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“Learn for Life” ad goes viral: Can real orgs learn from hoax? February 6, 2014

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A new public service announcement is going viral. The ad released in January shows two teen couples skipping school and heading for the beach. They drink, remove most of their clothes, and frolic in the sand. Then, suddenly and surprisingly, one of the girls steps on a landmine and blows up. The rest of the group goes in the same bloody, gory manner. At the end of the commercial, a warning flashes, “This is what happens when you slack off. Stay in school.” The ad was apparently created for the Learn for Life Foundation of Western Australia, a non-profit organization. In reality, the ad is a hoax created by filmmaking duo Henry Inglis and Aaron McCann. The two used the opportunity to create something unsettling-but-funny to promote their work. The public took the bait.

What’s most interesting about this ad is its viral potential. In almost a week alone, it received over 13 million views on YouTube. As some critics pointed out, it mastered B-movie horror comedy in ways that clearly registered with some, and horrified others. But it did the trick, and there’s obviously something to be learned from this genre of hoax ads.

To see the ad yourself, watch it here:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What are the characteristics of viral videos?

2.  How did the video above contain those characteristics?

3.  What can other organizations learn from the “Learn for Life” hoax campaign?

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“Evil baby” prankvertising goes viral January 26, 2014

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Prankvertising is a new trend in the ad world, often scaring the bejesus out of unknowing citizens going about their days all for the sake of entertainment. The latest viral example of the genre is a promotion for horror film Devil’s Due featuring a remote controlled baby carriage holding an ugly devil baby. The prank had the carriage sitting in public, baiting people passing by to take a peek just as a baby popped up with a frightful scream. For those unwilling to peek, the baby would pop up, projectile vomit, and get closer as the carriage was moved from a distance.

Sounds funny, eh? Not to everyone. Some critics fear that the high profile stunts are raising the stakes on what kind of prank will get passed around online. In the meantime, unwilling participants are dragged into some of the scariest moments of their lives. As David Gianatasio of Ad Week ripped, “Using nonprofessionals involves real risk, because reactions can, of course, be unpredictable. What if someone draws a weapon and charges into an elevator? What if someone suffers a heart attack?”

For more on this story, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What is advertising clutter? How is prankvertising a response to that problem for the ad world?

2.  How do prankvertising ads exhibit the characteristics of viral videos?

3.  What is the risk of prankvertising? What, for example, could have gone wrong in the “evil baby” prank above?

Samsung surges with Jay-Z partnership June 30, 2013

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Samsung came to terms on a marketing deal worth around $20 million with rap artist Jay-Z in June 2013. For Jay-Z, the deal is an opportunity to further expand his empire – over the last few years he bought a stake in the Brooklyn Nets, created a talent agency, started a music festival in Philadelphia, and much more. For Samsung, the deal is an opportunity to tap into the creativity of an “artist of everything” and target new young consumers who might be more inclined to flock to Apple and other competitors.

It has taken very little time for Samsung’s deal to pay off. A new ad with Jay-Z topped Ad Age‘s viral video chart in June. The ad features the rapper discussing his new album, “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” and has been viewed well more than 20 million times. Interestingly enough, Samsung’s collaboration with Usher took the second spot on the viral video chart. For Samsung, creating relationships with celebrities may be the best way to beat rival tech companies.

To see Samsung’s viral ad with Jay-Z, watch the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why do so many companies seek celebrity endorsements?

2.  What is the risk of closely associating a product with a high-profile celebrity?

3.  How does Samsung’s partnership with Jay-Z show an understanding of how ads go viral?

Explaining the viral power of the Harlem Shake March 11, 2013

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You can’t go anywhere without hearing someone talk about a new version of the viral video, The Harlem Shake. Following the “Call Me Maybe” fad and the popularity of ‘Gangnam Style,” The Harlem Shake has spawned thousands of renditions on YouTube, altogether garnering  possibly over 100 million views. The dance starts in a simple setting almost anywhere with one person wiggling while everyone else ignores the original dancer; once the music comes on, the entire room goes crazy. As one writer for The Washington Post noted, “What’s interesting about this trend is that the videos have been getting better and better. By today’s standards, the earlier versions—and we’re talking from two weeks ago, so they’re positively ancient at this point—look slow and plodding.”

In an attempt to understand why The Harlem Shake – and viral videos like it – become so popular across the world, Al Jazeera English dedicated almost 30 minutes to examining the phenomenon. To see the story produced by AJE, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  According to the story in AJE, what are some of the factors that make something like The Harlem Shake go viral?

2.  What other viral videos have rivaled The Harlem Shake’s success? How have those videos demonstrated the rules you just described?

3.  Were there viral videos before social media? If so, how did they become viral?

“Golden Eagle Snatching Baby” amateur video demonstrates the art of going viral February 27, 2013

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You may have seen it on Facebook. A video depicting an eagle swooping down to pick up a young boy playing at a park now has over 40 million hits on YouTube in just a few months. For some time, YouTube comments were flooded with doubters. Many were analyzing the angles, the eagle’s wings, the shadows, etc. Was it real, many wondered? If not, then how was it created?

