Michael Corcoran, the head of social & content at the Dublin-based agency eightytwenty, has outed himself as the person behind the @Official_Rule 40 account on Twitter, a parody Twitter bot that was set up to provide “automated alerts for infringement of Rio 2016 guidelines”.
The fake #Riobot (@Official_Rule40) was set up to reply to anyone who used any Olympic-related terms or hashtags including #Rio2016, serving Twitter accounts with a generic message warning them that they were in violation of Olympics (terms).
Tens of millions of people globally are estimated to have seen the #RioBot in action as the activity gained significant momentum in the first few hours. Within just 24 hours, however, Twitter suspended the account, but the momentum continued to grow.
Commenting on the success of the #RioBot, Head of Social & Content Michael Corcoran said: “This was by no means heavily planned and tactics were agile, I spotted an opportunity and I rode the wave. Social media at its best! I fully expected to be shut down quickly, ironically I was infringing on International Olympic Committee copyright using the official logo while creating RioBot, but that was key to the execution at first glance to make it look authentic.
“Rule 40 has caused frustration for many (including myself) working within the industry, facing missed opportunities for brands to activate around the games. I always enjoy a creative challenge, but no mention of medals, podiums, sports, summer, any of the countries, team or athletes has made it nigh on impossible to create compelling work. On a much more important level, understanding the work that the athletes put in (often on a shoestring budget) for four years to prepare themselves for what can be the biggest day of their lives, this rule seems particularly unfair,” he says.
The #RioBot envisioned targeting brands with a generic tweet to warn of their violation, but through an initial Twitter keyword search of #Rio2016 protected terms, Corcoran discovered the top Tweet listed was in fact a good luck message from his holiness, The Pope. In his own words an opportunity “that could not be resisted”.
The Tweet to the Pope (@Pontifex) was only the beginning of the bot’s (@Official_Rule40) activity. Similar responses to other notable brands and figures drove conversations and reached an estimated 10.2m people to date, with over 190,000 profile views. Third party Twitter accounts wanted in on the action too, he says. One account, @andrewteman, shared a Tweet with a screengrab of #RioBot’s response to the Pope and it reached an estimated 4.2m people.
In the 24hrs the bot live it tweeted a total 47 times to a mix of businesses, personalities, and brands, some of which deleted their original infringement post and sent an apology Tweet. One of these included US Senator Ted Cruz who immediately deleted the tweet after receiving the notification.
The story continued to spread eventually reaching online media globally. The account (@Official_Rule40) to date is still suspended but the purpose of the idea lives on with many still debating USOC & IOC guidelines as a whole.