent by professor Leonard Kleinrock of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science at UCLA 40 years ago? Many people think the Internet was created at MIT, but it was the communications team’s job at UCLA to inform you otherwise. In order to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Internet and talk about the real-world impact that some of the discoveries and research work from UCLA have, the university proposed a $100,000 budget for advertising and promotion. Instead, they got $9,500 total.

Although the creation of the Internet is obviously impressive, it is also noteworthy that the team at UCLA was able to craft and execute such a creative campaign in two months and with a budget that was slashed by 90 percent.

Below are some of the components of the campaign:

  • A countdown clock was posted on the main page of the university’s website with no description of what it was counting down to. When visitors clicked on the clock, cryptic clues would appear hinting at what was going on. When the clock hit zero, the website page began to flicker and appeared to crash to the ground with a balloon featuring the letters “LO” floating upwards, a simulation of the crash that occurred when Dr. Kleinrock attempted to type “LOGIN” in his first Internet message. A link then sent readers to an article about the anniversary.
  • Cryptic clues about the anniversary were also disseminated on Facebook with a #ucla40 tag that led people to guess what could possibly be going on. Social media was also used to promote videos of Dr. Kleinrock explaining the process of sending the first information over the Internet to UCLA’s 55,000 Facebook fans, 5,500 Twitter followers and 6,500 YouTube subscribers.
  • Traditional media was also used as a component to the plan. The UCLA team bought an ad in the school newspaper, pitched an online story in the university magazine, and bought online banner ads in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, which led to approximately 160,000 impressions on the event website.
  • The eight-hour main event was live streamed on UCLA’s website, Ustream and Facebook accounts. More than 50,000 viewers tuned in and communicators encouraged speakers at the conference to ask their Twitter followers to send in questions to be answered live.

What would you have done with $9,500 and the task of promoting the 40th anniversary of the first Internet message? Click here to read the full article by Matt Wilson at

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