The Bristol Harbour Alien

Launching a new show from the producers of Derren Brown


A series of paranormal videos released on YouTube and alien events in Bristol, were later revealed to be part of an elaborate marketing stunt by UKTV’s entertainment channel, Watch.

Taylor Herring we asked to create a guerrilla campaign to launch to launch ‘The Happenings‘, an audacious new illusion series from the producers of Derren Brown.

What Happened

One week before the launch of the show Bristolians took to social media to report sightings of a 15ft, squid-like E.T. pulsing beneath the water in the city’s harbour.

Videos and images shot by stunned locals of the tentacled alien first appeared on Tuesday (Dec 3).

Within 48 hours, speculation about the creature’s identity reached fever pitch on Twitter, Facebook and social forums.

Over 3.5 Million Twitter impressions about the sightings were recorded in the first 3 days.

The sightings then drew debate among leading marine biologists.

Dr Steve Simpson, from the School of Biological Sciences at Bristol University, was quoted as saying “It’s very intriguing – I don’t really know what to make of it.”

Kerry McCarthy the Labour MP for Bristol East tweeted a picture of the extra terrestrial writing “In other news, a giant jellyfish/ squid/ alien has been spotted in Bristol harbour.”

Meanwhile BBC Bristol had called in the services of an expert from Bristol Aquarium to help explain the sightings on the local breakfast show.

Theories about the beast on Twitter ranged from ‘Freaky glowing squid’ to ‘giant jellyfish’ with one Tweeter describing the occurrence as ‘Close Encounters Of the Bristol Kind.’

And on YouTube, one video of a squid sighting reached over 200,000 views with commenters speculating it might be the work of legendary Bristol artist Banksy.

It was now time to reveal the truth behind the stunt.


 We had been running a 'Live Blog' on Watch’s website which was updated in real-time pulling in images, videos, tweets and media coverage.

A ‘Promoted Tweet’ campaign was bought against relevant hashtags e.g. #bristolalien

Once the stunt was revealed branded annotations were added to all the videos - all pointing at a promo video for the news series.

Footage from the live events in Bristol are being used in TV ad spots to promote the show.


Pre Reveal coverage highlights: Daily Mail, The Times, The Independent, Daily Star, Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, Huffington Post, AOL, Vice, Western Daily Press, Heart 96.3, Bristol Post and BBC Radio Bristol.

Post Reveal coverage highlights: Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Daily Star, Evening Standard, Huffington Post, MSN, Yahoo, The Drum and Orange News.

On the day we were the biggest story on the Daily Telegraph’s site.

There were over 6.5 Million Twitter impressions about the campaign recorded.

Over 2 million YouTube views of the various videos.

We estimated that an additional 750,000 views were been achieved on newspaper sites ‘own players’ e.g. Daily Telegraph, Mail Online and Mirror.

Traffic to the Watch website quadrupled with 88% new visitors logging on.

One of the most successful new series launches in the channel's history.

This Storify replays the events as they happened.