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Summary:

If there’s a downside to unexpectedly exploding onto the viral video scene, it’s that you’re probably not ready to handle your fame. Unless you’re a marketing firm, an ad agency, or an experienced auteur, you’re likely to find yourself scrambling to field phone calls, answer e-mails, […]

If there’s a downside to unexpectedly exploding onto the viral video scene, it’s that you’re probably not ready to handle your fame. Unless you’re a marketing firm, an ad agency, or an experienced auteur, you’re likely to find yourself scrambling to field phone calls, answer e-mails, and generally get your story straight for the media. Confusion begets confusion, and soon enough nobody involved knows what’s what. Just ask Andrew Struthers, who found himself at the mercy of YouTube, Comedy Central, and some Irish guy who pilfered his hit video.

The situation gets more confusing when the video in question is a hoax. Such was the case with the vid Bridezilla which, in addition to being fiction masquerading as a real-life scene, was claimed after its discovery by two different parties. The video’s origin was soon cleared up when the creators appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America. But that wasn’t the end of the story for me.

On Monday evening I received an e-mail from someone purporting to be a friend of Ingrid Haas, the woman who filmed the video. My correspondent said that Haas was launching a media company at bridezillamedia.com, and that I was the only person he had informed. How? He found me on Google. Why? Haas and her friends were appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live the next day, and he wanted to get the word out.

Haas, he said, was starting her own company, and her friends weren’t involved. I visited the site which, not to be unkind, didn’t look like a legit business. I suspected a scam. After all, the original video was a hoax, and my correspondent’s e-mail address was from a Canadian university. Were they trying to keep the gag going? [1]

Eventually, my correspondent put me in touch with Haas. But when I called Haas, she gave me a different story. She said she wasn’t considering a solo venture, that all the girls were sticking together, and that she wasn’t really ready to publicize the site. OK, I said, but who’s the guy e-mailing me? He’s a friend in law school, she said, who had offered to make a website in case she started a company.

At which point I sighed audibly into the phone.

So you see the problem here. Nobody was prepared for the clip to go viral. Not Haas, not Sunsilk, and not the fella who e-mailed me. And while there hasn’t been any adverse effects from the confusion — on the contrary, Haas and company were poised on ABC, and I have no doubt they’ll find new work — I think the story above is fair warning to anyone planning a viral video. Get your stories straight ahead of time. Hire a marketing firm if need be. Don’t confuse us lowly reporters. We ain’t that smart. And in exchange, I promise to stop being so suspicious of Canadians.

[1] At this point, as I was trying to determine the site’s registration, I mistyped the URL into Netsol’s WHOIS service and mistakenly thought the site was registered to a different company. My apologies for anyone who got caught up in my mistake.

Steve Bryant is a New York-based writer. His work can also be found on the Reel Pop blog.

  1. […] We’ve been riffing pretty hard on a theme over the last couple days, trying to make sense of how someone can lay claim a viral hit and deal with the ensuing onslaught. But a viral hit does not a career make, much as I love the Numa Numa Kid. […]

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  2. Was there no way for numanuma to capitalize?

    I’d have bought a shirt.
    I’d have visited his very own video site, especially if it held a competition to come up with a better video.

    You can’t use example of a lack of a career coming out of a viral hit because people just aren’t always smart enough to take full advantage of their media time.

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  3. You miss the point. I’m simply saying that an uncoordinated media effort can hinder rather than help a rising star’s fame. It’s PR 101. Don’t confuse the audience.

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  4. Everything is changing, and youre quoting from 101 classes???

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  5. But yeah… other people taking credit for what was ultimately the girls’ ability to baffle the world is no help to them.

    I don’t think the credit that has been taken is so misleading, however.
    The ad agency has taken credit for their part (coming up with the idea and producing it)
    The girls have taken credit for their creation of the film, in the literal sense.

    Except for the question of whether it was real or fake, nobody was really misled save for some sloppy journalism.

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  6. PS: http://www.bridezillamedia.com/ is re-vamped, up and running, and now contains somewhat of a response to this blog

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  7. […] At least that would have been authentic, in an inauthentic kind of way (if you follow me). Instead, I was sucked in by the video, then watched as actresses took credit for it — and thought “way to go, that’s the spirit” — until all of a sudden Unilever turned up in stories, and then Sunsilk, and then the real story finally dribbled out. It sounds like there was some confusion as to who was going to claim credit for it, Sunsilk may or may not have tried to distance itself from the video. In any case, by that time I was kind of sick of the whole thing. […]

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  8. […] At least that would have been authentic, in an inauthentic kind of way (if you follow me). Instead, I was sucked in by the video, then watched as actresses took credit for it — and thought “way to go, that’s the spirit” — until all of a sudden Unilever turned up in stories, and then Sunsilk, and then the real story finally dribbled out. It sounds like there was some confusion as to who was going to claim credit for it, Sunsilk may or may not have tried to distance itself from the video. In any case, by that time I was kind of sick of the whole thing. […]

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  9. I dont really understand though

    This could never have been successfull if the company had its name at the end.

    The story I have is that Ingrid Haas met a Sunsilk exec at Hemmingways in Toronto and they came up with the idea. She was hired by Capital C who came up with the “wig out” campaign, and asked her to make a crazy and convincing video of someong “wigging out” about their hair on their wedding day. Ingrid hired the other girls, wrote the script, directed it, and filmed it.
    Credit is going in different places because different people diserve different credit.

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  10. Ok, I say let people share the fame! If everyone works together to create one big viral video, then we can all benefit…don’t you think? Have you seen this commercial…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bxJJEXTT8Y

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