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?

The President’s Speech (TelePrompTer Video Satire of King’s Speech)

The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is a historic break from the tension between the White House and the media covering it. This year President Barack Obama joked about a sequel to the film the King’s Speech. Here’s the video that was shared, and it’s a clever self-deprecating parody of the film, and shows rare out takes of the president’s recorded addresses.

When I worked at Georgetown, President Clinton (an alumnus) sent some video footage to us for an event, and there were a number of outtakes they included. I wonder what I might have done with those had YouTube existed in the early 1990s.

Busted: “Hacking Times Square With iPhone” Is Deceptive Film Promotion

Take it from the author of “Beyond Viral,” dear reader. Viral video is like fire. It can create a toasty fire or get people burned. Today we learned out the Times Square billboard hack video was part of the campaign for the film, Limitless.

The deception was the brainchild of the viral-video maker “ThinkModo,” according to the New York Times, who “outed” the stunt.

“We’re pushing the engagement of an idea which leads you then to the product,” ThinkModo’s James Perceley told the New York Times in his defense. “It just is a whole new mind-set where you don’t have to wrap everything up in a bow and if you don’t, people are going to be a lot more interested in you and what you’re selling and what your message is.”

We think otherwise. Calling it “engagement pushing” is simply misdirection. It’s unethical marketing that is deceptively disguised. The lack of transparency (of the film’s financial support of what appears to be a user-generated video) is reminiscent of the 1950 subliminal advertising, which sends “buying signals” to our subconscious without our executive-brain’s consent. This despicable tactic shows the seedy, desperate nature of marketers who don’t mind duping journalists, technical blogs, audiences and potential ticket buyers… all in the name of “engaging” audiences in immoral promotion of a film.

Techcrunch’s Michael Arrington is calling the campaign “a sad, desperate state of sensational adverting,” and apologized Sunday to TechCrunch readers. Arrington reports:

“We believed the video’s creators had indeed hacked Times Square’s billboards, and that it was a newsworthy event that would interest technical enthusiasts. Had we known that we were being duped into free advertising by ‘covert agents’ of the film’s promoters, we would not have run the article so prominently. TechCrunch urges its readers to boycot Limitless, and promises to apply more rigor in our future journalism”

The campaign for the “Limitless” film, staring Robert DeNiro and Bradley Cooper, includes other a misleading and deceptive practices including a Web commercial for NZT, a drug featured in the film. Apparently the term “Limitless” refers to the film’s marketing practices, and the complete “lack of limits” in scruples of desperate marketers.

While I do many sponsored videos, I always disclaim the brand or company that supports my videos. Can’t we expect the same from others?

Still reading?… Is this blog post and its facts and opinions actually real? No. But suppose after feeling outraged by this post (either in support or defiance of my point) you later found out that this faux WillVideoForFood post was simply a paid promotion for a new book called “Business Ethics: Decision Making for Personal Integrity & Social Responsibility” by Laura Hartman and Joseph DeJardins. In this hypothetical experiment, I’m asking you to pretend you later learned that my faux written tirade was, in fact, a ruse that omitted transparency about my financial compensation from McGraw Hill. Suspend belief momentarily, and imagine I didn’t “come clean,” but was “outed” by another blogger who reported that my post was simply a compensated, masqueraded promo for the book. Would you trust my reporting if you learned this post was a promotional gimmick? (It’s not).

Would you feel duped, or would you say, “hey that Nalts is pushing the engagement idea to cool new limits.” I’m just curious.

Ridley Scott Creates User-Generated Documentary (Life in a Day)

Life in a Day
Life in a Day Will Star... You

On July 24 individuals from across the globe will be videotaping moments from their day, and submitting for potential inclusion in a film produced by Ridley Scott (see his explanation video).

“Life in a Day” may be the first crowd-sourced film, and will be directed by Kevin Macdonald (see the film’s YouTube channel, “LifeInADay” for more details). YouTube asked me to make a video to announce the film and encourage individuals to participate, and Waffle Bear joined me on this cheesy promotion (see video below).

Are you going to participate?

See this piece in the Baltimore Sun, as writer Gus Sentementes poses the question, “How can the filmmakers be sure that the footage that’s getting uploaded was actually shot on July 24th?”

