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Why We Are Not, Any Of Us, Going Viral Ever Again

People, we need to talk about this whole “going viral” thing.

Specifically, what we need to discuss is maybe just calling it a day with the whole thing. That okay with everyone? We just give up with this trying to “go viral” business? “But Erik,” I’m certain you’re saying out loud at this very moment, “Going viral is my entire life’s work. Why would I want that to go away?” I’ll tell you why. This is why.

BBC Video Here

You’ve probably seen this by now. But for the sake of me enjoying explaining it to people, let’s pretend you haven’t. So this is Professor Robert Kelly, an associate professor of international relations at Pusan National University in Busan, South Korea. Professor Kelly was being interviewed live via Skype on BBC World News about the impeachment of South Korean president Park Geun-hye. As he was giving his insights on the situation, his 4-year-old daughter Marion came bopping into the room behind him and tried to see what her daddy was doing. He successfully managed to get her to sit down behind him when his 9-month-old son James comes bursting into the room on a walker, and this is where you are losing it because you can’t even. You cannot.

So now with both of his kids in the room behind him, seemingly ready to give their own takes on the impeachment of South Korean president Park Geun-hye, into the room with a Kramer-esque flourish came their mother Jung-a Kim. She desperately grabs both kids and then pulls them both back through the door, temporarily getting the walker stuck in the doorway by the 4-year-old insisting on being dragged screaming out the door, and then with one last mighty effort, lunges for the doorknob and closes the door behind them, with the kids’ screaming still audible from the hallway and their father sitting in stunned silence. End scene.

So yeah, you’ve probably watched that roughly 20 times in a row now like I just did, and I’d already seen the thing before. So what was that I was on about earlier about going viral? Well, see, going viral and getting weird were Professor Kelly’s first concerns after the interview when the BBC reached out to him to see if they could repost the video. Specifically:

Because, as he explained in a followup interview, Robert and Jung-a Kim’s first concern as parents was they didn’t want the entire world laughing at their kids, which I like to think I wasn’t doing (don’t know about you personally). They also put out a press release to very clearly express their feelings on the entire incident, which you should read in its entirety. But you can appreciate their concerns since they obviously weren’t looking to go viral. But the internet being the internet, naturally they did and now their video has been seen by tens of millions of people worldwide and the Kellys suddenly find themselves unwitting celebrities and probably will have their own reality show on A&E by the time you’re reading this. Check your local television guide quick and see.

Which brings us back to the point. Brands, companies and individuals would kill for the level of exposure that the Kelly family attained without even trying or wanting. For instance, say, the BBC, whose wagon is firmly hitched to this star and they are riding it all the way to the moon. So, honestly, what’s the point of attempting? This video is quite possibly the perfect piece of comedy and maybe the greatest thing that’s ever been on television. From the way the first kid struts in like she owns the place, to the second kid bursting in like he has a motor on his walker, to the wife’s entrance and exit in perfect sitcom form and down to the dad’s expression. This thing is like an onion; it has layers under layers. Keep pulling at it and you keep finding more. So how are you possibly going to top this? Answer: You’re not.

A lot of marketing agencies will promise that they can produce a piece of work that will ‘go viral’ at this kind of level, because a lot of marketing agencies are profoundly dishonest (not us, though, we’re cool). But let’s be honest with ourselves here. Could anyone have possibly conceived of, written out and produced something like this and have it be as entertaining? Again, honesty here. No. This is lightning in a bottle. Comedy distilled to its most basic form. You can’t create something like this, and you can’t recreate it. You just have to appreciate it. And then never attempt to do anything like it yourself.

So let’s make an oath here. This is the point in human history where we all agree that we, as a species, will never attempt to “go viral” ever again. Peak viral has been achieved, and we can do nothing better than this, so from now on we will still put things on the internet and hope that it will be popular and viewed by as many pairs of eyeballs as possible, but that’s it. No more inane buzzwords for “doing something that’s popular.” We’re not “going viral” any more. We’re just all of us doing our jobs and living our lives, this point on.

Or just lock the door when you’re giving interviews at home. You could always try that instead.

Erik Hagen is the senior copywriter for KK BOLD and refuses to stand up on video Skype conversations for the same reason as Robert Kelly, that he’s not usually wearing pants.