Tag Archives: Viral video

Burger King’s brilliant What-If? ad

While poking around Burger King’s Web site for my previous post, I came across this 7-minute documercial for their “Whopper Freakout” campaign. The premise is that for two days, a Las Vegas Burger King told its customers that the Whopper had been discontinued; hidden cameras and interviews capture customers’ reactions.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.whopperfreakout. posted with vodpod
Parts of the video are unsettling — the toying with customers, the blase way a Burger King employee fakes being a reporter — and it could have done without the sinister background music. But overall this is probably the most effective advertisement I’ve ever seen, for any product.

First of all, it’s funny. At one point, two deadpan customers talk about their surprise: “Burger King doesn’t have the Whopper, they might as well change their name to Burger Queen,” one says; his long-haired buddy processes the joke for 3 seconds and grunt-chuckles, “hyeah!” Another customer is shocked by the second element of the trick: He orders a Whopper, only to find a Wendy’s burger inside the bag. The cashier questions whether the man brought it himself, and the customer huffs back, “I hate Wendy’s!” They couldn’t have asked for a more perfect response if the whole thing were scripted.

It’s also an interesting thought experiment — how would you react if your favorite restaurant stopped serving its biggest item? Consumer products and pop culture change all the time, but the customers’ testimonials reveal a deep comfort provided by the tradition and constancy of favorite foods. In this way, the ad functions as a kind of mini-American studies project. One customer says in voiceover, “When I was a kid, my dad wouldn’t order me a Whopper, because I wasn’t big enough to eat it all. That was one of the things when I got big, and the Whopper — that was like, I was a man.” Another talks about his mom driving him and his siblings to Burger King when they were kids — they got double Whoppers, because “we were big boys.”

Finally, the ad serves as a reminder of the continued power of branding, at least in certain cases. James Surowiecki wrote an interesting article for Wired a few years ago making the case that, contrary to conventional wisdom, brands aren’t nearly as valuable or important as they used to be because consumers are getting ever less loyal. He writes:

A study by retail-industry tracking firm NPD Group found that nearly half of those who described themselves as highly loyal to a brand were no longer loyal a year later. Even seemingly strong names rarely translate into much power at the cash register. Another remarkable study found that just 4 percent of consumers would be willing to stick with a brand if its competitors offered better value for the same price. Consumers are continually looking for a better deal, opening the door for companies to introduce a raft of new products.

This is pretty persuasive when it comes to consumer products — particularly tech products, which are the focus of Surowiecki’s argument. But the Burger King ad — though admittedly anecdotal — shows that in the case of food at least, nostalgia, self-image, tradition, taste and personal narrative may have as much to do with a brand’s success as value and innovation.

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Jimmy Kimmel is engaging in coital relations with Ben Affleck

The New York Times provided a hilarious example of newspapers’ selfenforced irrelevancy the other day, when they attempted to write about Jimmy Kimmel’s “I’m Fucking Ben Affleck” response to Sarah Silverman’s “I’m Fucking Matt Damon” video. The article is meant to show the Times is totally plugged into the viral vidgeist — but of course it serves only to show how out of touch and prude newspapers are.

As Vulture points out, “The entire article is a masterpiece of tortured syntax that deftly removes all humor from the videos.” Here are the best parts, as flagged by Vulture:

“A satiric video in which Mr. Kimmel, the host of the ABC late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live, talks enthusiastically — jokingly, we are led to believe — about his sexual relationship with Ben Affleck, has been a huge hit online. …

“After Ms. Silverman revealed that she was hooking up with Mr. Damon — everywhere, it seemed, and all the time — Mr. Kimmel vowed to take his revenge. … Most of the lyrics of Mr. Kimmel’s and Ms. Silverman’s songs are too graphic to be repeated here. One vulgar word describing the coital relations between, on the one bed, Ms. Silverman and Mr. Damon, and on the other, Mr. Kimmel and Mr. Affleck, was repeatedly bleeped out for the broadcast of each video.”

