Cannes Lions

Dark Web

WIEDEN+KENNEDY, Portland / SOYLENT / 2017

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Case Film

Overview

Entries

Credits

Overview

Description

Soylent is a tech company that makes a food which can only be bought online. Our idea was to take the notion of buying Soylent online to an extreme, to provoke the product’s most hard-core fans.

Soy Route is a dark web marketplace where Soylent sells special and obscure Soylent products. These products include the original recipe of Soylent, life-size Soylent bottles, and flavors of Soylent Drink that have yet to be released to the public.

The site draws inspiration from illicit marketplaces on the dark web. Holding to the requirements and custom of this dark part of the Internet, the site is only accessible with a special browser and products may only be purchased with Bitcoin. Stealth packages that looked like charcoal briquettes and potato chips were sent to customers but actually contained the rare Soylent products they had ordered.

Execution

We built a Soylent-branded dark web marketplace that looks, feels, and functions like the illicit anonymous marketplaces the dark web is known for. Soy Route is an anonymized Tor service that you have to visit using a compatible browser, and it only accepts Bitcoin. Since Tor services typically have randomly generated names, we used brute-force cryptography techniques to generate a branded URL for the site. Dark web users often disable JavaScript for privacy’s sake, so we didn’t use it and instead embraced the lo-fi, old-school design typical of the dark web.

The site launched via a cryptic email to a few thousand of Soylent’s oldest and most loyal fans—beta testers and participants in the original crowdfunding campaign. The site sparked furious speculation on Reddit, in press, and elsewhere on the web.

Outcome

Although Soy Route was only sent to a small cohort of loyal fans, we knew that those fans were the most vocal supporters of Soylent online. As such, while initial reach was intentionally limited, our earned reach was immediate and significant, with Soy Route quickly becoming the most talked about topic on Soylent’s Subreddit, /r/Soylent, for days. Over the past month, as Soy Route merchandise has arrived to its buyers, Imgur, Reddit, Discourse, and Twitter have all seen daily conversation about Soy Route and Soy Route products.

We set out to sell some funny stuff on the dark web and to strengthen the connection between Soylent and their core customer, and we succeeded. In one day, we sold over 90% of all merchandise on the dark web and elicited the most positive user sentiment (in reaction to a marketing effort) that Soylent has ever seen.