‘Visit Eroda’ is a tourism campaign for an island that doesn’t exist. So, what’s the deal?
Eroda is gunning for new tourists. It has its own campaign, website, social media presence (with 24,000 followers and counting on Twitter), and broad reaching advertisements. It even has its own tagline: ‘No Land Quite Like It’.
But there are a few odd things about Eroda.
— visiteroda (@visiteroda) November 23, 2019
None of the activities on the website can be bought, and their descriptions are absolutely bonkers.
One pub on the island tells travellers to “appease the Celtic water spirit Shenandoah”. Another warns them not to “mention a pig in the pub”. Tourists travelling on the ferry are advised not to leave Eroda “on odd-numbered days”.
It’s website, however, is even stranger. For starters, Travel Weekly found that its dated copyright is 2004, but the domain was registered last year. The website also posts advertisements that are served locally, which point back to the Eroda homepage.
Many if not all the pictures used on the website can be found on stock image databases, as well. While the map of Eroda was apparently generated in Inkarnate, a fantasy map drawing website, according to Waxy.
— visiteroda (@visiteroda) November 26, 2019
So, it doesn’t exist. Big deal. It’s just a prankster’s effort at a tourism campaign, right? Wrong.
The Eroda site is more than just an internet prank. The site is actively running many advertisements across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and even Spotify. The domain name is also registered to markmonitor.com, a third-party domain management company that hides the identity of a site’s real owners.
This shows that whoever owns the site is well-resourced and does not want to be known.
But one truly bonkers theory finally seems to have proven the truth behind the ploy: Eroda is a marketing tool for Harry Styles’ upcoming album.
When internet users, journalists and techies across the web finally linked the dots, several points backed up this claim, as reported by Waxy. But any of them could have been written off as coincidence.
Until Monday evening (local time), when Ryan J, US-based executive producer of music magazine Down In The Pit, received a Visit Eroda ad on Facebook. He noticed that Facebook reported that the ad was served to him because he had visited Harry Styles’ official website.
I verified a connection between @visiteroda and @Harry_Styles. The Eroda page is using a facebook pixel installed on https://t.co/XK9IFAYNta. You can only track websites you have control of. They are related. https://t.co/ErTBpgURT6 #VisitEroda
— Ryan J (@ryannoyance) November 25, 2019
This confirmed both that the Eroda team is targeting Harry Styles fans, and that the former One Direction member’s official homepage and Visit Eroda are managed by the same people, as advertisers can only target Facebook ads to sites that have the Facebook Pixel tracker installed.
Despite all its efforts at secrecy, the marketing agency behind the viral campaign was undone by Facebook’s ad transparency tools – all the while amassing a following on social media and generating conversation for it.
For all the Erodians that saw the breaking news on Channel 2 today, we will be taking in the North African Jewel-Coat fish that are looking for a new home. Volunteers will be needed. pic.twitter.com/i5jDueS0qW
— visiteroda (@visiteroda) November 24, 2019