The most interesting part of this section of Spreadable Media was Unfinished Content; an interactive part of the media that allows the audience to use their brain to relate the content to themselves. Genius, right?
Burger King launched a site where visitors would type in one of approximately 300 commands, and a video of a man dressed in a chicken suit would follow that command. If the user typed a command with no corresponding video reaction, a clip of the chicken looking confused would play. This content is technically “unfinished” on its own because it requires a user to type a command in order for a result. This site launched in 2004 and became one of the most famous for this advertising approach.
The coolest piece of unfinished content that I’ve ever seen was the Volkswagen: Print Ad Test Drive. The ad unfolds from the magazine and, and from a Volkswagen app the user guides the phone along the road. Different things happen in different modes as you guide the car along. Nothing can happen just using the print ad – user interaction is needed in order for the ad to mean anything or have any purpose; “The story required a command to be entered to move forward, so the actual output was controlled and triggered entirely by the user.” (page 210).
After reading these three sections from Spreadable Media , I noticed quite a few points on the topics that I had already been knowledgeable on, and found the rest relatable and quite interesting.
One of the things this section focuses in on “fandom” culture. Fans of many television shows, movies, books, and much more share tight-knit communities. It is common for those within these fan communities to create their own stories, spin-offs of some sort, art, videos and more surrounding their shared interest.
This book also brings up the spread content amongst generations themselves; for example, the baby boomer generation enjoys watching older commercials or TV programs from their childhood. They may browse eBay for vintage memorabilia from their teenage or childhood years, which sparks joy and nostalgia.
Humor can be taken too far sometimes, and thus turn into a bit of an insult. The Old-Spice commercials have “ongoing experiments with finding the right humorous tone to mock notions of masculinity” (Caddell 2010). Some of their commercials seem to push humor to a point where it might be a tad insulting, but it is all a part of figuring out what works for their campaign and what does not.
Parody and References
Parodies are analyzed as a way that an audience transforms a brand into a resource for their own social interactions with others. It uses humor with a reference that others know of, and is able to express shared experiences in a unique way that people find valuable. Our generation is one that is so quick to make and pair references from different movies, television shows, content from social media, memes… you name it.
Pieces of media that leave room for the reader to interpret them in their own way are crucial. It enables us to produce our own culture from what we read, giving new perspectives and insights on the topic. “Producerly Texts and Cultural Resources” is a section from Designing for Spreadability that discusses the importance of gaps and loose ends within the content we consume.
For me, the key takeaway from this section of the article was this; “Material which fills in every blank limits audience interpretations. Propaganda, for instance, is less producerly because it sets rigid limits on potential meanings.” Once I read this, I began to think of all of the content I consume, and what the use of it would be if it didn’t leave room for me (or anyone else) to interpret it and discover their own meaning behind it.
One producerly text I particularly enjoy is called “Here’s a Tip: Start Thinking for Yourself” and it focuses on the importance of… you guessed it; thinking for yourself! It is left open for interpretation to apply it to your own life so you can get as much out of the article as possible.
The creative industries rely on people seeing the content that they produce, making it very hard to get noticed in this day in age. Reading “Spreadable Media: Creative Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture” by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green gave a lot of insight on content creation and “spreadability”. It seems that everyone wants something of theirs to go viral, and for obvious reasons – lots and lots of traffic to your site.
“One thing is clear: people don’t circulate material because advertisers or media producers ask them to, though they may do so to support a cause they are invested in.”Jenkins, Ford, and Green 198
A creative agency named Mekanism was discussed in the article as the “group responsible for such successful online promotions as the double-entendre-laden Axe body wash campaign “Clean Your Balls.”” While this company doesn’t have a secret recipe to creating viral media, they do understand how to engage their target audience and carefully place the unique content where they can find it and pass it on to their friends.
One of the first things that stuck out to me from this article was the aspect of uncertainty; there is no way tone 100% sure if something will circulate well amongst the audience. Say it doesn’t – it doesn’t mean it’s not a quality piece of content (less room for discouragement).
Three considerations to be taken when creating stand-out content and to reduce uncertainty included in the article – these are IMPORTANT. After reading these, I felt as if I had a better idea of what actually goes into these genius advertisements or sponsored posts that you see getting circulated around Twitter or hanging at the top of the Trending Page on YouTube.
- Recognize the degree to which success is unpredictable
- Know the technical and strategic reasoning behind spreadable content
- Pay attention to patterns and what motivates someone to share a piece of content
As someone who intends to freelance in multiple sectors of the creative industry once I graduate, it’s safe to say that I’m a tad bit intimidated. Creating content that circulates well is crucial to someone working gigs – if your work isn’t seen, your company isn’t heard of, meaning you won’t get as many jobs as you deserve. Basically, you have to be on the ball and know how to market yourself well (which isn’t entirely hard to do with some research).
With that being said, would you be less likely to purchase a product / service if the brand has not gone viral and been placed in the limelight?