Viral Subway Sandwich Videos: (Or, why the inmates should be running the asylum.)

Everyone wants "viral."  Its all the rage now.  What is viral?  Well, its a lot of people choosing to see something and passing it on to their friends.  Viral is the Star Wars kid and the George Bush Bloody Sunday Song.

Sometimes, you get someone at an agency who has such a pulse on the human condition that you can create viral.  But most times, viral bubbles up.  Viral isn't intended to be viral necessarily... and the best viral comes when it is created by the audience. 

Its not because there aren't agency folks who can do this... its just that individuals are so fickle that its incredibly hard to figure out what will strike them.  So,  viral becomes a statistics game...   one agency creating one video...   tough to get right..maybe impossible.   A million users creating a million videos...  one of them will go viral.  Its just stats and dumb luck sometimes.

So when Agency.com set out to create a viral video for a client, and they decided to make the viral video about making a viral video, they had a very difficult task ahead of them. 

So here's the result:

What do you think?   So, first off, I have to congratulate them for thinking outside of the box.  They obviously get that consumers don't like to be sold to, and posting this to YouTube was a sign that they understand that if you want to reach consumers, you have to come into our neighborhood.

So, no question, A for effort.  Maybe A+.

The numbers so far... 40,000 plays.  That's enough to get it in the Top 100 most viewed for the week on YouTube.   Not sure what their goal was.

And rather than tell you what I thought...  I'll link to the community's comments.  Kind of a mixed bag to put it lightly.

But, here's the thing about doing innovative advertising and branding.  There were already a bunch of videos that the community had created about Subway.  Many of them were unquestionably good.

Like this guy doing his own 4 part harmony.  (Its the same guy, right?)

Or this girl who probably loves working at Subway more than anyone else loves working at their job.

Or this cute little champion... (A shameless ploy to get her on real commercials, but that's ok... )

Hey Jarrod, we need more water.

This one is just random and disturbing...

This is so gross... and so funny.. all at the same time...   the mustard part was the best.

These two are just goofing off....

Ok, so the quality is really trailing off a bit now....

Anyway... the point is, I wonder if coming up with any content or copy for a consumer facing message is worth it anymore.   Users want to hear themselves, not the company.  They want to hear from each other why a brand or product is worth spending money on.  Is this the moment that ad copy "jumps the virus" in the workds of one YouTube commenter? 

I think everyone in the ad community should wave the white flag and just say,

"The hell with it.  We give up.  You tell us what you think of the brands, and we'll just give you some cool ways to say it, and promote you. We're out of the business of coming up with messaging or content.  Its just too hard... and then when we try to reach out to you in on your own terms, you make a Brokeback parody of us."   

That's what Firefox did.

Robert Young explains this the best:

"...follow the audience into the development of this new market by
re-focusing core assets that have the capability to deepen the level,
and heighten the production value, of self-expression.

Think of this way… what if “American Idol” had been produced solely
by the capabilities of the contestants themselves, without the
expertise and talent of the show’s producers, directors, writers, etc.
As talented and entertaining as the contestants are, the resulting
production quality, the level of emotional engagement,
viewership/ratings and monetization potential of the full package would
likely be far inferior to what we all see on the air today. Well,
social networks should be seen in a similar way… people want to express
themselves and the platforms that allow them to do so with the most
creativity and production value, are the ones that people will flock to."

In short, don't make a commercial with monkeys.  Give monkeys to the people.  (Full disclosure, my company, Oddcast, built the Careerbuilder Monk-e-mail.)