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Monday, August 07, 2006

Viral: Who the Hell Wants a Virus?

Okay. I'm going to give in and comment on this stupidity. I really should leave it alone. I want to leave it alone. But I can't go anywhere in this circle of masturbation advertising fishbowl without running into it. I don't think there's a question anymore if it's viral or not, the debate lies in the original intent of the piece. Opponents say that it's horrible PR, because it's so horribly ridiculed. However, and internet armchair philosophers like to twist their evil mustaches and cackle, "It was our plan all along to make us look like morons! And you're spreading it! Virally! Who's the moron now?" (as evidenced by We Roll I've played this game before. You know, where the other kid says "I know you are but what am I?" The appropriate measured response now is "I'm rubber and you're glue."

This is actually a good opportunity to talk about what "viral" is. I put a lot of stock in etymology, I think there's a reason certain terms resonate with people more than others. Viral is a negative connotation. Nobody wants a freaking virus. You don't want to send your mom a virus. A virus is something that you get duped in to. It's not a positive thing.

When I broke my internet cherry about a dozen years ago I was an amateur hacker (note: Hackers are good guys, Crackers are bad guys). The hacker/cracker community and the advertising community have the same mentality. They both believe their superior intellect can manipulate everybody else. I bring this up because in the last ten years, advertising doom-and-gloomers have forseen the end of all things. The "end of the thirty second spot" or TIVO or reduced ROI isn't the point. The true issue is that the democratization of information has created a situation where people are becoming just as savvy as marketers are. It's not the death of the thirty second spot. It's the death of manipulation.

Anyway, viral marketing. It's nefarious. Take a look at SomethingAwful's attempt to artificially create a viral campaign or recent PR attempts against Al Gore. What advertisers are going to have to realize is that the public is going to start catching on to their dweebiness on the internet. It's kind of like when Pee-Wee walked into the biker bar during his Big Adventure:

Everybody wants to kill him because he's a dweeb trying to be a biker. But Pee-Wee realizes he's a dweeb, and then proceeds to do something dweebily fantastic that the bikers love. Here's some things advertisers need to remember in the next few years:

Be self-aware: Have a full understanding of how lame you are and that everybody knows you're selling something.
Make it awesome.: They know you're selling something, and they don't really care as long as long as its something interesting. If you're trying to push something incredibly stupid on them (and you know it's lame), you're going to get torn to shreds.
Seed with respect.: Things are spread on the internet through highly influencial communities. These communities are the tipping point, and they should be worshipped. It's their house, respect it. Don't jump into these communities with a sales pitch. They know their members, and they'll background check. If you've followed the first two suggestions, and you seed through the appropriate channels, the communites will pick it up and explode it's popularity.
You have no control: Once it's out there, it's out there. You have no possible way of shaping what direction or what people will do to it. You can shift its momentum, but you CANNOT change its direction. Manipulation is dead. Deal with it.

Just some thoughts, all of which were my own. Carry on, advertisers on the internet.


Stan Chin said...

Case in Point Update: Pop Secret Mountain. Please read the 'about' section while I beat my head against my desk.

AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

funny that no matter how arcane the reference (say, Pee Wee Herman caught at a biker bar) you can always find a link to it on YouTube.

How far man has progressed.

New York Punk said...

this viral made me wish the internet was never invented

everysandwich said...

Oh, how I'd like to believe that manipulation is dead, but I just can't. We have new, exciting, more efficient ways to tell the truth or tell lies, to manipulate mob opinion or niche opinion, to spread passion and approval or apathy and disgust. I don't think manipulation dies, as much as I might try to; it just evolves. But maybe we can outnumber it.

Stan Chin said...

In my enthusiasm to make blanket statements that other blogs can point to in their title posts, I may have overreached. It's not totally dead yet, but I would say it's getting weaker and weaker. It is dead, to the influencers on the internet, I think.

There will always be a good portion of people, that have better things to do than to care about the mechanics of advertising on their lives. But I think, sooner than we think, that manipulation will be the least effective of options available.

AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

Here is some good ol' fashioned MANIPULATION in the market. Perhaps most of the VIRAL STUNTS CATEGORY count. In fact their "success" is measured by successful pulling the wool over mass media's and bloggerati's eyes.

Yesterday's Rocketboom covered it with some detailed video coverage and interviews:


And evidence seems to show that we don't mind some old fashioned, ingeniously clever manipulation. Unfortunately, Pop Secret Mountain probably won't count in that category.

MarcusBrown said...

I once asked to pitch for us. Wish they'd have done something like this back then. It would have saved us the pain of what turned out to be their presentation.

Nice spoof videos popping up though. One of them is mine, but the others are better:

wiggins said...

I love this post.

You guys make me homesick.