Brands understandably want their work to ‘go viral’ – to be widely shared, to trend on Twitter and Facebook, to generate multiple Buzzfeed articles deconstructing the finer points of their work. This is the sort of work that enters everyday conversation, and is referenced and parodied endlessly online. People actually look for this sort of advertising, rather than swear at it when it interrupts Coronation Street. The John Lewis Christmas ad is a good example of this – it’s everywhere. In fact it’s probably already getting a tad annoying. There are already several parodies – featuring Darth Vader, Adolf Hitler and women undressing.
The party line on this sort of thing is usually something along the lines of ‘you can’t make something like the John Lewis ad go viral. You just have to do stand out, excellent work and people will be the judge of it.’ Which is true, to an extent.
Another thought is that work can be made highly contagious. This sort of work tempts you to play with it, parody it, or pass it on.
Take the Canadian rapper Drake. His ‘Hotline Bling’ video has been parodied within an inch of its life. The fact that Drake has broken the internet is not an accident though. As the New York Times noted, online fandom is about ‘interaction, recontextualization, disrupted owenership and cheek’. Drake’s video is designed with this in mind – it’s a series of simple GIF long segments set against a simple background which seduces users into messing it all up. ‘In essence, he’s making a GIF of himself, anticipating what will inevitably happen to him online.’
Another example of this highly contagious content was ‘First Kiss’ from Wren Studios. This spawned loads of parodies, but it’s easy to see why. The concept is brutally simple, as is the visual execution. It’s stripped back, black and white, easily mimicked even with the worst of iPhone film making skills. The same is true of the now infamous ‘Beach Body Ready’ from Protein World.
The above examples are attention grabbing. But they’re also deliberately geared to be easily mimicked, mixed up and parodied. It’s impossible to ‘make it go viral’ – but we can at least make it highly contagious.