Some of you may have seen an e-mail or tweet yesterday that went something like this: “Hilarious, girl quits job on dry erase board. E-mails entire office”. Being the sucker that I am I clicked the link immediately hoping to see something that might top the JetBlue slide story from the previous day.
But when I clicked through to the story some things just didn’t seem right. First there were 33 photos of a woman holding up a dry erase board, each with a sequential portion of a semi-plausible quitting story. This already smacked of overproduction. Additionally the photos were too well-lit, the handwriting too clear and the woman’s transformation from glasses-wearing admin type to non-specc’d hottie too obviously focused on a certain type of male fantasy.
Within a few hours other doubters had appeared publicly. Within 24 hours the whole thing was exposed as a hoax. The woman, a 22 year old actress, was identified, as was the team who put the hoax together, (and it was not their first). They even put up an “apology” created in the same style as the original.
This reminds me why I try not to use the term “viral”. The story did go “viral”, but mainly because it used a formulaic approach that robbed it of all authenticity. “Take one part catchy headline, add girl, create hip sounding term HOPA (HOt Piece of Ass), add twitter and there you have it”. Or don’t as it happened.
I like to use the ungainly term “spreadable media” which, although it sounds like cream cheese or peanut butter, commits us to creating messaging, tools and environments that can spread a message in an authentic and sustainable way. Nothing is guaranteed, but if we look for viral formulas we may get a HOPA, but with spreadable media maybe we’ll find true love.