19 Oct 2009

Twunk the whole world

October 19, 2009 501A, responses 1 Comment

Sometimes I find out about things backwards, which, when you think about it, is a legitimate part of viral culture. We didn’t all get swine flu from Porcine Mary, so to speak.

(Come on, that was funny.)

So going off on the principles that “ideas that spread win” and “remarkability is in the eye of the consumer,” from Scoble and Israel’s 2006 book Naked Conversations (40), I’d like to talk about a recent experience I had with viral convergence.

I don’t have cable. I haven’t for years. In fact, the only reason I have a TV is for the Wii, though I do hook my laptop up to it and watch Hulu.

There was no way I ever saw the “I love the whole world” commercial for The Discovery Channel on T.V.:

It’s a brilliant commercial. It works on a whole bunch of levels to appeal to just about every group in Discovery’s audience, from the Mythbusters geeks (formerly guilty) to hyperprotective parents (Could the tagline be a coded religious reference? Don’t see why not …).

But that’s not the most brilliant part of it. This is:

What is that, you ask?

People, out in the world, re-enacting webcartoonist Randall Munroe’s takeoff of the Discovery Channel ads.

That’s the version I saw second.  This was the video I saw first, thanks to a “related” link on YouTube. (Huh, I like xkcd and entangled sheets. Let me watch that video!):

So after those two, I backtracked to the xkcd version:

The original

Then I got all the way back to the 2008 Discovery Channel commercial, and from there went to Wikipedia, because I have never been camping in my life and so did not know the song.

(Yes, I am that lame.)

(Interesting note: of the three songs I knew on that site, only one was left alone. Pick a bag of apples? Really? That kind of takes the whole context out of the song.)

That experience, I think, says a lot about the associative nature of the Internet, convergence, user interaction with media and convergence culture.

And it’s more interesting because, I would assume, xkcd is not a mouthpiece for the Discovery Channel. (If he is a paid shill, I … would be sad, for a little while.) So the ad, which was also mashed up with other games and tv shows (CSI, Doctor Who, World of Warcraft (of course), Halo 3, Star Wars, and even the Canadian election.)

And the video’s response had nothing to do with these so-called viral video rules:

Make it short: 15-30 seconds is ideal; break down long stories into bite-sized clips
Design for remixing: create a video that is simple enough to be remixed over and over again by others. Ex: “Dramatic Hamster”
Don’t make an outright ad: if a video feels like an ad, viewers won’t share it unless it’s really amazing. Ex: Sony Bravia
Make it shocking: give a viewer no choice but to investigate further. Ex: “UFO Haiti”
Use fake headlines: make the viewer say, “Holy shit, did that actually happen?!” Ex: “Stolen Nascar”
Appeal to sex: if all else fails, hire the most attractive women available to be in the video. Ex: “Yoga 4 Dudes”

The original is a minute long. It’s an outright ad, and not that amazing of one. It’s not shocking (it’s actually pretty earnest and sweet). All the headlines tell what the video is. It’s certainly not as simple as the Dramatic Hamster. And there are no sexy ladies. (But there is link decay, right there.)

Yes, it obviously lent itself well to remixing, or else it never would have been a comic, mashups, or a live-action comic reenactment of an ad. And I found out about it totally backwards.

I also take satisfaction in knowing that you all will have the song in your heads for the rest of the day. You’re welcome. In return, the first person to say “boom de yada” to me in class this week wins a prize.

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One Response to “Twunk the whole world”

  1. Cyber Tyber says:

    Interesting. I’ve gone camping multiple times, but never heard the song either. Guess because I didn’t grow up in US. But it’s true about learning backwards. Remember when Obama called Kanye West jackass? Well, I first found out about Obama doing that then about Kanye’s outburst, since, there is no way I would ever watch the (whatever) award show it was.
    Love the commercial.