"Let's do a viral video!" Ahhh!!! Coming up with truly remarkable content for a "wildly successful" viral video initiative can be hard. Especially if the client is expecting view numbers in the stratosphere. I mean, how many viral video campaigns have ever honestly crossed over into the mainstream - like really taken off outside of the industry and a niche audience? Smirnoff's Raw Tea Partay....and...ummm...BudTV's Swear Jar.... and not many others come to mind. Every once in awhile something created by marketers goes nuts, (and I start getting 5MB video attachments from assclowns who don't understand YouTube), but those are the exception - a REALLY BIG exception - and not the rule.
So, what if we (as marketers) stopped focusing so much energy on creating the next cool thing from scratch, and started thinking about jumping on board with things that already rock? Let's look at two of the most popular(?) videos making the rounds in the past few months. The first is Tay Zonday, a 20-something kid with the voice of Barry White singing his own original work "Chocolate Rain", and the second is the Miss Teen South Carolina
answering totally fucking up a question at this past weekend's Miss Teen USA pagent. The former has racked up over 7 million views in 4 months, the latter nearly 3 million in 48 hours.
Ok, now that you've watched them both you're having the same thoughts I did. Thoughts like, "I'm a little stupider for having watched those" or "That's six minutes of my life I'll never get back." But, for those numbers a marketer would put Tay Zonday in a dress and have him sing Miss South Carolina's psycho babble while drinking Smirnoff's Raw Tea and putting money in a Swear Jar.
Bottom line - how can marketers capitalize on these internet phenomenas? By acting fast, that's how. In the weeks that followed Tay Zonday's rise, he was on Jimmy Kimmel, Best Week Ever and more, and the song was covered by luminaries from John Mayer to McGruff the Crime Dog to someone dressed as Darth Vader. You can't tell me that for $500,000 the kid wouldn't have signed a contract to wear a cool [insert big corporation here] shirt to every gig. (And Miss South Carolina could certainly shill for some learning company or an anti-psychotic drug manufacturer!) I believe that there is a market to tap these people in their 10 minutes of fame, and to "help" them monetize what would otherwise be a free trip to NYC to be on Jimmy Kimmel and a short Wikipedia entry. If a company was nimble enough they could even grab these people for 2-week flash television commercials... the possibilities are endless if you know when to get in, and out, of one of these fads.
BMW has already proven this can work - remember the repurposed Nintendo 64 Scream Kids commercial? And frankly, I'm surprised that more companies haven't jumped on this bandwagon. Some may view this as the ultimate perversion of consumer generated content - but I think it may be the natural progression of the commercialization of every type of media we interact with.