Possessed Baby Stroller Prank: Screamingly Good Viral Marketing

Hear a baby crying in a stroller in NYC? May want to let that pass. Could be a devil baby that contorts itself and pukes. In this particular case, it may be a robot designed by the folks at Thinkmodo for another horror film promotion (remember the Carrie telekinetic prank in a NYC coffee shop?). This one is to promote “Devil’s Due,” and in about 24 hours it’s past 15 million views (1/16 update: 26 million views in 2 days). That, friends, is viral.

It’s “Devil Baby Attack” and it’s taking YouTube by storm. I’m probably most impressed by the way I learned about this. On a phone call with my mom this evening. I guess I’ll have to call her more often.

Some feedback/thoughts:

  • The prank is beautifully executed from beginning to end. We’re shocked. Then we see behind-scenes. No wasted shot.
  • Excellent job on “seeding” it. There’s no way it would have been seen this many times — so quickly — without a smart promotion of the clip itself (bloggers, journalists, etc).
  • Given the 22K comments, I’d say the majority of the views are real views. When videos are “gamed,” you see a really low number of comments. Rough math: 22K comments divided by 15 million views is .0015 percent of viewers commented. With more programatic  stuff, you see a slightly better ratio. For instance a recent RWJ video got 200K views and 1,700 comments (.0085 percent).
  • I would love to see a bit more of the off camera laughs and the team behind it — It helps when the viewer has a chance to connect more with the creators. But it’s a horror film promo so I suppose you have to keep it somewhat dark and mysterious.
  • I’m glad we’re no longer concerned about making these appear non sponsored. The video’s end reveals it’s a promo. And if you’re gonna have a logo at the end, there’s no shame in providing a link to the movie site for Devil’s Due (www.devilsduemovie.com). This would drive traffic to the film site’s real trailers and almost invariably help convert more of these 15 million views into ticket-paying customers. Even better: give us a reason to hit the horror site. As long at the viral stunt is this good, we’ll forgive the plug at the end.

Finally, a note to Thinkmodo team: for the love of God people, I missed my invite to these productions. I’ll consult for free to see you guys pull the next one off. I’m one of YouTube’s most-viewed pranksters, an author of a book on viral video marketing, an advertising executive and a horror fan. And I can keep a secret. What else do you need? 

Thinkmodo created the robotic possessed baby to promote the film "Devil's Due."
Thinkmodo created the robotic possessed baby to promote the film “Devil’s Due.” Who’s missing from this shot, friends?

Baby Monkey Song (Riding Backwards on Pig)

Here’s the “baby monkey” riding backwards on a pig song on YouTube… the one for which you’ve searched your whole life. You can buy “monkey on pig” song on iTunes too, and I did so just to support the singer (ParryGripp). Note that he’s not riding on a dog, which might have been your impression when you first saw it last fall. It’s clearly a pig, which brings it to a special level of humor. The retro 1970s Partridge Family and Brady Bunch-like arrangement also helps.

To see more of Parry Gripp’s classics, check NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM (the hamster/gerbil), or “Fuzzy, Fuzzy, Cute Cute,” and “Hamster Yawning in Your Face.”

This blog post requires you to sing along. And I can tell if you comply or not.

Online-Video: The Gap Between “Stars” and Others Widens

Put on your thinking caps, kids. Lots of wisdom in here. Most of it is additive to Beyond Viral, but go buy that damned book if you haven’t. And if you have read Beyond Viral, please provide a gratuitous complement below even if it’s fake. Hey I’m not expecting to outsell Hunger Games, but my goal is to at least keep pace with Garfield’s “Get Seen.” Is that too much for a girl to ask?

It’s been apparent that the online-video “star” pyramid is growing sharper, despite the continued myth that “YouTube can create a celebrity from scratch” (as reinforced by Miley Cyrus alleged snub of Jessica’s “Friday” hit). The truth?

  • One-hit wonders like "David After Dentist" don't generally spawn a popular channel

    While it’s true that YouTube does spawn occasional “overnight sensations,” it’s about the same odds as getting struck by lightening while scratching a winning lotto ticket. Furthermore, only a tiny portion of those “viral” hits take their creators beyond the one-hit wonders. About 85% of Booba1234’s views come from one video: “David After the Dentist.” In fact I’m guessing the username “Booba1234” would have a .02% aided awareness even with the ubiquity of that one clip… a meme.

  • Even the “rockstars” of new media.. almost never break into traditional media (name an exception?). Most of YouTube’s most-subscribed are virtually unknown beyond YouTube (you won’t find them on Yahoo Video, AOL Video, MSN and certainly not Hulu.
  • And, most interestingly, the only the fiercely committed and adaptive webstars even endure even on YouTube. Their life cycles are getting shorter, and today’s hotties are tomorrow’s castaways (even though YouTube has kindly built floors on their monthly views so they won’t starve).

Put in better terms (and I’ll credit this to a wise YouTube insider): the online-video weblebrity survival is like a marathon race. The gap widens between the front-runners and the bloated masses. (In that analogy, I’m the sweaty red-faced guy panting at mile marker 4).

