There is a web site in the United States called Dollar Shave Club. They made a name for themselves with some some clever online promotion - you know, ads made for the web and intended to become viral (which, happily, happened for the Dollar Shave Club).
An interloper has arrived on the scene. Never mind dollar shaves, let's go with Thousand Dollar Shave Society.
Like their competitor (who aren't really competing for the same dollar - or thousand dollars as the case may be) they have goe with an online promotion oozing with post-modern hipster irony.
People like funny vignettes (skits, ads, viral videos) - there is a long tradition of comic set pieces on TV - from british comedy of the 60s that stemmed from university reviews like The Footlights club - which spawned all manner of comedy franchises - to shows like Saturday Night Live, Alas Smith and Jones, In Living Color or even The Carl Burnett Show.
Ads have a tradition of being mini narratives - often with a 'boom boom' payoff at the end.
Amusing ads are a dying breed on broadcast TV - they have been overrun with stylised ads or lifestyle ads or just ads that are content to yell a retail brand's latest offer at you.
In part it is because of media economics. A simple gag can be expensive to make. In the 1980s I created an ad for Kent Heaters in which a knight returns from the crusades. His wife has, in the meantime, installed a kent log burner - 'What witchcraft is this?' "It's a Kent Darling. It burns twice. FIrst the wood, then the gases…" A simple little ad, but for which we created a set and costumes that wouldn't have looked out of place in The Hobbit movies…it was filmed, if memory serves me, by SilverScreen - one of the leading production houses of the day. And it cost a fortune - the gag at the end makes me chuckle today - if only because it was so bad - "Warms even the coldest knights." It barely aired - if it did at all - because the client got cold feet about the size of the lead talent's ample bosom - hoisted up a la balcone by her medieval costume.
Here's the kicker - an ad premised on a bad joke only has a limited life in an environment that depends, to some extent, on repetition - repeat viewing. If you know the punch line then even the funniest jokes wear thin. On the web, however, you can tell the worst jokes - real groaners and if you tell them well then there is chance that they will be shared.
Today production can be a lot cheaper than the 35mm excess of my dreadful Kent ad. You could create material on the kind of budgets that skit shows would have used - or less. And you could crank 'em out. That's the thing about viral - don't over think 'quality' - the cost of distribution is nil. Some TV series never caught on until the second series or later (Monty Python was a 'sleeper').
As for the Thousand Dollar Shave Society…I look forward to episode 2.
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.