You've seen it: A YouTube video that goes viral, not only because of the content of the video itself, but because of all the reaction videos and vociferous comments in the discussion area. If the video is a clip from an upcoming movie or television show, part of you wonders how many of the comments and video reactions are real, and how many are staged in order to provoke more comments and engender some healthy "buzz."
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If you're not a fan of online video, perhaps you've seen how a provocative news article or blog entry comes alive in the discussion board, where people leave virulently positive or negative posts. Viral antimarketing is a technique aggressively employed by the marketers of movies, music, cosmetics, computers, fashion labels, cell phones, and other items used by people who form opinions about a product based on information found on the Internet.
The technique is called "antimarketing" when there is deliberate misinformation, or when the buzz is negative. It is considered viral when it spreads like wildfire in the Internet. Ironically, antimarketing can often be more effective than squeaky-clean positive marketing in garnering consumer votes (purchases / hits / comments) and interest. For example, the Britney Spears "haters" who regularly posted fairly vile character-assassination commentary in discussion boards caused the fans no end of consternation. They would rise to her defense. The curious onlookers, the virtual gawkers spurred on by their prurient interest, hung on her every move.
Many say that the quintessential viral antimarketing campaign occured with the release of the movie, Cloverfield, (http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/article3197886.ece). Clips were leaked. Disinformation flooded cyberspace. Blogs and posts touted the film as something either special, frightening, shocking. The boundary between fantasy and reality was blurred. Identity as an essence was effaced. That is fun. Just ask the readers. The frisson of danger and immersion into a world of monsters was something new, fresh, and weirdly vampyric. Yum.
After several months of conducting an informal review of politically conservative talk radio, I have detected points of convergence between the viral antimarketing used to promote a celebrity or a celebrity-driven product (movie, television, music), and the ways in which talk show hosts drum up interest in their political topics.
What do I mean? Well, let's break it down. When I'm in the car, I love to tune in and listen to AM talk radio. I listen to snippets as I drive across town. I listen to entire slabs of programming as I drive across the short-grass prairie on 6-hour treks. I tune in on streaming audio from my laptop where I have a fast wifi connection. It's sweet. I find myself caught up in the energy. Sometimes I even call in. Let me make it clear, though, that I'm no plant. I'm not a part of the buzz-marketing machine. I'm neutral, except that I have a true love for political discourse. Even if I completely disagree with the politics, I find myself morphing myself to catch the wave and surf it, protected from virtual burn with my virtual neoprene. Yes, it helps to be anonymous in the blogosphere, or at least a name like beaglehappygirl so that no one knows who I am.
Do I post to a blog? Do I do the radio equivalent by calling in and posting audio-wise? It's a concept.
Here's a typical moment. I'm driving through central Oklahoma, lost for the moment, having taken the wrong turn in quest of a shortcut. I love the talk show I'm listening to. It's Mark Shannon, a fascinating blend of politics, folksy humor, quirky campy pop music (love the trash disco), and Thanatos-inflected abandon (you have permission to disclose the eternal verities when you're a Army veteran of the Vietnam era, and you're fighting leukemia).
"Hey, BeagleHappyGirl, how are you doing today?"
"What would you like to say?"
"I am happy & I want to name the new OKC NBA team."
"What name would you like to propose?"
"The Oklahoma City Happiness."
"Uhhh-Okay. Nice. Thanks, BeagleHappyGirl, for your suggestion"
CLICK / DISCONNECT.
Am I part of the Viral Antimarketing Underground? Not officially. But -- my absurd suggestion triggers calls. The NBA team has not even come to OKC yet. Yet, the call for names ignites real virulance ... viral energy ... so, when the team does arrive, the ground will have been broken. People will be familiar with the team. They will identify with it. They will be enthusiastic. And -- guess what? It did not cost the new team a cent!
Viral Antimarketing Moments to Remember....
Hillary Clinton's Laugh (first a hit in October 2007, has been repeated ever since). You can't even imagine how many people were driven to call in, motivated by the sound of her laugh... Rush's "Rush the Vote" and "Operation Chaos" combine Grassroots Activism with Viral Antimarketing. Rush is brilliant. His strategy for maintaining a listenership is a call for active participation. "Ditto-heads" and other Rush devotees are rewarded with on-air time. Flaw? Too much fawning adulation. I'd like more "chispa" (spark) from people who think he's not hot.
