Archives for category: multimediastorytelling

A look at Time Magazine’s Top Ten Viral Videos of 2011 quickly reveals a variety of topics covered in viral videos including: honey badger, spastic dancing, drunk cooking, seniors struggling with technology, a father-daughter duet, Michael Bolton as a pirate, a kid using The Force, a homeless man’s voice and of course, teenager Rebecca Black singing about her favorite day of the week.

What do all of these videos have in common? Beyond receiving Time Magazine’s recognition as the top viral videos of the year, all received record views on YouTube and managed to invade our computer screens, minds and hearts. And while all can agree on their popularity, the science behind what makes them successful is still a hot bed for debate and a goal for marketers to strive for. Scholars, professionals and anyone with a YouTube account all have a theory on what is required for viral success.

Social Times’ Megan O’Neill details a few key factors required to deem a video “viral” in her article “What makes a video ‘viral’? They are the following:

  • Significant Viewership
  • Substantial Buzz
  • Incites Parody (of your video)
  • Maintains Longevity

A SXSW presentation by Ogilvy’s Robert John Davis and Jeremy Sanchez detailed on MDG Advertising’s Blog offered these four steps:

  1. Prepare a plan
  2. Deliver style with substance
  3. Promote and distribute
  4. Measure success by business NOT buzz

Beyond these four key takeaways, the two also suggest targeting and researching a specific audience, establishing a call-to-action early, balancing success with your brand, keeping SEO, tagging and content in mind to ensure increased views and results.

Scientific American has detailed one educator’s theory on viral videos. According to Brent Coker, a marketing professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia, four ingredients are required for a successful viral video.  They are: congruency, emotional appeal, relevancy and a combination of 16 memes he identified.

Honey badger – quirky, offbeat, combines different media, takes a swipe at something familiar in nature videos we’ve all seen, incited parodies

Spastic dancing – tugs at stereo types, has pop-culture tie in, features something comedic, incited parodies

Father-daughter-duet/webcam seniors – relatable, sweet, familiar, incited parodies

Homeless man’s voice – unique, surprising, tugs at stereotypes, incited parodies

Rebecca Black – annoying, catchy, quirky, funny, incited parodies

Looking at the group of viral videos, several themes emerge: quirkiness, all evoke an emotional response, tug at stereotypes, surprise, touch on relatable subject. All have had significant viewership, substantial buzz, incited parodies, had moderate longevity, had relevancy and emotional appeal. All touch on the key ingredients mentioned by a variety of experts. But home-grown videos aren’t the only ones that have the potential to go viral.

The Chevy Sonic commercial immediately caught my attention during the Super Bowl because of it’s catchy music and insane stunts. I remember my fiancé asking, “Why would you throw a car out of a plane?” Immediately, two others and myself responded in unison, “Why wouldn’t you?” It showed unique footage, surprising stunts, catchy music and a relatable feeling (one of youth and exuberance) targeted to their young, fun target customers. This was the inspiration for my project.


Charged with creating a social media strategy for ShapeUp NC as a class project, I tried to focus on content and best practices while allowing room for growth and recognizing the limited time and budget most non-profits face.

Complete Campaign Strategy



There was a time when advertisers told American consumers what would make them whole. During the mid 20th century, consumers were bombarded with the idea that a new vacuum, shiny appliance or classy cigarette would make their lives perfect. Every woman saw images of the perfect homemaker and every man saw that “keeping the wife happy” required the newest consumer goods, regardless of need. Keeping up with the Joneses was deadly important and advertisers made sure to reinforce the concept. Yet, things have changed in the market and social media has lifted the mask on many advertising claims.

Professional communicators must now listen more, hard sell less and meet consumers in this new, even ground know at the social space. No more do Mad Men create the want. Instead, effective advertisers gauge consumers’ wants via social media and look to supply the answer to those needs.

What makes social media unique and appealing is that it frees us from unilateral communication. It challenges the traditional power dynamic. Delivering a message to the masses is no longer reserved solely for those with economic clout. Gone are the days of advertising messages being unchallenged in the marketplace. Gone are the days of a consuming-without-care public. Gone are the days of a single, company-crafted ‘message’ moving through the masses.

