The Pa-Pa-Pa-Power of Advertising Laterally

Here’s a Zen question that keeps me up at night: Has subversive gone mainstream, or is the new mainstream just more subversive?  Since I tend to talk a lot about video advertising on this blog, you might already see where I’m heading.

Film buffs in the Baltimore-Washington area might remember a small film festival called MicroCineFest.  MicroCineFest was a small 5-day fest located in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood and it featured some of the craziest, most extreme, and subversive videos on Earth.  Remember, these were the days before YouTube (BYT), so people would come from far and wide to check out some insanely creative videos.

I was very into the programming at MicroCineFest.  It was challenging.  As a videomaker it made me wonder: If this is the film subgenre I am into, how could I ever be able to put this to work?  In other words, this seemingly unmarketable subgenre of film was fine for the arthouse, but could it ever break out?

Well here we are roughly 10 years later. YouTube dominates the web (and television for that matter).  Film festivals of any kind seem somewhat passe.  And commercials like this can be found running during primetime on national channels:

What happened?  It’s like all the filmmakers who made those crazy MicroCineFest films got real jobs and convinced huge companies to try something boldly different.  Not only that, but it’s working.  I personally heard a huge buzz about these commercials from friends before actually seeing them.  And just recently, I was alarmed to find my friend proudly displaying his collection of various Old Spice products.

The video is doing quite well online too.  With nearly 4 million views, the majority of comments read like this:

  • “that was @#$%ingepic sweet vid”
  • “Second commercial to convince me to buy a product. First was the last Old Spice one, man on a horse.”

and the comment that really hits the nail on the head:

  • “It’s as if they wanted the commercials to become viral videos that we would love and give millions of hits. Good job!”

So I guess the answer to my question is the latter.  With a variety of equally popular media outlets available for distribution, there is no longer a mainstream for media consumption.  In turn, the mainstream messages must get more subversive to accomodate each.  Successful campaigns are not created by pushing a variety of mediocre messages through one premium outlet but rather spreading one highly-contagious message over a variety of outlets.