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“Too Many Cooks” Reminds Us That Virality Is An Unpredictable Monster

For a smattering of Adult Swim viewers who happened to be watching infomercials at 4:00 a.m. on Halloween, history was witnessed. It was at that time, unexpectedly and without warning, that “Too Many Cooks” first aired on television.

At first, it went ignored. No-one was talking about it, and those who had watched live were likely still trying to figure out what had happened to their cable sets.

But on November 6, nearly a whole week later, the video was posted to social news monolith reddit, with the headline: This aired at 4:00 AM on Adult Swim between infomercials earlier this week, not listed on cable guides or anywhere else. It’s one of the best pieces of surreal comedy I’ve ever seen. – [11:25]

Quickly, the video raced to the front page, and in the days since, it’s become a monster impossible to handle.

Adult Swim posted the video to their YouTube channel seven days ago. It’s already racked up more than a million views since. The title words began trending on major social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Online news outlets and blogs like Buzzfeed, Gawker, Grantland, and Mashable declared the video a must-see. Even the mainstream media have jumped in, with Rolling Stone calling it an instant cult classic and Esquire deeming it a revelation.

Rian Johnson, director of Looper and the upcoming Star Wars movie, deemed it Oscar worthy.

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Zombie Pranks Halloween Scary Advertising

Do Scares Equal Sales? Prankvertising’s Best Moments

What would your first reaction be if a company, trying to sell you a product, decided to scare you out of your wits? Maybe you’d fire off an angry e-mail, complain about it on Twitter, or simply avoid that company like the plague, right?

Well, what about if the company decided to scare someone else for your enjoyment? You don’t have to provide an answer to that one, because the public has already spoken.

Last week, Ford got into the Halloween spirit by finding 30 strangers, asking if they’d participate in a filmed test drive, and then instructing them to go through a specific car wash on the way to the shoot. The car wash just so happened to be set up as a comfortable home for zombies and demons, sending the oblivious reviewers into a screaming frenzy. Check out the video here:

The ad has already racked up over a million views on YouTube and was celebrated as AdWeek’s “Ad of the Day”.

There was none of the cliche car ad elements: no winding hills, no babies for the car’s intelligent braking systems to protect, no price comparison to competitors.

As Brook Johnston, a copywriter at Toronto’s brand agency FUSE Marketing Group, said, “The Ford stunt is fun. But what does it say about the brand or the specific vehicle? You don’t always need a direct tie, but it helps. A much better example was LG’s “Meteor” prank [linked here] because it paid off on the brand’s promise: screens so clear, you’ll think it’s real life. There’s connective tissue there. It makes sense.”

“That being said, it does take some cajones to freak people out courtesy of your brand,” Johnston says in an e-mail. “A lot of clients are way too terrified (of both the logistics and legalities) to actually try and bring one of these ideas to life. So you have to give them kudos for being brave enough to do it – if they do it well, that is.”

Ford stands out as a shining example of doing it well, and was successful in producing viral content under the banner of a mega-corporation, something often sought after but rarely executed.

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