"Debonairs Pizza's intention this year was to join the conversation during Halloween in a way that would capture people's imaginations and, in a quirky way, raise the profile of our delivery service," says Toni Joubert, marketing executive at Debonaires. 

"FCB Joburg's team responded with '#HeadlessMan', a campaign comprising of guerilla-style content and appearances to generate hype around the hashtag '#HeadlessMan'. It was perfect," Joubert adds.

The team behind the campaign included: 
  • creative directors Mbeu Snooze Kambuwa and Stefan Schutte
  • copywriters Mbeu Snooze Kambuwa and Stefan Schutte
  • the production team at FCB Joburg (Marvin Mpanda, Lance van Rensburg, Nkateko Minyuku and Wakhile Sithole)
The team worked closely with costume design professionals to create a HeadlessMan costume with a 'skrik' appeal. The team then shot short pieces of content that were made to feel like authentic CCTV footage, dash-cam footage or cell phone recordings.

These were leaked through micro-influencers, with absolutely no attachment to the Debonairs Pizza brand, which made the content more authentic and shareable, so that it could potentially go viral semi-organically.

The first of these 'sightings' were leaked by Dr. Malinga and started trending across the country, driving the hashtag '#HeadlessMan'. Other influencers helped fuel the fire over the next few days by posting more sightings videos.

These gripped the country's imagination with 'Dr. Malinga's Headless Man' making newspaper headlines and a spontaneous '#HeadlessManChallenge' soon dominating the Twitter feed.

"'#HeadlessMan' trended for five consecutive days across the country. We couldn't have asked for a more engaged and exciting response," says Joubert. An additional twist to the campaign was that, on the evening of Halloween, the '#Headlessman' delivered pizzas to a number of unsuspecting customers who had ordered online or called in.

Furthermore, Debonairs Pizza released a one-minute reveal on its social media channels. "The '#HeadlessMan' stunt was about hi-jacking Halloween and increasing brand love by creating a series of spooky Headless Man sightings that would get tongues wagging on Twitter," says Kambuwa.

"Obviously, the reveal was a vital component of the campaign. It had to ensure that all who saw it realised that '#HeadlessMan' was a stunt done by Debonairs Pizza in the fun spirit of Halloween," Kambuwa adds.

"All phases of the campaign worked very well. Our influencers were notching up 120 000 or more impressions as individuals during the 'tease' phase and, by the end of the campaign, we had achieved 3.3 million potential impressions with a potential reach of 866 000-plus. It's a really satisfying feeling," says Kambuwa.

"Overall, it was a unique marketing stunt with minimal production costs, and minimal spend on paid media to promote it," he concludes. 

For more information, visit www.fcb.co.za.