The History Behind Viral Sensations

Our tendency is to think of huge viral video successes as being new and unprecedented. Take viral entertainment team Auto-Tune the News, of “Hide your kids, hide your wife” fame – in fact that very song/video (The Bed Intruder) has over 150 million views and 800,000 likes. They have their own YouTube channel with over 2 million subscribers! The premise of Auto-Tune the News is as simple as an online entertainment team who sings the news. Obviously they have become hugely visible by doing just that.

And there is money behind such a concept as well. When you have a channel and original videos with that much popularity, YouTube shares advertising revenue with you to incentivize you to continue posting original viral videos there. So, yes, viral and social “pays.”

Seeing these videos you may be tempted to think you’ve never seen anything like it before (hence viral gold). After all, who sings the news? And this is the reason – in an interview, the comedy team talked about coming up with a premise. They wanted to sing and use the infamous Auto-Tune technology with can make any singer sound “professional.” So they thought about what was the most boring and serious content on TV. The news won it. The news was expressed in grave seriousness and quite a bore without music. Sure TV comedies had parodied the news but “singing news” was unique. And so the team had their unique angle for viral gold.

But even the most unique of viral sensations can have predecessors we don’t consider.

In the late ’60s/early ’70s there was a show called Laugh-In. One of TV Guide’s “Greatest 50 Shows of All Time.” Famous comedians, off-the-wall skits, jokes and parodies. Popular show at the time – in fact I’m not sure why I haven’t seen the show in reruns on TV, but I haven’t (and no, I’m not old enough to have seen the original shows on TV).  The show would include bits such as famous, serious, guest actors such as John Wayne saying unfamiliar slang phrases to them such as “Sock it to me” (how many viral videos have we seen with people saying phrases or using accents that don’t fit them – hence more awkward, viral success). And yes, Laugh-In “sang” the news.

Still a very different feel from the originality of Auto-Tune the News, but the inspiration is there.

Every time I think the latest viral concept or technology concept is “new,” I find roots from the past that inspired it. So – are you looking for the next hit idea? Start with the past…

– Jake Aull  |  ZenFires Digital Marketing