MTV Goes for Viral Gold With Iron Man


After seeing Britney’s comeback fiasco turn into server-melting gold, MTV intentionally created a viral clip for its Movie Awards last night, with surprisingly funny results. In it, Ben Stiller tries to corral Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. into making a viral video to pimp their upcoming movie Tropic Thunder (while simultaneously schilling for Iron Man and Black’s Kung-Fu Panda).

The clip has Stiller “shooting” with a phone camera as he tries to impress his apathetic teenage nephew. And just like Stiller, MTV is trying to shake its fuddy-duddy image by creating a web-friendly video that the kids can actually embed. Although it looks like I spoke too soon; the embed isn’t working properly. The play button in the timeline isn’t loading the clip and if you click in the screen, you get whisked away to Sigh. So close, MTV. (I’ve put a YouTube version after the jump, but don’t tell Sumner Redstone.)

The video’s a perfect candidate for Liz Miller’s “Will it Spread” feature, since it’s packed with star power, laughs and was created with the sole intention of being passed around. Mission accomplished.


john Douglas

Hey Chris,

Thanks for the response. I can see where you’re coming from, but I have to say that I still disagree.

If this was a court case, intent it would have everything in the world to do with it. But aren’t all videos made with the intent they will get seen? I don’t understand how making something with the intent to go viral has any bearing on the ‘type’ of video it is. In a way, i think the video itself understands this by making fun of the ‘viral’ aspect in an of itself. It actually makes for quite intelligent comedy.

Anyways, thanks for the response. Must get back to work now. And keep up the good work on your end… I look forward to this stuff every day. //Cheers

Chris Albrecht

Hi John,

You make a good point. But I don’t think this video was just created as a short. It was created with promotion in mind. It was created in the hopes that it would go viral. Whether or not it does is another matter entirely.

There are other examples of people trying to create a viral clip (Entertainment Weekly tried last year) and failing. I see your point that if it fails it won’t become “viral” — but labeling something as such is a classification that gives the reader a sense of the type of video being written about.

john Douglas

here me out, and offer me feedback. im curious to see what other people think:

im a bit concerned here. it’s viral gold bc it’s funny… not because the producers “intentionally created a viral clip.” they intentionally created a short, that’s all. there is no difference between this and a skit on SNL, or any other skit used for any other mtv movies awards – past or present.

the fact they claim to be making a ‘viral video’ in the video is part of what makes it funny actually. their intention has nothing to do with whether or not it is viral. you cant have a ‘bad viral video.’ if it’s not successful, and doesnt spread, it’s not viral. people need to stop attributing ‘viral’ to content based on it’s production value, goals, content creators or anything else.

im really troubled by this post for some reason. im really bothered that ‘the intention to make something viral’ somehow has any bearing on ‘potential success’ that is attributed to this clip. if a clip spreads, quickly and in mass quantities, then it is viral. and by the very nature of such an attribution, it can be considered successful. name one video that is viral that isnt successful. you cant. you can say that so-and-so made a clip with the intention of it going viral– but if 500 people view it, pass it on to their friends, and the spread stops, it was never viral in the first place. (this is not to say that something that is viral can not be stupid. there is difference.)

viral came about because people started passing URL’s around. remember that fact. it didnt come from having send-to-friend, or post-on-facebook. those are all just features that were created to make it easier for something to spread.

the clip is successful if it’s funny. what content is not produced with the intent of gaining an audience? whether it’s distributed on youtube, hulu, or some alternate player has no bearing on anything whatsoever, aside from the fact that it may dictate the ease at which the content can be passed along. opting to put your video on such a site only helps make it spread in an easier fashion.

final note…. i understand that ‘success’ is hard to define. (eg. if a million people watch your spot, but cant identify the product, was it really successful?). but keep in mind that the terms “good viral” and “bad viral” just dont make sense. a clip is ether viral or it’s not. and it’s either good, or it’s not. the goodness has nothing to do with the viralness, and visa versa. if my rant seems to ignore this fact, change the definition of success to viewership. it wont impact my argument. hopefully ;)

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