‘We’re looking for something like that Jean-Claude Van Damme ‘Epic Split’ viral’ (unnamed client).
Volvo have set the bar high. Eighty five million views, commercially relevant and universally admired.
And as soon as Van Damme’s groin-defying stunt hit youtube, countless parody videos started to appear. Amateur ones that are too numerous to count, but major stars also got involved. Chuck Norris and Channing Tatum the most prevalent, the latter using it as a low-budget- but hilarious- marketing push for his new film ‘22 Jump Street’.
It is a new barometer – whether the video content is good enough to inspire spin-offs. So, if imitation is the highest form of flattery, Volvo should be proud.
Original video content
But parodies appear not only as a result of acclaimed pieces of content, but also due to efforts that don’t quite hit the target. For better or worse, parody videos are a sign of notoriety. Whether it’s for good or bad reasons, that original piece of content is memorable and original. And it is that word – original – that is key. The creators have had the courage to say ‘yes’ to a new, different and bold execution. They are all examples of brands/ artists/ content makers who have swung for the fences. Sure, maybe some of them have missed the target – but they’ve all taken a shot.
So when clients say ‘Give me the same, but different’, they should be careful what they wish for. What they need to take into account is that it is not the execution that they should aspire to replicate- that has to be completely original. It’s the ingredients that provoked such strong reactions that need to be examined.
To take the Van Damme video as an example, there were a few key factors that made it great:
Spectacle. We’ve never seen anyone doing the splits in between two Volvo trucks. Similar to the Felix Baumbgartner’s Red Bull stunt, this was an original visual image that left the audience exhilarated.
Well, it certainly looks like it’s real. And the fact that the stunt is so visually impressive has sparked constant debate amongst viewers – was it really Van Damme? How much CGI? How many safety harnesses? All these questions garner increased publicity.
The product, while integral to the piece of content, is not the focal point. Van Damme is who we’re looking at, so viewers don’t feel like they’re being ‘sold to’. Volvo have created a piece of content that doesn’t feel like advertising while still being commercially relevant.
So, instead of asking for a derivative stunt similar to ‘The Van Damme Epic Split’, decision makers should aspire to re-create the ingredients that made the content great and try to replicate the emotions that encouraged viewers to share it. Take a leap of faith and have the courage to green light an original execution. Trust that it will be great. It’s that simple.
Then, hopefully, the content will be parodied for all the right reasons.