While social media has spiraled into a wave of epic proportions during the last decade, the swell appears to be far from over. Consider for a moment, the numerous roles social media fills within our lives – companion, news source, city guide, party planner, scrapbook, dating service and the list goes on. In the corporate world it serves as customer service and support, lead generation, PR, HR, collaboration tool, opinion pollster, competition spy and, of course, advertising.

This seismic shift has already occurred and for many the rebuilding process has begun. While the shape the of the current landscape is taking two different forms, the future skyline seems primed for residence by only those willing to take risks and increasingly include the public as willing partners in the brand building process. While a number of standouts presently rise higher than the majority, the ones worth examining are those with truly unique approaches that encourage genuine interaction.

My Starbucks Idea is a great example of engaging consumers and asking for feedback. In addition to crowdsourcing great ideas, the site also encourages lateral communication between users through voting and commenting. What makes this site work well is that the community has two dedicated moderators called “idea partners” who post on every idea that gets submitted, in an effort to further communication.

Tweet Pie, The World’s Shortest Recipe Book was a campaign started by European kitchen appliance company Belling which asked users to tweet recipes using the hashtag #tweetpie or submit 140 character recipes via the company’s website. Fifty recipes were selected from the campaign and put in the resulting book, which was sold, with profits going to FoodCycle, a charity feeding the hungry in the UK.


L’Oreal learn the lesson in 2005 that creating a blog out of thin air was destined for failure. One of the company’s French laboratories allowed an advertising agency to post blogs under the guise of “Clair,” a real woman who used the Peel Microabrasion. Only problem was, Clair wasn’t a real woman, she was invented by the advertising agency and the backlash forced the company to revamp the blog.

Anthony Wiener, need I say more?

The American Red Cross and Chrysler are both examples of how staffers can confuse work and private accounts to the detriment of the brand.

The Durfur Is Dying game represents a trend in understanding the plight of others. Like the Spent game for Urban Ministries in Durham, this interactive component gives players bits and pieces of the story as they play. Players quickly realize through playing the game, just how difficult it is to forage for water and avoid dangers such as rape, kidnapping, capture, abuse and death. Players have to help fellow villagers survive by building shelter, getting food and medical supplies and avoiding militia attack.

By forcing players to faces the demands those living in Darfur face every day, the game creates empathy by increasing awareness and understanding. Throughout the game, prompts are issued for players to take real-life action to help those involved in the crisis.

While games can be an effective way of creating empathy for others, the subject matter is important and it isn’t always the best way to present information, as evidenced by the “Playing the News” project. The project found that while the game tested well, facts and links organized by topic tested higher in terms of news content. This project emphasizes the fact that content is still king and should drive interactive approaches.

In terms of creating empathy, forcing an audience to understand the demands facing others is crucial and most easily accomplished by games. As Jane McGonigal points out in her book, “Reality is Broken,” and her numerous public appearances, games have rules, consequences and rewards, just like life. By establishing rules that relate to the circumstances many people in need find themselves in, players get a glimpse of just how difficult life is for some.

While the “walk-a-mile-in-their-shoes” approach is often successful in an interactive context, it is by no means the only way to create empathy. Photos and videos also do this incredibly well. This can be evidence by the numerous broadcast campaigns that tug at the heart strings. Consider the SPCA video with abused animal images and an emotional song or the countless pleas to feed hungry children in impoverished countries – those ads wouldn’t be as convincing without the images of those in need.

The most successful projects turn the empathy created within games or campaigns into real-world action. Such projects must have a clear call to action contained within them, so that once users care about the cause, they know what to do and have been empowered to do it easily, with little time to change their mind. By making it easy for users to donate or volunteer, interactive components bridge the gap between education and action.

The Darfur interactive even gives users multiple ways to “Take Action.”  Allowing users to choose ways in which they would like to help gives them a feeling of empowerment and more of a connection to the cause. Sometimes people want to connect with more than just donating cash, options like this allow that exchange easily and effectively.

