Part 3: Viral Videos Do Not Happen – They Are Caused

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times: It’s not a flashmob if you hire people to do it, and it’s not viral if you hire a PR company to publicize it. Long story short, for some reason PR companies think I am interested in blogging about their “Fresh Thinking & Flawless Execution” flashmobs. I am not. And so as I have done in the past, I choose to publish the email that was sent to me – and not the video, in an attempt at shedding some light on the war over mindshare.

[singlepic id=282 w=525 h=350 float=center]

From: Rebecca Janoff <[redacted]>
To: Shahar Golan
Subject: Wolf Invasion Flash Mob – Last Night in Meatpacking!
Date: Friday, Feb 18, 2011 4:08 pm
Hi Shahar,
Just wanted to make sure you heard about the WOLF INVASION FLASH MOB that infiltrated the NYC meatpacking district last night, to launch the newest vodka from the Bacardi USA portfolio: ERISTOFF!
Details are below and include a link to both photos and footage. Please let me know if there is anything else you need.
Packs of Sexy She-Wolves Infiltrated NYC’s Meatpacking District amid Fashion Week Party Prowlers
WHAT: A pack of taxis converged on the intersection of 9th Avenue and West 13th Street in NYC’s Meatpacking District filled with “wolves” howling to the moon last night to celebrate the US launch of ERISTOFF – Vodka from the Land of the Wolf. Hundreds of spectators gathered on the streets to catch the scene, which erupted in a full scale flash mob to songs like She Wolf and Hungry like the Wolf. One of Europe’s most popular spirit brands, ERISTOFF is now available throughout the United States. The NYC festivities took place near midnight in anticipation of today’s full moon.
WHO: Bacardi U.S.A. and ERISTOFF Vodka, Europe’s most popular spirit brand from the “Land of the Wolf”
WHEN: Thursday, February 17, 2011 Approaching Midnight
WHERE: Meatpacking District, New York City, 9th Avenue at West 13th Street
CONTACT: Chris Walters, 917-[redacted], [redacted]
Rebecca Janoff, 917-[redacted], [redacted]
MORE: Images and video of the spectacle are available here:
About ERISTOFF(r) Vodka
Made from 100 percent pure grain, ERISTOFF(r) is triple distilled and charcoal filtered using the original recipe created in 1806 by noble Prince Eristoff of present day Georgia. Its iconic logo of the wolf howling at a crescent moon has become of symbol of the brand’s Georgian heritage and quality. ERISTOFF(r) is available in three varieties: ERISTOFF(r) Original (80 proof), ERISTOFF(r) Red (40 proof) named for its bright red color and sweet taste of sloe berries, and ERISTOFF Black (40 proof) named for its dark, bold color and taste of wild berries. ERISTOFF is available in a full range of sizes: 1.75 liter (SRP $23.99), 1.0 liter (SRP $16.99), 750 ml (SRP $13.99), 350 ml (SRP $9.99), 200 ml (SRP $5.99) and 50 ml (SRP $1.49).
Rebecca Janoff
Senior Account Executive, Lifestyle & Travel
H A R R I S O N & S H R I F T M AN
P. 917.[redacted] | F. 917.[redacted] | C. 609.[redacted]
141 WEST 36TH STREET | 12th FLOOR | NY 10018
Fresh Thinking & Flawless Execution
This email is intended only for the person or entity to which it is addressed and may contain information that is privileged, confidential or otherwise protected from disclosure. Dissemination, distribution or copying of this e-mail or the information herein by anyone other than the intended recipient, or an employee or agent responsible for delivering the message to the intended recipient, is prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error, please immediately notify us by calling the Help Desk at (917) [redacted].

Viral Videos Do Not Happen – They Are Caused – Continued

A year and a half ago I posted a couple of emails I received from Unruly Media, a self-proclaimed “viral video seeding specialist”, urging me to publish on my blog a video of T-Mobile‘s flash mob in Trafalgar Square. I thought it was much more important to post the actual emails than the video – and so I did just that.

It goes without saying that there is nothing illegal going on. I just thought it is important to see how hype is manufactured, and that is why I am posting the following emails, received today:

From: Sam Lassman <[redacted]>
To: Shahar Golan
Subject: T-Mobile flashmob greets tired travellers at Heathrow T5
Date: Friday, October 29, 2010 11:05 am
Over the past few years T-Mobile has taken flashmobbing to new heights. In 2009 they brought Liverpool Street station to a standstill and followed it up in Trafalgar Square with a mass karaoke singalong. Now they have taken it upon themselves to welcome back hundreds of travellers to Heathrow Terminal 5.
We’re writing to you from Unruly Media to give you a heads up about the latest T-Mobile flash mob at Heathrow airport, where bleary-eyed travellers arriving home were greeted by a mob of hundreds of people clapping and singing welcome home songs.
You can watch the teaser video here:
Right now, the team at T-Mobile are putting together the full edited version which will be screened simultaneously across more than 80 digital and terrestrial TV channels at 10.15pm on Friday night. If you are interested in featuring this on FRGDR, let me know and I can send over the link to you as soon as it goes live.
We’d love to get you involved.

