Home > marketing ramblings, Social media strategy > Viral – how did it all start?

Viral – how did it all start?

If “viral” is defined as something recipients pass on to their friends then the earliest examples I remember were the dancing baby and the monkey smelling its pooey finger from 1996.  But for me the first one which wasn’t a weak email version of America’s Funniest Home Videos was Troops, a Star Wars and COPS takeoff.

It was 1997 and I was working at Wunderman when a friend over at Landor, passed me a video someone had painstakingly “burnt” to VHS from a massive mpg they had downloaded from an early ftp forum.  I showed a couple of colleagues and they thought it was great and before you knew it one evening there was a screening in the big conference room along with the drinks trolley.  We of course then re-converted it back to mpg (no wonder the quality was so poor) and I sent it round to friends who had email.

However, commercial virals seemed to come later.  The first overt viral marketing campaigns that stick in my mind were 1999’s Blair Witch Project (great campaign, poor film) and 2000’s BMW Films (big budgets, big directors, big producers and er… Clive Owen).  Perfect Day from the BBC and Jeep 405 also deserve mentions even though they weren’t planned virals.

Of course, after the email explosion and later when YouTube rolled around viral really took off.  People no longer had to rely on various funny / shocking video forums with their own agendas to view viral content.

I guess how virals started depends on when you saw your first one or the first one that sticks in your memory.  The amazing thing is, it probably wasn’t that long ago.

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