Friday, June 08, 2012

The Day I Went Viral: A Case Study (And A Bit Of An Ego Trip, Yes)

.:So This Is How It Feels...:.

Boston in 7, baby!

Back in the day (I can't believe that you can now say "back in the day" in reference to the internet!), if you made a funny joke, it would spread via e-mail, or via text message. I've had my fair share of those, and they're mostly one-liners that caught on, and that was the end of it.

Fast forward to 2012, though, and you now have what we affectionately call memes. What was originally an amazing concept coined by Richard Dawkins turned into cats, Rick Astley, Noynoying, and more cats. Sure, the internet ruined the concept of the meme, but now that it's there, we realize that they come and go pretty quickly. By the time I publish this post, I'm guessing the BaYo meme would be all but gone unless BaYo changes its mind and embraces some pretty obvious things they missed in their copy (Like actually point out that Filipinos, by virtue of our origins, are already mixed in ethnicity, to begin with.).

Which leads us to yesterday, and one of the pictures that helped kickstart the meme:

No caption necessary.

First off, disclosure: I'm analyzing this phenomenon both as a case study, and yes, as an ego trip. It's my blog. Indulge me. I promise this will have some insights to go along with all of this shameless self-promotion. And like we always say, walang basagan ng (ego) trip.

Also, no, I don't work for BaYo, nor do I handle their advertising or PR. I wish I did, though.

Anyways, I had help from one of my officemates to edit the Kuya Germs picture I got to have an all-black background, and from there, I just put in the copy and the campaign logo. As an afterthought, though, I re-edited my picture to include the "0% Tulugan" quip, which I felt was the oomph that was missing from the original image. This is why there are two versions of the ad going around.

Of course, by the time I put up the modified image, my Explorers Of Uranus teammate from geekfight, TJ, already shared the image on Facebook, which, to my shock, was shared over a hundred times within a few minutes.

.:A Meme Was Born:.

Now, as a comedian, I am certainly guilty of jumping on memetic bandwagons left and right. Hades, I even advocated it during my talk last iBlog 8! Memes do their job, and are admittedly easy ways to get a chuckle from people.

Laugh! Laugh, I say!

But I couldn't quite imagine getting a meme started all by myself. And to an extent, I haven't really fully done that, either, because I was mostly inspired by Marocharim.

Yup. That was his idea.

From there, I did my Rick Astley one (Which actually hit top 1 on the Morning Rush yesterday.), and I had a Safeguard one, plus a Krispy Kreme one. Still, another guy came up with this gem, which is often also cited as one of the images that kickstarted the meme...

100% brilliant!

By now, the German Moreno picture has been shared 491 times on Facebook (That I am aware of.), and I'm still overwhelmed by it.

.:Public Property?:.

As the meme spread, I noticed a curious development: as you can see from this news article, credit where credit was due slowly disappeared. Not just from me, but from the Bernardo Bernardo guy, and even a Tweet that I recognize to have been from Noelle! At some point, you cede ownership of "your" joke, and it becomes memetic and public property. Surprisingly, I was more flattered than annoyed as this went on. I wish I knew how the Bernardo Bernardo guy felt, but I'm inclined to guess he felt the same way.

I wouldn't even be surprised if hypothetically, someone called me a hack for doing the German Moreno bit at some comedy gig this weekend, despite the fact that I actually created it. It's part and parcel of what it means for something to, pardon the term (Because I hate using it, myself.), go viral.

When I spoke about this hypothetical situation last iBlog, I didn't expect to actually end up having a real-life case study for myself so soon. I asked myself: how would I feel about it when people "steal" my joke? In the end, the answer was pretty clear: I was flattered people thought my joke was worth sharing. Or stealing. I wasn't going to make money from the German Moreno spoof, anyways.

.:The Message Behind The Medium:.

Thing is, I didn't want just the joke to go viral. I shifted to a more comedic tone in my blog mainly because I felt it was easier for me to get my message across that way, and my message was one of temperance. It was easy to get worked up over the campaign, sure, but defusing the situation using a bit of cool-headedness and humor? That can't be such a terrible idea, right?

So imagine my surprise when Saab Magalona tweeted about my blog post. It's one thing for a joke to go viral, but it's a whole different thing when a blog entry does. I ended up sharing that blogpost on Filipino Freethinkers. Even The POC, an online publication I regularly contribute to, ended up mentioning me a couple of times.

Ego-tripping aside, I really wanted to spread a very simple message: the campaign was a bit bone-headed, yes, but let's put down the pitchforks for a moment, and try to give BaYo a chance to turn things around. It seems that when it comes to the internet, giving anything questionable a remotely charitable reading is ignored in favor of the salacious prospect of flying off the handle and bashing a company or a person wholesale. Shoot first, ask questions later.

I was one of the first people to jump aboard the Bambi Dela Paz bandwagon in 2008. I never bothered deleting that blog entry or softening my stance on the issue, because I wanted posts like these to remind me that sometimes, a little temperance goes a long way, and even I can find myself guilty of engaging in virtual lynch mobs from time to time. I make this plea for temperance for myself just as much as I make it for anyone who'd bother to listen.

.:After Everything Has Been Said And Done...:.

In the end, BaYo decided to junk the campaign altogether. Personally, I feel that's too bad, because apologizing, clarifying their stance, and then promptly riding the memetic wave would have given them a lot of leverage for costs they already sunk into the project. But meh, what do I know, right? I'm just a guy who cracked a few jokes at their expense (Or to their benefit, depending on how you look at it.), after all.

I don't need to retread the lessons on race and identity that I already tackled in my previous blog post. At this point, I was genuinely curious what it means to find yourself as one of the people who kickstarts a viral phenomenon, and the feelings one would get as their contribution gets spread all over the internet, with or without credit. While the results are far from conclusive since I need to pull this off a few more times before I could have any substantial data, how things played out have painted a pretty telltale picture so far. Make of it what you will, I suppose.

So this is how it feels to go viral and be able to see it happen in real time. It feels pretty cool, but humbling at the same time: you realize that an idea, no matter how good or bad, can only thrive by putting itself at the mercy of people and factors completely out of your hands.

I guess that's why I'm very averse to initiatives done with the assumption that it will go viral. More often than not, these things happen because they happen, and not because you willed it to be so. By Monday, I'd be genuinely surprised if anyone still even remembered this meme ever happened. My 15 minutes of fame were up since last night, so it seems.

Nonetheless, I'd be a liar if I pretended that those 15 minutes of fame didn't put a smile on my face.

More importantly, I'm glad I managed to put a smile on the faces of so many other people. Credit or no credit, I don't think I could have possibly hoped for anything more from a 15-minute MS Paint job.

I'll see you jabronis around. Ciao!

BaYo: So call me, maybe?

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