Hands up who knows what I’m talking about when I say ‘viral video?’ Being the kind of media-savvy lot you are, I’d expect it would be quicker to ask who thinks I’m referring to the common cold.
But what exactly makes a seemingly run-of-the-mill fuzzy clip on ‘YouTube’ quickly snowball into a global small screen sensation? Is there such a thing as a magic filmic formula, which can be learnt and manipulated, either for commercial business purposes, to raise awareness for a worthy cause or simply to plain old amuse and titilate the Great British Public?
After popping along to a talk hosted by Sheffield Sceptics in the Pub last week, I came away with much more grounding surrounding this idea – not to mention a mischievous seed forming in my head…
The talk, at the Showroom Cinema, was given by Tracy King, producer of animation film, ‘Storm’ – a 9-minute beat poem by comedian Tim Minchin – which has already attracted over a quarter of a million views on YouTube and has become the anthem for critical thinking worldwide: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9bT73BM2Ic
Part of marketing professional Tracy’s talk centred on the concept of viral videos and she focused on 6 common elements which feature in many examples – humour, surprise, fear/shock, emotion, skill and embarrassment.
Then there’s the question of why people pass on or share videos with others. According to Tracy this virtual habit is explained by one of the following reasons – reflected glory, being the first to know, being part of the crowd, being part of a shared cultural experience and connecting with the language of your generation.
With my new acquired knowledge, I thought: ‘Why not put these principles into practice and see what happens?’ And I already had a viral video clip in the making – a short film made by my partner Richard Bolam, during Sheffield’s Tramlines 2010 music festival last month.
‘When Richard met Peter’ came about totally randomly, while Richard was filming the Big Wheel in Sheffield City Centre. In the film, we see passer-by Peter’s head suddenly filling the screen and…well, I’ll let you watch the rest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCWR1Xd5H9I
What makes this clip a potential viral hit? Two of the key elements – surprise and humour definitely shine through. Short, friendly & unexpected, it’s a completely spontaneous encounter captured in all its bonkers glory.
If we were wanting to stage Peter’s warm, playful but marketing-orientated questioning, we wouldn’t have changed a word!
So, dear reader, I’m on a mission – to spread the spirit of Peter and if this leads to us tracking him down, all the better. If you know him, please get in touch…
You know when you’ve been Petered!