When Did Viruses Get To Be So Cool?

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

As of this morning, the above video had received 4,590,065 hits on YouTube. That's more than the sensational "Businessman Has Meltdown in Hotel Lobby" (not my title), or the super-hot super-catch by a ball girl in Fresno. I know what you're thinking — "Duh, girls in underpants are popular." That's true. They are. But girls in underpants who have the benefit of viral marketing are even more fun. (And that amazing catch in Fresno? Girl in a harness, and the whole thing was paid for by Gatorade.)

It's hard not to get the feeling that anyone can make a popular video — but the truth of the matter is, making something contagious takes a lot of thought — and a good strategy. Just ask the guys at 750 industries — a marketing firm that makes videos go viral. So, the question is — have you been laboring diligently to create your own Mentos masterpiece? And do you care if the video you love is a stealthy piece of advertising? (I don't. And I still really love those old-school Taster's Choice commercials. What's the difference?)

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Howdy--

This is one of my favorites:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1a_Z-ywTc4w

It's a staged police chase, with a bicyclist as the fugitive, designed to look as though it was shot from a news helicopter. It was created by Specialized Bicycles. Sure, I was disappointed when I realized it was a fake--but that didn't stop me from cueing it up at the local bike shop to get some reactions. While I don't like the mental pollution aspect of being manipulated into absorbing a marketing campaign, this feels slightly different. Specialized doesn't advertise their role; they've simply created an anti-hero to get people excited about cycling. If there's an end result, it could just as easily lead someone to get on a favorite old bike as run out and buy a shiny, new Specialized.
Happy Trails,
Ron Georg

Sent by Ron Georg | 3:23 PM | 6-30-2008

As I listened to this feature my predominant thought is..."people need to get a life". How depressing that this sort of thing is such a big part of people's life...especially when there are so many really important or worthwhile things to spend time doing

Sent by Art Spomer | 3:26 PM | 6-30-2008

I think it's important for advertisers to clearly identify the commercials as advertising. They know how to do that without losing the integrity of the brand.

It's bad enough that we have "News casters" who joke and make editorial comments during the newscast.

Advertising is a tricky thing. The advertising agency risks a lot to put their client's brand out there knowing that the message can quickly backfire and smear the brand. If I was a client, I'd make sure that the agency understood that they need to identify the vid as advertising.

Sent by Barbara Manning | 3:26 PM | 6-30-2008

I can't figure out how the word "viral" refers to videos. It just doesn't make sense, unless viewing them online causes your computer to get a virus.

How about calling them "advertising" videos, "entertainment" or "contrived" videos? But not "viral" videos -- viruses are not fun.

Sent by J T R | 3:36 PM | 6-30-2008

If an awesome/bizarre/funny/grotesque/stupid video on the net is unmasked as a viral hoax, it loses its rights to those adjectives. The line between reality and illusion is harder to see with every advance in digital image manipulation technology, but it's there and it forms an integral psychological component to the net video (and every other media) experience - there are different expectations for reality and for fiction. This is why people get in trouble for fixing sports events and writing fake memoirs. So if a net video turns out to be a marketing hoax, it is stripped of any impact it might have had on viewers because the viewers are not just watching the image, they are making connections to the world and society. That's what makes it funny or disturbing or cool, and those connections are severed when a video turns out to be staged. When I watch a (real) CCTV clip of some office worker going berserk in his cubicle, I am drawn to it because somewhere in the world, a real human being lost control of himself and went insane. It raises all sorts of questions about him, his workplace, his family, and ultimately, about the modern world. Why would I care if some guy staged and filmed an office freakout to promote a new brand of post-it notes?

Sent by Dmitri Sled | 6:36 PM | 6-30-2008

I was on hold today but they ran out of time. *See my profound very real, not fake 'non-viral' YouTube "Solar Prophet" video of 6.5 minutes that I have spoke about on TOTN many times as it is a Cosmic-educational-undeniable. It includes real factual documented TV news on the end that changed many peoples lives instantly; a student docudrama film that I worked with college students on, is so compelling as the most powerful thing in life we know which we allowed thousands of the general public to observe on the sidewalks across America and Canada that they have never seen- to look directly at the sun and actually see the powerful dynamic surface of the suns activity and energy live through the telescope (*Link below) Actually so extremely the opposite of what the banal and useless base general viral videos are on the YouTube venue as discussed today. As The Outer Limits TV show of the 60's stated at its weekly intro: "There is nothing wrong with your computer screen" >

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=IYYPnsKzrfw

I am, however grateful, that I have had the honor to talk on the show to Neal Conan many times and that I was the opening caller several times to set the discussion tone on subjects of my technical space art that has wowed the world in NASA websites (Simon Shama- The Power of Art- Dec 20th 2006) My sidewalk astronomy as fame. The 10,000 mile sidewalk astronomy solo road trip I made as the discussion on the Andy Warhol line -- The 16th Minute of Fame- March 14th 2005) and several other times- Just again 2 weeks ago about Productive Procrastination as a procrastinating artist (June 12th 2008.)

If only Youtube required that the public attain some level of excellence to share something so effective with a public visual information venue like this. Not that a guy showing his girlfriend dressing is not real, but why? He cannot write an effective story and adapt it to film? How much further must we lower our mentality to show any measurable value of useful visual information and call it entertainment? No wonder most of the Youtube venue is fast becoming so viral. -Mark

Sent by Mark Seibold | 7:54 PM | 6-30-2008

I'd like to hear an interview with people who work for companies that create smear campaigns as the one caller indicated that he does. We all know that these are created "somewhere" by "someone". But I'd like to hear them explain their work and the obvious ethical questions. And how do they keep from personally becoming cynical?

Sent by Steven D. Stewart | 1:07 AM | 7-1-2008