Somehow Friday has come around again in what seemed like a mere three days. As the weeks go by faster, so too do the viral hits. Three more case studies for you this week, each demonstrating one of many known successful ingredients for video popularity. Let's begin.
The Mix Tape
I'm quite fond of those re-cut movie trailers, such as this one where the creator makes The Shining look like a romantic comedy. Taking an existing piece of video and using in a new way—making something new out of it—is a trend that doesn't show any signs of stopping.
The makers of the 100 Cheesiest Movie Quotes of All Time video (itself a viral hit a couple of months ago) are back at it again, with a much more narrow focus in topic this time… The 160 Greatest Arnold Schwarzenegger Quotes. And boy is it silly. At times it's clearly having fun with the many ridiculous things the actor has uttered on film over the years (and you will be amazed once you see them all lined up together). In other moments, it feels like an earnest tribute to the man.
It's also 10 minutes long, which, frankly, is pushing it for a viral effort. But if you've ever enjoyed a Schwarzenegger movie, or mocked one, you'll probably get a kick out of it.
There's also plenty of cussing, in case you're reading about viral videos instead of working:
The lessons from this video's success (300,000 views or so in three days) are fairly obvious, but no less important.
It starts with a recognizable subject… something almost every American (and tons of non-Americans) can relate to. We've all seen multiple Schwarzenegger movies. He's one of the most recognizable faces on the planet.
It throws in a lot of humor. Man… Arnold has had some truly terrible lines over the years. Watching them back to back only makes it funnier, especially the sections where he repeatedly says the same line in multiple movies. "Get down!" "Get down!" "Get down!”
There's plenty of nostalgia as well. More than enough, actually, which only strengthens the connection the viewer has right out of the gate.
And finally, one of my favorite viral ingredients… the effort. I don't even want to think about how many hours this guy spent putting this together. As funny as it is, it's not the kind of thing I would have time for. I guess maybe since his last video was two months ago we might be able to ballpark things. But however long it took him, the work was substantial, and impressive. Whether we even realize it or not, that kind of palpable effort endears a viral video to us, and maybe primes us a bit to be fans of what we're seeing.
The Pro Masquerading As An Amateur
You've probably at least read about our next featured film, if you haven't seen it. On the surface, it appears to be a children's school play… you know, that lovable school play known as "Scarface" (with all the swearing hilariously changed to "cleaner" things). Take a look:
The video has been live for four days, and has over 2 millions views—largely driven on two things:
- The controversy surrounding the performance of a decidedly adult play by a bunch of elementary students (very reminiscent of the movie Rushmore).
- The debate over the video's level of authenticity.
Controversy and debate are two of the most explosive viral ingredients you're likely to find, and they're not as easy to manufacture as you might think.
Ultimately, the video turned out to be the work of a professional. A music video director from California put the whole thing together, using professional child actors (with parental permission).
But just because he's a professional director doesn't automatically mean this video was going to succeed. He isn't a household name, for starters. It's not like Michael Bay made this and had his connections and money to give it a kick start in views or promotion. This was no big brand effort.
This was a personal project taken on by a creative individual who has had some filmmaking success—done entirely on the side and not for profit. That makes it worthy of praise, in my book. As funny as Will Ferrell is, it's hard for me to laud the Funny Or Die videos in which he stars that almost always go viral. He's freaking Will Ferrell; it's not that hard for his videos to get popular.
Marc Klasfeld (the creator of this "Scarface" piece) doesn't have that kind of head start. So he went underground, and just let the video succeed or fail on whether or not people enjoyed it. And go viral it did.
There are people flipping out over this video, calling it an outrage to put children in such grown up situations. I'm not willing to get all upset about something a child actor's parent is willing to let them act in. If we're going to be offended by children doing this, there is an endless line of film and TV appearances by children over the last 40 years that we should have been crying about too.
But the controversy undeniably helped drive the initial view count higher, and I'm sure the director expected that.
What I like most about this video is that it would have worked whether it was real or fake. It's just funny. This guy could make an entire line of these things using other films and probably go viral every time. Kids are funny, controversy sells, and debate drives viewership.
Here we have a minor league hockey coach absolutely losing his mind during a game.
His name is Jim Playfair, and he is the coach of the AHL's Abbotsford Heat. They were playing the Hamilton Bulldogs, and enough calls went against the Heat that Playfair just kind of went bonkers. He yells obscenities (you can't hear them, but you can definitely read his lips), he breaks sticks, he screams and stands on the boards. I've never seen anything quite like it—and I've seen a ton of hockey games.
The audio is a little too quiet, but that hardly detracts from the point of this video: a man going out of control on a live television broadcast of a hockey game. Take a look:
Hockey videos are a surprising staple in the viral community. Hockey seems to be much more popular on YouTube than in the real world, in a way that's almost disproportional. Typically the videos uploaded are either amazing goals or great fights.
This one broke a new mold.
I remember following the Baltimore Orioles when I was a kid—I grew up there—and Earl Weaver was the coach. And every handful of games, he'd go out and yell at an umpire, kick some dirt on him, and get tossed out of the game. Sometimes those clips would make it onto This Week In Baseball or the evening news, and I'd get to see him do his thing. But can you imagine if there had been an Internet and a YouTube back then? Earl Weaver would have been a god.
For some reason… fans like to see their coach go off on the refs. Sometimes, when the coach goes a little too far (such as the star of this viral hit from 2007), the rest of the world likes to see it too. And send it to their brother… and their uncle… and so on.
There are really only two of our common viral ingredients at work here. The first is the meltdown itself. Anytime something unexpected happens on live television, someone's going to upload that embarrassment to YouTube. Whether it's a tantrum or a blooper, we want to see it. We want to see people on live television make fools of themselves. I'm not sure why, but we do.
The second ingredient is closely tied to the first, and it's the "you have to see this" factor. This isn't any ordinary blooper. This is something never before seen by most of us. It's already being called one of the greatest sports tantrums of all time (kind of a shame that there's so much competition for this title, isn't it?). When a live event goes off script this badly, it's almost guaranteed to experience some level of viral success.
That about wraps it up for this week. All three of these videos should be giving you ideas and cementing some of the standard viral concepts, and I hope you're able to have some success with your future efforts by intentionally using some of the lessons we discuss in this column. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a possible new companion series to this one, in which I foolishly try to predict a video or two that is about to "go viral”… should be fun (if only at my own expense).