Never mind the priceless juxtaposition of New York Times second-reference style with the subject (Mr. Kimmel is fucking Mr. Affleck — must show the proper deference!). Could the Times possibly have written a more unironic, monocle-wearing ode to their own dowdiness? It’s not just the language dodge, which is bad enough. They’re still writing about comedy bits with a straight face — the way the Times probably wrote about that just wonderfully droll Church Lady in 1988.

This was a one-off (two-off, really) viral video attempt. Proper responses include laughing and forwarding to a friend; watching a second time; ignoring; and writing a blog post about the inevitable and annoying response videos. Responses that show you don’t get it include: writing a long article simply summarizing the videos — even while blushing and hiding from the central joke — and treating them like big productions that need to be explained and reported on.

R2-D2 and the siny guy

I’m probably a little late to this party, but this is just too cute.

She’s right: The siny guy always worries, that pansy!

SNL’s ‘Milkshake’ miss and the limits of viral video fads

Saturday Night Live’s first post-strike episode was surprisingly solid, thanks to Tina Fey and her love of slightly sexist humor and poop jokes. Only one sketch bombed (a TMI drunken wedding toast) and an otherwise brilliant Rock of Love parody was ruined by Amy Poehler’s annoying one-legged farter (topic for future consideration: why SNL still bothers to come up with “characters” and why SNL characters and catch phrases were ever big deals in the first place).

The most interesting sketch came near the end, when a scene opened on Bill Hader doing a spot-on Daniel Plainview impression inside what turned out to be an old-fashioned soda shop. Sure enough, it was an “I Drink Your Milkshake” sketch. And it got an interesting audience response — not crickets or forced laughter, but what seemed to me to be chuckles of sheer bafflement. Most of the audience simply didn’t know what was going on. (The biggest laugh line was Kenan Thompson joking that Hader would get a cold from his shake — hardly a reference to the original gag or the movie.) It was a great lesson in the limited reach of Internet fads and viral video.

The sketch is based on a scene from There Will Be Blood in which Daniel Day-Lewis’ crazed oilman shouts “I drink your milkshake!” I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I gather it’s roughly equivalent to Borat saying “I crush her” only more violent. Various geniuses made viral videos parodying the line, or mashing it up with the Kelis song “Milkshake,” or otherwise creating Internet hilarity. New York Magazine’s Vulture blog called it (only semi-sarcastically, as far as I can tell) “2008’s fastest-growing catchphrase” and provided a guide to its proper usage. Various non-NYC-insidery-blog media outlets picked up on what the cool kids were blogging about, and soon you had the Associated Press noting in its Oscar roundup:

Despite the art-house nature of “There Will Be Blood,” Day-Lewis’ performance has seeped its way into popular culture. A line he bellows during the film’s stunningly violent climax — “I drink your milkshake!” — has become a bit of a catch phrase.

Note the hedge “a bit.” Judging by the response to SNL’s milkshake sketch, the catch phrase hasn’t seeped very far beyond the in-the-know audience from which it came. It’s saying a lot if Saturday Night Live’s audience — not a hip bunch like the Daily Show crowd, but probably a good barometer of general pop culture awareness — missed the joke.

The sketch is a good reminder of how even the Internet’s top pop culture blogs are still pretty self-contained and inter-referential and off the general population’s radar. The same thing happened last year when Best Week Ever discovered “Chocolate Rain.” They tried to turn their discovery into a pop culture phenomenon; viral vid parodies ensued; and “Chocolate Rain” singer Tay Zonday appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s show — again, to the audience’s utter bafflement.

I Drink Your Milkshake and Chocolate Rain are both fascinating examples of pop culture’s real-time, Internet-era metamorphosis. Their narrow reach, and the hipster blogs’ attempts to recreate old-school fads like catch phrases and characters in viral video form, show that maybe things aren’t changing as quickly as we thought.