Bruno Mars Concert Hoax
February 17-23, 2011
The seed of the idea of what would become the Bruno Mars concert hoax was originally conceptualized during my spring quarter of my sophomore year at UCSB, when I was a student in "ART 7D: Art. Science and Technology." Students were tasked with either creating a system or hacking a system. I chose to "hack" a system. In this case, the target would be UCSB's Associated Student's Program Board and the witnesses would be the entire student body. As a fledgling artist with enough name recognition at the time to ignite anticipation but not so much as to arouse suspicion, as well as a couple hits on mainstream radio, nonthreatening broad appeal, and a recent Grammy winner, Bruno Mars was the perfect candidate for the campaign.
The goal of the project was to explore the concept of memetics. A meme, according to Webster's Dictionary, is "an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture." Richard Dawkins coined the term "meme" in his book 1976 book "The Selfish Gene" as a way way of explaining how cultural information spread.
My goal for this project was to "hack" a group by infecting it with a virulent meme.
The first step was to create the flyer for the event. After studying the template of previous ASPB event flyers, I created the posted based on the cover of Bruno Mars' "Doo-Wops & Hooligans" while maintaining aesthetics, logos, and formatting consistent with past ASPB event promotional materials. I also listed rapper B.O.B., a collaborator of Mars' on a previous song called "Nothin' on You" as a guest artist. I printed out 40 high gloss flyers at the campus print shop and posted two on every designated posting area on campus, left spare flyers out on public areas such as the University Center, posted them in lecture halls (including Campbell Hall, the largest lecture hall on campus with a 600+ student capacity), near fraternity houses, and near the advertised venue.
Immediately after posting the flyers, I created a fake Associated Students Facebook account. I also made a fake student profile using royalty free stock images of a teenage actress. I used that profile to friend several UCSB students on Facebook and then invite them to the event. The event page went live February 17, 2011. With the fake student account, I began inviting UCSB students to the event. My hope was that creating the page on Thursday would delay any action from Associated Students who would not be active during the weekend. Making the "concert" on Tuesday, it would create anticipation and would encourage the sharing of the event among students. The more it was shared, the better concealed the initial source of the event invites would be. In total, I invited over 100 students initially, making sure to invite friends who followed the real Associated Students as they would be less likely to be suspicious of the event.
One way of monitoring the progress of the event was by keeping track of the amount of people invited to the event, the amount of people who RSVP'd "Attending" or "Maybe," and all mentions of the keywords "UCSB" and "Bruno Mars" on Facebook.
Throughout the weekend, the numbers began to rise. By Friday night, the event page had reached the triple digits, and close to 800 people had been invited by their peers to the event. By Sunday morning, the page had reached 355 "Attending" users. By Monday morning, the page had 540 people who had RSVP'd as "Attending", over 90 RSVP'd as "Maybe," and over 703 invited people.
At midnight, Associated Students put out their first announcement that the event was a hoax. However, due to the time of the posting, it received only two likes and was not shared among any UCSB students. By late noon on Tuesday, the event reached its peak number of attending RSVP's of 673 attending, 117 possibly attending, 256 not attending, and 661 people invited but not RSVP'd, bringing the total of people reached to 1,707. AS Program Board sent out three separate announcements through its Twitter account clarifying that the event was fake. At this point, I decided to shut the site down and notify everyone on the Facebook event that this was a hoax.
Through the duration of the project, I received angry, even physically threatening comments, from some actual Program Board staffers. After the conclusion of the event, I was interviewed by The Bottom Line, one of the campus newspapers., regarding the hoax. More information on student reactions and implementation can be read about here.
- Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1989. Print.
- Kim, Yunji. UCSB Associated Students "Threatens" Bruno Mars Concert Hoax Event Creator. The Bottom Line, 28 February 2011. <https://thebottomline.as.ucsb.edu/2011/02/ucsb-associated-students-threaten-bruno-mars-concert-hoax-event-creator>