A hoax website set up for UK skin cancer charity Skcin, promising people regular tans from their computer using special technology, has attracted 30,000 hits in the first 24 hours.

Brand Republic reports that McCann Erickson launched the campaign on behalf of Skcin to raise awareness of the growing threat of skin cancer.

The agency, in collaboration with the charity, launched a fake company called ComputerTan, offering people the chance to get regular top-up tans from the comfort of their office desk using ‘revolutionary new technology’.

The fake website allows people to switch on what they expect to be a free tanning session but once the screen has converted to an array of UV bulbs, users are confronted with shocking images and facts about skin cancer as well as a link to Skcin’s website for more information.

McCann Erickson claims to be on track to reach 100,000 hits by the end of the first week and aims to reach one million over the course of the two-week campaign.

“This campaign was designed to engage those most at risk of developing skin disease and those most difficult to talk to via conventional advertising. The fact that so many people fell for the ComputerTan hoax demonstrates the frightening truth that getting a tan – regardless of the risk – is still appealing for many people,” says Simon Hill, new business director at McCann Erickson.

The strategy, developed with viral marketing agency Rubber Republic, included online seeding of the film on hundreds of sites and persuading influential bloggers to join in the hoax.