Hail, Ghostbusters, and A Swagger Wagon – Viral Video Round Up

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It’s Friday again, and time for another Viral Video Round Up, where we take apart some viral successes and dissect them for clues on how we ourselves can go viral.  Lots of good stuff this week from all kinds of content creators.  We have an amateur video, an established viral creator, and a major brand… along with some extra nuggets in our Honorable Mention section. Without further ado, let’s dig in:

The Hail Video

I’m guessing by now you’ve seen the video from Oklahoma of hail in the pool—or have at least heard of it.  It’s one of the most rapidly popular videos I’ve seen in a long time.  It quickly made the rounds in our office because we actually got hail from this same storm when it came through Tennessee—though we only had marble-sized hail, which is still plenty enough to damage a car, I can promise you that.

What’s great about this video is that it’s really got two “unbelievable” moments in it.  It starts out with some really huge hail making giant splashes in the backyard pool.  And it’s amazing from the start.  But about halfway through, the video surprises you and kicks into high gear in a way you didn’t expect—the storm and the hail’s intensity go up tenfold, and it becomes something truly awe inspiring… and very loud.  See for yourself:

You see what I mean?  It’s fairly insane even in the beginning of the video, as your mind tries to process how big the

hail must be to cause splashes that large.  But when it kicks into overdrive, and the volume and frequency of the hail increases significantly, the video truly blows your mind.  I showed it to several people, all of whom were out of adjectives to describe its amazingness before one minute had even passed… when the real surge of hail began… they were downright speechless.

I probably don’t have to explain why this video went viral.  It features something that probably 95% of the viewing public has never seen before—a massive hailstorm with baseball-sized (maybe even softball-sized) hail.  Growing up in Indiana—a state known for getting more than its share of tornadoes—it was pretty common  for people to show up at church on Sunday with a new VHS tape they shot of the tornado that went through their corn field.  And no one ever once got tired of watching those homemade weather videos.

When Mother Nature does something destructive, scary, and amazing… video of that event is a guaranteed viral best-seller.  One of the reasons is that video like this is extremely rare—because it’s generally considered a more intelligent reaction to tornadoes and hail to seek cover, rather than to break out a camcorder.

The Movie-Themed Flash Mob

Improv Everywhere is one of my favorite online video producers.  Nearly everything they’ve put out entertains me on some level.  I’m not 100% sure why, but I have theories.  See… I’ve never liked “prank” videos where the victim is made to look bad.  Like when Ashton Kutcher destroys someone’s car to make them cry on Punk’d, and then says “Gotcha!  You cried!”  That’s not clever.  Nor is it entertaining.  I mean… anyone can flat-out lie to someone else in order to set up a prank.

But Improv Everywhere isn’t exactly about pranking people—though there’s clearly a Candid Camera quality at work.  They film the reactions of the crowd as part of the punch of their videos, but it’s not done at the crowd’s expense.  It’s not about fooling the live audience and embarrassing them… it’s about entertaining them.  The now-famous “freezing in Grand Central Station” video is a great example of this… it’s definitely about the audience’s reaction to things… but it’s not making the audience a victim.

Anyway, their latest video is titled “Who You Gonna Call?”  And it’s a Ghostbuster’s nod, reenacted in the New York Public Library.  As usual… it appears the live audience had a blast watching this unfold:

This group just keeps getting better and better in creating engaging and entertaining experiences for both the live audience and the eventual viral video audience.  Here they disrupt a public library with sights and sounds—a place usually reserved for quiet study and deep thought—and no one seems the least bit upset.  That’s no small achievement.

The video went viral because it’s funny… it’s unexpected… it references a tremendously popular film and does so in a real life setting from that film.

There’s a charm to what they do, and it wins people over.  I wish there were more groups like this out there.  I wish I could know that sooner or later I might walk into my local grocery store and see a spontaneous musical number performed.  I would love to see something like this live.  But until the day when there’s a top-notch improv troop in every city, we’ll have to make due with the videos of Improv Everywhere.  Good thing they’re so awesome.

The Fish-Out-Of-Water Hip Hop Song

One very popular trend in comedy is to have people singing a rap or hip hop song that wouldn’t ordinarily be anywhere near such music.  (I think Adam Sandler might have started this trend back in the 90’s when he had the rapping granny in The Wedding Singer.)  And it’s been done a million times since then.  We’ve seen rapping teachers, rapping CEOs, even animated rapping chipmunks.

But apparently it’s still funny.  Toyota released a new ad, called Swagger Wagon, for their Sienna minivan, and it almost instantly started to go viral. It features a married couple and their two kids… rapping and singing about how awesome their new minivan is.  Soccer moms aren’t exactly your standard type of hip-hop artist, which I’m sure is part of the appeal.

But the video is popular not simply because it has unusual people rapping… but because the writing and the performance of the song are extremely clever and humorous.  Take a look:

This video appeared online the first week of May, and has amassed over two million views in three weeks.  Not too shabby.  I wanted to write about it last week, but ran out of room.  However, the video’s viral rise hasn’t slowed at all this week, so it provided me the opportunity.

Think about this… I read through about five pages of the comments on this video—I know… YouTube comments are a dangerous pool to go swimming in—but I didn’t see one reference to the recall/safety debacle that only months ago was front page news.  It’s a sign of a well-made advertisement when it elicits tons of praise and no mention of very recent scandal, especially with the YouTube-commenting crowd.

And that has to have been part of Toyota’s intention.  This isn’t your traditional car commercial—those don’t go viral.  Eschewing the traditional bragging car companies do about their stats and numbers and payload… they instead went for pure entertainment. And it works.  It’s clever, it has exceptional production values, it’s relatable (soccer moms of the world unite!), and best of all… it’s funny.

Honorable Mention

If I had more time, I would also have featured the following viral hits from this week:


Video Industry

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