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How Marketers Pulled Off That Flying People Over New York City Stunt

The premise of the upcoming movie Chronicle may seem dubious – teenagers self-record their struggles with emerging superpowers and raging hormones – but at least the buildup has been entertaining.

Last week, New Yorkers reported seeing a group of people flying through the air above the Hudson River. The humanoid flock's silent dives and lazy loop-de-loops entranced bystanders and, this being New York City, probably motivated at least one yahoo to aim a laser pointer at their eyes. The squadron buzzed the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty for three days, although the action stopped once when one plunged into the river and had to be extracted by the harbor patrol.

It's rare for New Yorkers to bite into a snazzy public-art project that isn't hiding a marketing hook, and this was indeed no innocent spectacle. It's a stunt with remote-controlled airplanes engineered by Thinkmodo, the ad agency behind last year's fake Times Square billboard-hacking video. The airborne bros were a riff on Chronicle's scowling superheroes, whom you can see for yourself when the film opens Feb. 3.

Here's Thinkmodo's Michael Krivicka explaining the unusual campaign:

“Since the three main characters of the movie have the ability to fly, we came up with the idea of staging a few 'flying people' sightings around NYC. We achieved that illusion by having 3 custom-made aircraft (which were shaped like human beings) fly above designated areas in NYC and NJ.”

The agency says it is planning to launch more flights in the days ahead. That opens up a question for all you New Yorkers out there: Are you going to let advertisers rule the city skies with a fleet of panic-inducing flying people, or are you going to fight back?

Turns out that for a mere $345, you can buy your own anatomical aircraft from RC Superhero (plane not included). This amazing device, made of laser-cut foam and carbon-fiber fabric, is “[s]table yet aerobatic” and “takes off by being thrown... and lands on his belly skids.”

So get out there and wage war against these viral marketers trying to take over your city, New York. Let's see the sky ablaze with dozens of dog-fighting flying people – viva la revolución!

John Metcalfe is a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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