A Look Into the Future of Viral Marketing

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Born in 1979, I just barely qualify as old enough to have developed a world view according to which when something “goes viral” my first impulse is to wash my hands compulsively and avoid human contact. As it has with many things, the internet has rendered my world view obsolete. Going viral is now a good thing.

No one knows the value of going viral as well as advertisers and marketing firms, hence what’s come to be known as viral marketing. According to something I think I read on the internet, viral marketing involves the use of new media and social media in particular to increase brand awareness. Television and film marketers have proven particularly adept at using the internet, that ubiquitous yet entirely virtual entity, to break down the fourth wall. You can now follow characters from your favorite books on Twitter. You can visit web sites set up by fictitious characters from fictitious worlds that exist only in the movies.

This blurring of reality and fiction is all well and good and kind of fun as long as it remains on the other side of the screen. It’s when these tricks begin to play out in our own brick and mortar reality that I draw the line and say “hey, not cool.” Consider the “prankvertising” campaign for the movie Devil’s Due, where unsuspecting passersby, drawn to what appeared to be an abandoned stroller were rewarded for their concern with the scare of a lifetime, a lifelike demonic hellbaby jolting suddenly upright in the stroller, seething. Or how about those NYC commuters, already harried and late for work and wondering if it’s not time to just throw in the towel and move back to Iowa, suddenly besieged by zombies at Union Square because the creatives at AMC thought it would be a brilliant way to promote the next season of Walking Dead. For many this is all in good fun. But this is a high stress city and there are people with heart conditions.

My guess is these two examples are only the beginning, that this is all too much fun and too much novelty and that it will be a long time before marketers fall back on more traditional means of getting the message out. But how far can it go? If zombies and hellbabies are only the beginning what’s next? Here are some of my terrifying predictions.

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What a year for TV drama! Trigger-happy cops, CIA torture, outbreaks — and that was just on CNN!

Bazinga!

Sorry, got carried away. But face it, we all got to watch 24 starring Dick Cheney and Michael Hayden — Mad Men starring Kim Jong-un — and The Walking Dead starring Donald Sterling.

(You cannot tell me the Donald is not a zombie. He sucked the life out of everyone he came in contact with. And come on, did he die in that monochromatic suit? It’s like watching Who Wants to Be a Billionaire.)

But I digress. It’s the end of the year, which means endless end-of-the-year lists, especially for TV shows. And I didn’t watch TV this year. Seriously. I cut the cable cord in 2008. Yes, I am superior to you, thanks for asking.

But I still have the Internet for now (thanks Kim). And the BuzzFeed logo is tattooed on my pecs. So please indulge me as I give you my Top Ten “Top Ten Critics List” Critic’s List.

10. Matt Roush, TV Guide

Is TV Guide still a thing? Apparently it is. Matt’s “10 Best TV Shows of the Year” is a true artifact. His puns are period pieces, older and more threadbare than Tom Shales’ red sweater vest:

“This show always gets my vote” (The Good Wife).

A “surprise pregnancy…has given birth to an instant favorite” (Jane the Virgin).

Folks, he’ll be here all week. Try the veal.

9. Jeff Jensen and Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly

EW‘s “10 Best TV Shows of 2014″ is the only list that also qualifies as a Women’s Studies curriculum:

“…Skewered our preoccupation with body image” (Louie).

“…Allowed the uncensored use of a slang term for ‘vagina’” (Inside Amy Schumer).

“…Inspired more thoughtful debates about consent than you’ll find on most college campuses” (Game of Thrones).

“…Explored themes of transcendence and transgression in intimacy, religion, art, and dining” (Hannibal).

Transgression in dining? I thought that was Guy Fieri’s job. Bazinga!

Jensen also wins the Herb Tarlek Award for Awkward Use of Spanish for this bon mot: “Jane the Virgin is muy bien.” Okay fine, Jenny-poo.

8. Willa Paskin, Slate.com

Willa’s entry for Slate’s “TV Club 2014″ is titled “Why I’m sad that the network sitcom is nearly dead.” That’s right, girlfriend, save those tears you might otherwise squander on Ebola victims for the passing of Must-See TV!

Her quotes:

“…Seinfeld and Frasier were both very specific and broadly appealing.”

Friends and Seinfeld in endless rerun are still so great and comforting to stumble upon.”

“I really love coming upon reruns of Friends.”

What, no love for The Cosby Show?

7. Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter

Goodman’s list, “The Best Television of 2014,” name-checks 31 shows. Thirty-one. Good Lord. Ah, but he considerately explains why his list is so long:

“But first, a quick story about death and embarrassment…. Anyway, a spirited discussion about why I was to be killed followed, with me telling this person that the first few episodes made by the person who wanted me dead were, indeed, not very good and that one of the tenets in my critical philosophy is that second chances are not a given, and only on very rare occasions are third chances…”

Folks, Goodman’s disclaimer runs 1,408 words. “Quick story” my ass. Editor, stat!

(By the way, out of his 31 best shows, only one was an NBC comedy, and it’s been cancelled. Maybe Willa Paskin had a point.)

6. Jarett Wieselman, BuzzFeed

You thought 31 was a bit much? Try “35 Best Episodes of Television in 2014.”

All you need to know about Jarett’s list is this:

“There was a lot of wonderful reality television this year.”

Uh-oh. His proof? Episode three of the eight-part documentary series about Lindsay Lohan on Oprah’s OWN Network.

Honestly. Did you know LiLo’s life would take eight episodes to unwind? That’s one more episode than The Roosevelts: An Intimate History by Ken Burns. I wish I were joking.

5. Scott Meslow, The Week

“43 TV Shows to Watch in 2014.” No! It’s too long! I refuse to read this! Cry U.N.C.L.E.!

Meslow’s list came out on September 8, 2014. That means he gave readers exactly 114 days to view 35 drama series and eight comedy series. And one of them is on something called the Ovation network.

Did I tell you I got rid of my TV?

4. Brian Lowry, Variety

Lowry gave us his “10 Best TV Dramas of 2014.” That’s more like it! Short, sweet, and unpretentious. Let’s check in:

“…A list of favorite series — like one of favorite songs — is a snapshot of a moment, not a rigid document carved in stone…”

Never mind.

3. James Poniewozik, Time Magazine

Poniewozik’s list is “The 10 Worst Shows of 2014 (That I Watched).” Finally, something negative! Enough with the treacle and mush.

It includes I Wanna Marry Harry, Marco Polo, The Newsroom, and The Brittany Murphy Story. All of which I am shocked did not make Jarett Wieselman’s Top 35 list.

2. Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture.com

Again with the cannibal? Listen to how Vulture describes its number one show, Hannibal:

“And yet for all of its ugliness and horror, it is an intensely pleasurable experience, appallingly sensual, laying out food, furniture, clothes, windows, doors, and landscapes with painterly exactness.”

“Appallingly sensual”? I knew we’d get around to Cosby!

1. Maureen Ryan, The Huffington Post

Her “Top 10 TV Shows of 2014″ list is truly great. Hey, I know where my bread is buttered.

This is why it paid to watch the news in 2014.

From the unfortunate news anchor who took a skateboard to the head to the kid who dropped his iPhone 6 after standing in line for hours to get it, it was a great year for watching people embarass themselves on live television. Newsbefunny made a mashup video of the best news bloopers of 2014, because reading off a teleprompter is hard, and when you don’t have a teleprompter … forget about it.

Watch the clip above.

‘The Interview’ Is Now Available On iTunes

After being made available on YouTube Movies, Google Play, Microsoft’s Xbox Video and Sony’s own film-dedicated site, “The Interview” has finally made its way onto iTunes. Apple added the controversial film on Sunday, available for rent at $5.99 or purchase at $14.99.

“We’re pleased to offer ‘The Interview’ for rental or purchase on the iTunes Store,” Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said in a statement.

“The Interview” also opened in 331 theaters across the nation this Christmas weekend, earning $2.8 million from its limited release.

After the Mysterious Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 incident in March 2014 and the shooting of Malaysia Airline Flight MH17 by a ground-to-air missile in July 2014, yesterday AirAsia flight QZ8501 with 162 people on board found missing by the time it flew from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore after losing contact with air traffic control due to weather, the airline company said

By Matt Yoder, Awful Announcing

Themed sportscasts have been all the rage in the last year. From pro wrestling to Game of Thrones to death. All of them have been themes for the blank canvases of local news sportscasts. It’s great to see the creativity of all these local sportscasters turing the normal local sports report into a viral sensation.

Now thanks to Andy Burrell of NBC 2 in Southwest Florida, we now have the timely Griswold Family Christmas Vacation sportscast.

NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral

Although I’m more of a Vegas Vacation guy myself (you can’t beat a Wayne Newton cameo or Nick Pappa georgio), this is still pretty good. Well done.

[NBC 2]