Sam Lassman Watts

Unruly Media
91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL, UK
(+44) [redacted]
(+44) [redacted]
The contents of this email are confidential and the information in it may not be disclosed expect for the purpose for which it has been sent. If you have reason to believe that you are not the intended recipient of this communication, please contact the sender immediately.
Unruly Media Limited – Registered in England No. 5411297
Registered Office: 91 Brick Lane, London, E1 6QL, UK

A few hours later I got the following email:

From: Sam Lassman <[redacted]>
To: Shahar Golan
Subject: Full Video – T-Mobile flashmob greets tired travellers at Heathrow T5
Date: Friday, October 29, 2010 10:39 pm
Good evening,
As promised, here’s the link to T-Mobile’s latest foray that took them
to Heathrow Airport where singers and dancers welcomed back travellers
to an overcast London:
The ad is not due to go live until 10.15 am, so it’s exclusively
online until then. We’re also using the #t5welcome hashtag for tweets,
and we’d really appreciate it if you could include it if you’re
tweeting about the campaign.
Thanks so much for being involved!
Let me know if you have any questions, bcc-ing
[redacted] in case anyone here can respond
Have a great weekend!

Sam Lassman Watts

Unruly Media
91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL, UK
(+44) [redacted]
(+44) [redacted]
The contents of this email are confidential and the information in it
may not be disclosed expect for the purpose for which it has been
sent. If you have reason to believe that you are not the intended
recipient of this communication, please contact the sender
Unruly Media Limited – Registered in England No. 5411297
Registered Office: 91 Brick Lane, London, E1 6QL, UK

Visit Israel in Spite of Our ‘Visit Israel’ Ads

There is a long history of ‘Visit Israel’ ads that seem to miss the mark. Various organizations want the world to visit our tiny country, but apparently good intentions are just not enough, and these often result in offensive adverts. The latest spot, by the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA), should get some kind of an award for bad taste:

Size Doesn’t Matter – CIJA – 2010

Following are a few more ‘Visit Israel’ ads you might find offensive. One thing I find common to all these ads is that they all probably started as funny jokes during a brainstorming session, but there were probably no adults in the room to say “Ha, ha… very funny, now let’s think harder”. Some of these were specifically aimed at quote-unquote going viral, hoping for a lot of FW: FW: FW: THIS IS FUNNY emails.

Un-holy Israel – Keta Keta – 2007

Indeed – Israel at Heart – 2005

Viral Videos Do Not Happen – They Are Caused

I see ad people. Walking around like regular people. They don’t see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don’t know they’re dead.

T-Mobile Conquers Trafalgar SquareI have blogged about flash mobs in the past, both in its purest form (Improv Everywhere creating street performances just for fun) – and in its commercial form (T-Mobile trying to cash in on the trend). If you do not share my notion on mind share, that’s fine. A reader of mine (which may or may not work in an ad agency) actually called these public space disruptions an “experiential advertising that actually provides real value for the audience”. Yeah, right. Reading blogs like the one by Israeli ad agency Mizbala gives you a scary glimpse into the psyche of these people. They actually call these well-funded acts ‘guerrilla marketing‘.

A couple of hours ago I received an email from Unruly Media, a London-based “viral video seeding specialist that works with global brands and agencies to harness and engage the social web”. I thought posting the email would shed some light on the behind-the-scenes activities that make a video go viral. All emphases mine:

From: Sal Azar < [redacted]>
To: Shahar Golan
Subject: Early Warning: T-Mobile Flash Mob Assets Available to FRGDR Tonight
Date: Thursday, April 30, 2009 5:57 pm
Hi Shahar,
The next T-Mobile flash mob is happening tonight from 6-7pm in Trafalgar Square, London. It’s the follow up to the hugely successful T-Mobile Dance in Liverpool Street and we’re hoping to have live footage from the event edited and available within 2 to 3 hours of this evening’s event.
We want to make sure that the video is with influential bloggers and online commentators as soon as is humanly possible and we will send you a link to the content (and additional campaign information) the moment it’s edited and uploaded.
If you’d like me to send across the video source file or if you have any other questions about the campaign, please feel free to drop me a line.
We’re also looking for partners to run the clip (and the official TV ad when it launches next week) on a commercial basis. I don’t know whether you’d feel this was appropriate for FRGDR, but if you’re interested, we can give you a video player to embed, pay you an initial fee for posting the video and a small additional amount for each UK view of the clip. If this is something you’re interested in doing, please drop me a line and I can send you details of how to sign up for the campaign on the Unruly Network.
If you want to check us out, please take a look at We adhere to a strict code of ethics, which you can read here:
Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions, and if you’re anywhere near Trafalgar Square between 6 and 7pm, come along and join in the fun.
Kind regards,