We rely so heavily on images in our world. We put such a huge emphasis on visuals for our understanding and communication that we often forget how crucial audio can be. Not so sure? Consider a past game of Pictionary; was the concept  immediately clear? Probably not.

Words and sounds contribute immensely to our understanding of actions, events and processes. In remembering the reports from Desert Storm, the images were often awful and indecipherable but the audio was great. It conveyed the story perfectly; from the bomb blasts to the sirens and street sounds to the reporters’ rushed and uncertain voices, it was clear what conditions on the ground were like.

While audio is often important and powerful in situations lacking good visuals, visual products with great audio are sometimes harder to come by. Many commercials rely so heavily on visuals that, without them, the message is lost. Consider the recent Chevy Sonic commercial; while totally awesome and one of my favorites, it doesn’t work without the video. Below are a few commercials that have audio components that work independently from the video.


This commercial is a great example of effectively using sound to convey a product’s purpose and importance. While the product is a voice-controlled and responsive application, the audio works well to showcase all the different uses for Siri. The ad also uses multiple voices from men and women, young and old to give the listener a clear understanding that all different people use Siri. While some of what Siri provides it textual and visual, the audio works independently of the video yet the inverse is not true. The music used throughout works well because it is upbeat but there is also a build of of sorts in the tempo before the voiceover comes in. The VO is clear, short and direct which works because the voices interacting with Siri tell the story effectively. The interactions, music and VO are all cohesive in tone and style. The ad comes across as clear, simple and friendly – all probably reflective of what the product strives to be.


The ‘Real Men of Genius’ ads all work well independently from the video. The ads employ an over exaggerated announcer voice to detail what makes these men so great and a song celebrates them echoing what the announcer is saying. These ads are great examples of simple voiceover and music used in a comedic way that’s often hard to achieve without visuals. The script is the real genius behind these ads because the details included give listeners a clear picture in there minds of these ‘real men’ and can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it all.


This commercial featuring a taco party is an example of audio illustrating exactly what’s happening. The listener instantly hears people talking, laughing and crunching food. The VO features a perturbed coworker (because he mentions being outside Bill’s office) that accuses the group of not inviting him. A sound effect of a phone vibrating is then heard and then clothes shuffling only to hear the VO come back in and say “oh.” Without even seeing the phone or message, the listener instantly understands that the speaker just got the message about the party. Then, an entirely different VO comes in to reinforce the message of “being left behind” and introduce the product to keep you current. The natural sounds of a gathering establish the scene and the voice of the angry left out man gives this commercial an authentic feel. The buzz of the phone and shuffling for it make this ad work independently of the video; without it, the scene might not be as clear to the listener.

Iconic. … It means different things. Inspiring. Horrifying. Interesting. Depressing. Shocking. Uplifting. Enlightening. Frustrating. Thought provoking. Empathy evoking.

It captures a powerful moment. It tells a story and stirs emotion.

It grabs the viewer and refuses to let go.

It impacts beyond its viewing. It connects in a more powerful way than words. It details the magnitude of a moment or event. It evokes further thought. It alludes to a bigger story.

It holds within it a greater meaning for the moment and for the subject. It gives perspective and shows the subject in a different light.

The best still images, they just nail you, you remember them,” Bill Eppridge, LIFE magazine photographer said in an interview.

The beauty of an image is that its interpretation and meaning is different for every viewer. Although the take away may seem the same, everyone experiences and relates to it differently.

An icon is then two things at once; it is simultaneously an image and an idea, it is both a sign and a symbol.” – from Getty Images Masters Collection

Many iconic images come from a shared event or experience. But not all. Instead, some allow viewers to experience an event in a new and powerful way.

They have an astonishing degree of universal recognition, taking on diverse meanings as they are transmitted across cultures.”   – according to Martin Kemp in a 2011 article

In a way it’s like pornography; ‘I know it when I see it.’ And this is perhaps the most fitting description and definition possible, because until I see it, experience it and am ultimately grabbed by it, it’s not an image I can safely call iconic.