Oh, Gus. It’s consumer-generated content. How can they be sure the people are real, the releases have been signed, and the footage isn’t a copyright infringement? Don’t sweat the small stuff, Gus.

You’ll have to wait until Sundance in 2011 to see the film (see thorough coverage on WSJ). That’s plenty of time for sifting through thousands of hours of awkward footage, editing, and for the more labor-intensive work of verifying copyrights.

“If You Don’t Quit, You Can’t Fail” -NickyNik

We Gotta Get Buscemi,” a film by YouTube legacy NickyNik, will be debuted June 4, 2010, at the Dances With Films festival. NickyNik’s trailer is the first video he’s posted since the days before YouTube had high definition or Spotlighted videos. You youngsters may recall those days where names like Boeheem, Emalina and Renetto drew mouths agape like the name LonelyGirl15 would years later.

Congratulations, NickyNik, who I met at YouTube’s NYC 777 event and who also appeared in “I Want My Three Minutes Back.” You, sir, are the definition of unyielding persistence (see also NickyNik2). You may remember a script floating around called “The Dead Man.”

The cast includes LisaNova, Renetto, Jason Acuna (Wee Man), and Danny Trejo. Not sure if Charles Trippy made it, but I thank him for help getting me some part… I can’t remember if I dropped the ball, or NickyNik gave up on me. In fact I can’t remember the part or the script, but I do recall a person wearing a hot dog outfit. I was hoping for that part because… hey who doesn’t want to wear a hotdog outfit?

Still, what a motley crew, wouldn’t you say?

Best Parody of Oscar Trailers: Meet BritAnick

This is so clever, and well executed. It’s a spoof of every moment of every trailer you’ve seen for Oscar-Award-Winning movie trailers. But it’s self aware. Thanks to George from YouTube for including it in his e-mail footer.

Folks it’s content like this that makes the viewer in me very excited, and the creator hope that my 15 minutes aren’t completely done.

BritAnick (pronounced to rhyme with Titanic) are not new to YouTube (see channel), and are Brian McElhaney and Nick Kocher, and they met in Atlanta and have a manager. But to be clear, they’re at this moment far, far less popular than me on YouTube. Okay?

The reality is that I like to see people like this zoom past me. It’s not great for my ego, but it’s inevitable and deserving. Let the shakedown continue. Or as one YouTube employee says, “the popularity race is representing a marathon, where the distance between the popularity grows as the race continues.”

Did I mention I’m a sprinter at best?

And, yo, Brian or Nick… ready for a collab so you’ll remember me when you get to the top? What? You haven’t heard of a collab’s ability to propel your popularity on YouTube? Oh you should read this crap.

Learn What the “Wilhelm Scream” Is, Noob

With apologies to you seasoned film enthusiasts, I’d like to introduce the Wilhelm Scream to those still left oblivious to it. You see, I used the sound effect in a recent YouTube video and was again reminded that it’s not as widely appreciated as I should think.

Klaxoncow said it best:

The scream, which originated in a 1951 film called Distant Drums, has appeared in countless movies since. You’ve heard it in Star Wars, Indiana Jones, King Kong (Jack Black’s version), The Family Guy, and many films you may know by heart. Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas have celebrated the sound effect, originally dubbed “man getting bit by alligator and he screams” (source: Wikipedia so it must be accurate).

My sister, who sent me this clip, became aware of it when her son began to notice its repetition (a remarkable feat for a child who was 7 at the time).

I would like to challenge all video creators to find a special place for it in coming months, and make it an Internet meme that is abhorred by Anonymous and 4Chan.

Now enjoy some classic film moments, and listen for it in your movie and Internet-video watching.

Preroll Ad Preceding Movie Trailer? Really?

Look, I’ve never been a big fan of pre-rolls. But this is insane. I searched for a movie trailer today and found IMDB (a site I love, and one that deserves to monetize itself).

But before I could watch the trailer, I was subjected to a pre-roll ad.

Woah, tiger. I just volunteered to watch an ad for a movie. You got the clip for free from the studio. Now you’re going to serve an advertisement before it? Do you honestly think I’ll search out another trailer on IMDB again?

This is the equivalent of the damned DVDs that force 3 trailers before the main menu. So if you’re in the middle of the film and someone turns off the player (which happens more often than you’d think in our house), you scream ooohhhhh noooooooo… and realize you’ve lost about 10 minutes of your day.