Continue reading Viral Videos Do Not Happen – They Are Caused

The T-Mobile Dance: When Frozen Grand Central Meets Evolution of Dance

Since traditional advertising ceases to be effective, I am afraid the future is made out of quote-unquote guerrilla marketing like this T-Mobile ad just shot on London Liverpool Street railway station. The war over mind share rages on and in the very near future it would be impossible to leave your home without stumbling into an advertisement, and most of the time you won’t even know you’re in one.

It is a loathsome, offensive ad. Yet I can’t look away:

Check out T-Mobile’s Life’s for Sharing YouTube channel for prep videos.

Green Beans And Flam

The IFCJ or The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is a philanthropic organization founded by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. The organization might have done a lot of good in Israel, but I have always thought there was something a little off about it.

[singlepic id=254 w=320 h=240 float=right]First, it seems that one of the main goals of the organization is to promote an heroic public image of its founder. He is not only mentioned in every ad they do – he is the main focus of most of them. On his website you can ‘help honor Rabbi Eckstein [and] share a personal message with [him] that will be placed in a special book of memories being presented to him […]’
In this air of a personality cult they might as well have used a capital H when spelling ‘him’.

Second, it seems that when it comes to soliciting donations, the end justify the means with this organization. A year ago Israel’s Channel 10 news did a segment showing the organization’s US commercials in which Rabbi Eckstein paints Israel as a Third World country whose streets are packed with poor people, bombs go off everywhere, and tourists never visit. Now, I understand that you cannot ask for money if you state that all is well, but it seems the IFCJ is incapable of seeing the big picture, and in trying to make Israel better they seem to perpetuate old stereotypes, trying to manipulate people’s emotions in order to raise more funds.

[singlepic id=96 w=425 h=400 float=right]In yesterday’s Maariv newspaper, the organization published an ad in which Rabbi Eckstein personally feeds a child some green beans, in what appears to be a very large soup kitchen. I found this ad particularly disturbing, as the child in front and the others in the back are most likely real people and not models, who most likely did not consent to being plastered all over the newspaper. But what really made me mad is the subtext of Rabbi Eckstein as a contemporary messiah feeding the poor. No more donating in secret – the modern day savior has an NPO, hires a PR company, an ad agency, and does not wait for people to hang his picture on the wall – he prints them copies of it.

Israeli Domino’s Pizza Enlarges Your Pizza and Much More

The Israeli Domino’s Pizza franchise has released its D-Crust Heroes advertisement campaign, a spin off the ol’ Little Red Riding Hood tale: in the TV commercial we meet some superheros, each of them had one of its organs enlarged: one got a big nose for smelling the garlic on the pizza, another got a big mouth to taste the pizza crust, a third has big eyes to look at the cheese – and wait for it… a fourth hero with big ears that delivers a punch line that will knock you over by saying: ‘Sounds good!’ at the end of the ad.

The campaign includes a take-out menu that was delivered with today’s newspaper, drawn like other superhero comics, only with the extra benefit of pizza ordering information. When I first laid my hands on the menu, I felt a little bit funny. Check out the image and tell me if you feel it too:

Domino's D-Crust Heroes

Now, I know superman wears his underwear on top of his clothes, and on the other hand I know that Barbie’s Ken does not have a penis – okay, I get it: fictional characters have genitalia issues – but this is getting ridiculous:
Giving the D-Crust Heroes protruding male members is going way too far, and while it may be appetizing for a portion of the population, I am not sure Domino’s executives wanted to court that specific audience.

Engbrew Flavored Potato Chips

We all misspell, no doubt about it, even more so when using a language other than our mother tongue. But lately it seems there is an inverse relationship between the Israelis’ infatuation with the English language, and their actual interest in mastering it. An excerpt from the TV ad for the Tatoomania campaign It always dazzles me how companies spend piles of money on advertisements without spending a minute to check for spelling errors. Israeli food company Elite backs its snacks campaign with a website for kids, where they can start their own blog and get popularity votes for it. I can only speculate what is the effect of a kid typing daily and then going off to the world wondering why everyone is spelling it with three T’s.

And don’t get me started on sticker tattoos for kids, kiddie blogs as pedophile hangouts, the unnecessary rating system on that website, or the fat contents in the snacks you need to buy to get the tattoo.