One of the latest buzzwords on the Internet is “viral video.” Viral sounds like a viral infection, so why viral? Viral, because it spreads through the web, like a virus that attacks a human body. Viral, because it spreads from one human to another. Viral, because it can cause an epidemic – remember the craze about Numa-Numa several years back?
Interestingly enough, viruses and viral videos share another common characteristic – their history. Real-world viruses first occurred naturally through evolution. They were then replicated by people in labs. The first synthetic virus was created in 2002 by synthesis of cDNA but we created a different form of virus even before that – a computer virus. In the early 1970’s the first computer virus was created by Bob Thomas. Creeper Worm as it was called, was designed to demonstrate its ability to spread on the Tenex-running computers through the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, or ARPANET for short. The idea for a computer virus was born three decades earlier in the mind of John von Neuman, a Hungarian-American mathematician who lectured about “Theory and Organization of Complicated Automata,” which was later published as the “Theory of self-reproducing automata.” If we really think about it, the idea surfaced well before even the twentieth century. Ever since the Middle Ages, humankind has tried to devise a Perpetuum Mobile – a machine of perpetual motion.
Similarly, viral videos first “occurred in nature.” The early viral videos and Internet memes were not planned but simply happened by accident. The mid-1990s Dancing Baby created by Ron Lussier from the LucasArts, the phrase “All your base are belong to us” from a poorly translated English language version of a Japanese video game Zero Wing from 2000, and the footage from an office CCTV camera showing an angry guy smashing his computer are some of the early examples of the viral power of the Internet. It didn’t take long before marketing and video production companies realized the potential of viral marketing and started creating videos designed to go viral.
One example of a video designed to go viral was the “JK Divorce Entrance Dance,” a project in which I had a pleasure of being involved. When the original video of Jill, Kevin, and their entire wedding entourage dancing through the church aisle to the tune of Chris Brown’s “Forever” hit YouTube, it became an instantaneous hit. Within days, the team at Indigo Productions, a video production company from New York City, released a divorce spoof, complete with the bride and groom, a real courtroom, judge, and bailiffs – all played by professional actors. Choreographed to look like a natural viral video, the divorce dance became a hit in its own right almost overnight.
The Original JK Wedding Entrance Dance
The Viral JK Divorce Entrance Dance Spoof
The making of the viral video
Why would anybody go to that much trouble to create a viral video? Free advertising of course! The business brought in by all the links and traffic to the corporate website more than compensated for the cost of producing the video. No wonder then that viral video production and viral marketing in general has become an industry in and of itself. An industry that is in its infancy but is already growing, and fast.
The question now is will we draw another parallel with the original form of a virus and look for a cure? Will we have anti-viral software? Will somebody try to stop this and actually succeed? Probably not, but who knows?