Buzzfeed‘s Chris Stokel-Walker recently wrote an interesting article on the viral video. As it turns out, its origins started at a technology university in Montreal. The professor challenged his students in a video-effects class to create a viral hoax video. If students got over 100,000 views online, they would get an A. The students used 3-D effects, real camera footage, and actors to stage the whole event. In one day it was viewed 17 million times. As Ryan Cordell, a professor at Northeaster University, told Stokel-Walker, the phenomenon reflects timeless trends in news creation. As Cordell argued, for something to become big news, “It needs to be easily shared; have some level of cuteness — or in this case be something horrifying; and have some kind of challenge, or puzzle, or mystery.”

To see the much-discussed video yourself, watch it below:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What is the art of making a message go viral?

2.  What can advertisers and PR specialists learn from the “Golden Eagle Snatches Baby” video?

Advertising Age remembers the most viral ad campaigns of 2012 January 16, 2013

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The year 2012 was a big moment for viral videos. South Korean rapper Psy topped the charts when his “Gangnam Style” became the most watched YouTube video of all time, garnering well more than 1 billion views in less than 6 months. It was a big year for advertising campaigns attempting to go viral as well. As Advertising Age indicated at the end of 2012, many of the top viral ads came from nonprofit advocacy groups, some from agencies while many others not, and the top three cracked 100 million views or almost 40 million more than the top ads of 2011.

To see the top three ads from 2012 according to Advertising Age, watch the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What are the basic characteristics of something that “goes viral”?

2.  How did the top three videos above exhibit those characteristics?

3.  What is the importance of the trend of viral ad campaigns being produced by those unaffiliated with creative agencies?

Top viral ads of 2011 January 6, 2012

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When 2011 came to a close, many of the same companies, as well as the advertising agencies they worked with, appearing in the previous year’s top viral ads reappeared as top performers. According to Ad Age, Old Spice and Nike executed successful viral ad campaigns in 2011, and benefited from many of their older campaigns as well. The Old Spice Guy from 2010’s ads, for instance, starred in additional ads in 2011 alongside Fabio. Volkswagon was missing from 2010’s list, but got second place in 2011 with its “The Force” ads depicting a 6 year old imitating Darth Vader.

To see an example from the top ads produced for Old Spice, watch the following clip:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What makes an advertisement go viral?

2.  What was so catchy about Old Spice’s popular ads in 2011?

3.  Why do viral ads benefit companies over the long run? In other words, why do viral videos have a longer life than more traditional ads?

Nando restaurants entertains, shocks audiences with “lonely dictator” ad December 4, 2011

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A television ad for restaurant chain Nando’s South Africa has turned heads. Depicting Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe as nostalgic about the days when he could fraternize with Idi Amin, Chairman Mao, Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Gaddafi, the ad portrays the leaders as having water-gun fights, making angels in the sand, and hugging each other on tanks. Responding to outrage against the ad, Nando’s at first defended its sense of humor, but was quickly forced to end the spot altogether.

To see the Nando’s commercial yourself, watch the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  How did the ad for Nando’s go viral?

2.  Who was angry about the Nando’s ad? Why were they angry?

3.  Was it smart for Nando’s to pull the ad due to criticism of Mugabe loyalists?

SF Mayor Ed Lee proves he’s 2 Legit 2 Quit December 4, 2011

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In November 2011, San Francisco Democrat Ed Lee became the first person of Chinese descent elected as his city’s mayor. Lee was the city’s acting mayor after former mayor Gavin Newsom became California’s lieutenant governor. Lee’s campaign will forever be remembered as unconventional marked by a corny sense of humor. Most memorable is Lee’s viral video endorsement by MC Hammer and a number of other SF celebrities. To see that ad yourself, consider watching the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why is humor a powerful tool in presidential elections?

2.  What made Lee’s “2 Legit 2 Quit” ad so effective?

3.  Could Lee’s strategies be as effective on the national scene? Why, or why not?

Old Spice masters viral video, serves lesson to others August 6, 2010

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Old Spice did something special when it took popular chiseled pitchman Isiah Mustafa and had him answer questions from his fans as he looked straight into the camera. The result was a number of “ads” with anywhere between 2 million and 43 million views in a short period of time. When PR experts examined the clips to determine why they were so successful, they agreed on many points: 1) The Mustafa campaign was engaging; 2) The actor was attractive and funny; 3) Several other celebrities got involved; 4) Nearly every video was hilarious; and, among other things, 5) The campaign grew organically.

For more on this story, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why else, in your own opinion, was the Old Spice campaign with Mustafa so successful?

2.  How could these general rules about viral advertising be applied to something like political advertising, for example?

3.  How should Old Spice use Mustafa in the future to continue reeling in potential customers?