Sean Hannity "Hanni-tize the Vote"
Moment to remember? Interview with "Dog" about his racist comments. I will never forget this. I was just pulling out of the Dairy Queen in Shamrock, Texas, while Mark Hannity was talking to "Dog," the Bounty Hunter, as Dog begged for forgiveness for his racist rants. Hannity's going-against-the-flow approach was perfect for provoking controversy and calls. A few months later, Hannity's opening monologue called for people to release their tight hold on conservative values. It was such an about-face that shocked listeners called in for reality checks. They had been punked. Punking was a variation of viral antimarketing.
Mark Shannon vs. Perez Hilton
Oklahoma legislator's anti-gay remarks stir outrage
Perez Hilton embedded the rant by Oklahoma legislator Sally Kirk that sparked tens of thousands of hits on YouTube. Readers of the blog wrote in to protest her words and her attitude. Oklahoma City talk show host Mark Shannon did not join the bandwagon on criticizing her for her hateful words. Instead, he questioned those who would multiply the harm by making the hateful words available to millions, not just to the ten or so in attendance when her rant was recorded.
Mark Shannon: Wrestling with Thanatos
Shannon reminds the listeners of their own mortality - memento mori as he talks about taking bags of medicine in an aggressive chemotherapy treatment; discusses life with cancer and health cost issues. Shannon is keeping it real in a way that far outstrips Michael Savage's reflections on life, childhood in Brooklyn, early life as scientist. The authenticity of "carpe diem" is real -- it's life and death.
Neil Boortz: Attacks Hurricane Katrina Victims
Trying so hard to provoke, annoy, stir you up (engage the affect -- but, can backfire?) Another memorable moment occurred when a child with a speech impediment called in to complain about government policies. Boortz went on an extended diatribe against Southern accents and parents who allow their children to speak with regional accents. One could not help but wonder if this was completely orchestrated. After all, who would not want to defend the poor child with a speech impediment against the vitriol spewed by a large, successful adult male?
Michael Savage: Multiply the Viral
Claims he's about to be thrown off the air because people want to abrogate his freedom of speech privileges. Based on the angry speeches against various groups (gays, Muslims, Democrats, women, etc.), it is easy to see how and why people might consider him to be offensive. However, there is no doubt that controversy boosts ratings. It is sad to see how homophobic rants help ratings. I can't help but think of Da Ali G show (Borat is too obvious).
Glenn Beck: The Viral Underground - conspiracies, panics, outrages
I love the adrenaline surge I get when I listen to tales of global conspiracy, weird rituals by world leaders (in the Bohemian Grove), UFOs, economic apocalypse, and cases of public school policy gone awry. The viral antimarketing elements? Naysayer calls, giving voice to lunatic fringe elements.
Mark Levin: Tug on the Heartstrings - rescue dogs and the jeremiad
While Mark Levin's claim to fame is his insight into government corruption, the viral antimarketing comes in the form of dogs, dog adoptions, dog rescue, and every possible angle to tug on the pet-lover's heartstrings. Levin has claimed that Michael Savage is a liberal masquerading as a conservative, and Savage goal is to spawn disinformation. It is great fun when the talk show hosts attack each other, impugn each other's credibility.
Laura Ingraham: Power to the people - populist buzz?
It's hard to put a finger on why Laura Ingraham is so popular, except that she seems to be a master at grassroots activism. She makes one aware that viral antimarketing is, at essence, a kind of grassroots activism.
Laura Ingraham is not well-served when she looks like an echo of Anne Coulter (without the Adam's apple). I think that Laura could put the grassroots influence in overdrive if she started taking on the persona of a 21st century Mother Jones. In this picture, we see that Mother Jones was such a success -- such a "source meme" and a "buzz source" that she was able be very effective in grassroots campaigns. She even made it to the point the she hobnobbed with presidents. Here she is with U.S. President Calvin Coolidge.