YouTube is more like a marathon at mile 20... the gap widens

Example: In 2007 we all shared tips freely, but now in 2010 and 2011 when one of us “cracks the code” (begging viewers to comment can jolt a video’s popularity and “spotlight” treatment) the insight is less likely to be shared among fellow creators. Understandable given the increasing competition and financial stakes. That’s part of the benefit of formal or informal coalitions (Next New Networks, The Station). People in these tend to more willingly share learnings. This week NNN is running a series of prank videos that will all “point” to each other, thus raising the collective views. With luck, these videos might even be “clustered” by YouTube’s algorithm in the same way that many videos are, which is of paramount importance to their enduring views over time. For example, search for any of these categories: cute kids, laughing kids, funny animals, pranks, fails. You’ll find that YouTube accurately predicts what you’re after, and serves you up relevant videos in that genre. And you’ll find the same videos whenever you do this, and whether you’re logged in or not. Being a “YouTube Partner” caught in those “swirls” of popular categories means, quite frankly, an annuity of advertising income.

"Laughing baby" search on YouTube reveals what I call a "content swirl." The same videos are clustered, and predictably show you related videos.

My thought was that the total number of online viewers would always grow, such that more competition (especially from commercial content) would not erode the amateur fan base. However New York Times’ Alex Mindlin points out something interesting and important from the last comScore report: the sheer numbers of online-video viewers has not grown much at all in the past years. The growth has largely been due to more consumption by a fairly static number of viewers. This will change as web-connected television becomes a reality, but the laggards will not binge on as many YouTube amateur shorts, I think. They’ll gravitate toward well-produced 30 minute shows and 2 hours films.

So the reality is that the “new amateur rich” are getting richer (many far surpassing $100K annual incomes), but the barriers to entry are increasing and I wonder about the endurance of this medium… just like Indie performers at the dawn of the Internet, are they a “fad”? Sure we’ll always still see rising new stars, and that makes it look easy. But beyond the select “most-viewed” webstars, the mid-tier content (even those with 200-700K subscribers) is seeing a significant drop in views on recent videos. Part of this can be explained by YouTube’s algorithm generously rewarding vintage clips… most of my 4-6 million views a month comes from about 5 of my 1000 videos.

And here’s the interesting and somewhat confusing factor. While I am thrilled about the stability that algorithm provides to me as a creator (keeping my recurring daily/monthly views fairly consistent), it is understandable but interesting that “vintage trumps new” videos. Why? The shelf life for social media and amateur content, with a handfull of exceptions, is organically short. As Daisy Whitney reports (crediting Steve Rubel), social media content decays quickly. If a video, tweet or Facebook post is going to get a lot of views and engagement, it’s usually within the first couple days, and we’ve seen that in numerous studies like this dated but important Tubemogul report.

My most-viewed videos (like Scary Maze, i are Cute Kitten, Farting in Public, and America’s Funniest Bloopers represent about 30% of my total 200 million views. My recent videos, by contrast, are more in the 10-30,000 view range despite having 240,000 subscribers. While I can’t control how YouTube serves up videos, these facts remind me that I need to post more regularly since subscriptions drives views less than habit. Let me say that again because it’s very, very important: habit makes someone “current,” and if content isn’t refreshed predictably then the audience wanders away.

Interestingly, my sponsored videos sometimes continue to get views too. My Fox television show promotions for Fringe, Lie to Me and Glee have continued surpass millions and millions combined, alone topping the Hitviews original campaign goals (which also involved dozens of other creators). These videos, presumably, are either showing up in searches — or more likely via YouTube’s “related videos” spotlights. I just realized this by chance, and it speaks to an important value proposition of webstar videos: they go beyond a campaign period, despite the obsession we have with “fresh” content.

You'd watch a bad new release before a good classic you haven't seen. Guaranteed.

Our Fresh-Baked Obsession: It’s true that almost all of the “viral” videos on Unruly’s “Viral Video Chart” are “fresh baked” (posted within the past week) and that makes perfect sense. When’s the last time you started your visit to Netflix, “On Demand,” or (for you old folks) Blockbuster by browsing the classics? I don’t need to convince you that there are classics you’ve never seen that are going to be far, far better than what’s on the “new releases” shelf. You know that. But you’re drawn to “new” as if it subconsciously means “better.” That’s a human reaction that has two sources: first it’s based on the “prehistoric” brain (as opposed to our newer “executive brain” where “fresh” equals safer. Fresh meat, fresh grains, fresh vegetables. Second, I think it’s because absorbing “fresh” content keeps us “current” and “topical,” and provides a social glue. We can all bond in a collective groan about how much “Friday” sucked and how cute that new baby is when she rips up paper.

Screw it. I’m over thinking. I’m gonna go watch a baby giggle while ripping paper.

Here’s Me Ripping Your Stupid Form and Giggling

The next time someone hands you a form to complete (or a parking ticket or bill), may I suggest you pull out this viral video on your smartphone? Play it, giggle, and watch them crumble.

I are ripping your important paper and giggle laughing rofl outloud. -Baby Rip Von Paper

Rip. Giggle. RIP. Giggle. RIPPPPPP… GIGGLE.

Basketball Russian Parody

So I’m painting the garage this morning and I can’t get this video out of my head. I don’t know why this is so funny on repetition because I found it an acquired taste. But I’m hooked. I can help but wonder what inspired it.

Finding a baby in a dumpster? Hydration. Part of the reason I’m posting it is so I can find it without doing 10 Google searches the next time I’m craving it.