Phil Predicts Early Spring; We Predict Laughs When You Watch His Promo Campaign

We look back at the hilarious viral campaign launched in 2005 to promote Groundhog Day. We know you'll enjoy watching!

By now you've probably heard: up in Gobblers Knob this morning, Punxsutawney Phil predicted we're going to have an early spring to the cheers of a crowd of tens of thousands of fans. While lots of people look forward to Phil's actual prognostication with great anticipation, I remember the year that a promotion for the event was the thing I couldn't wait to see.

It was 2005. My son JT was five. In the weeks leading up to Groundhog Day, the Pennsylvania Tourism Bureau launched a (relatively) low-budget series of videos, reminding people that the big day was fast approaching. Each week, they'd release a new installment of the on-line campaign "Groundhog Chase." It featured one guy dressed in a groundhog costume (the "groundhog") chasing another guy in a black groundhog costume (the "shadow"). Get it? Will the groundhog "catch" the shadow, meaning another six weeks of winter, or will the shadow escape and bring an early spring? It was shot in Philadelphia by the Red Tettemer agency , generically enough that it could have been Pittsburgh (watch the "Stairs" installment to see what I mean).

The campaign went viral. JT and I -- and lots of other people couldn't wait for the e-mail each week that announced a new episode was ready. We watched it over and over and laughed 'till we cried. If you want a real belly laugh, you can watch them all at the bottom of this story (I think I have them in the original order of release).

The campaign was so successful the tourism folks tried it again in 2006, but found it hard to top the previous year. "Ground Hog 202," a spoof of the film "The Shining" was considered not as entertaining according to Ad Week ., and as one blogger reported , it was "lamed" by a server crash. " Groundhog Crossing " (2007) had the groundhog fleeing across the country, afraid of the backlash if that would happen if he predicted six more weeks of winter. "Groundhog Duel" (2008) had the groundhogs, well, dueling (violently), and " Groundhog Dreams " (2009) had the groundhog in a hospital bed from an unfortunate accident the previous year, suffering from nightmares as he tried to recover in time for his big day.

Steve Red, chief creative officer at Red Tettemer told the New York Times in 2009 "every year we develop the characters of Groundhog and Shadow a little more" and likened their relationship as "Road Runner vs. Coyote" or Mad Magazine's "Spy vs. Spy."

All of the campaigns were highly creative, and created the "buzz" that that Tourism Bureau was looking for. But all I know is that, for me and JT nothing will top that first year, and the fun a little boy and his mom had watching, and laughing, together.

Here are links to the Groundhog Chase series, in order of original release (I hope):

  1. Groundhog Chase: The Chase (intro)
  2. Groundhog Chase: The Expedition (bathroom)
  3. Groundhog Chase: The Quest (stairs)
  4. Groundhog Chase: The Hunt (subway)
  5. Groundhog Chase: The Pursuit (laundry)
  6. Groundhog Chase: The Rundown (green door)
  7. Groundhog Chase: The Search (nuns)
  8. Groundhog Chase: The Stand (the last one -- this one was released after Groundhog Day)

Watch all of the Red Tettemer Groundhog viral campaigns by clicking here .

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