Assignment 7

Viral Media Campaign

In the last decade, new types of media and media production have rapidly emerged due to the increase in types of technology and how information is shared. Viral media is a new type of media and can take many different forms in terms of marketing from “word–of–mouth marketing efforts to remix videos to popular content” (Jenkins, 2008). But what is ‘viral media’ exactly? Viral media “seeks to explain the process of cultural transmission”, meaning that it often looks at social and cultural notions and examines which ideas are important and which get replicated (Jenkins, 2008). When something on the media turns into viral media, it often means it has been replicated and recreated again. Ideas which turn into viral media “get transformed, repurposed, or distorted”, and often get a new shape in society where it continues to wide spread the message (Jenkins, 2008). It is also interesting to note that the ideas that remain even after the process of viral media, are the ideas which “can be most easily appropriated and reworked to different communities”, meaning that those ideas have a farther reach.

This possibility of ideas spreading into different cultural societies ties into another theory of media called ‘spreadable media’. Spreadable media is a potential “alternative model” which could explain how and why media content circulates at certain times (Jenkins, 2008). The activity of the consumer is also seen as much more significant when discussing the spreadable media model. This ties into the notion of “circulation of media content”, which has to do with the “differences between wat motivates consumers to spread content and what motivates producers to seek the circulation of their brands” (Jenkins, 2008). New and “unanticipated markets” is also an important aspect of spreadable media and this also why they aim to circulate their media content so that more people see the information. The spreadable media model also makes one very significant assumption which is that it “assumes that the repurposing and transformation of media content adds value” (Jenkins, 2008).

‘Spreadability’ is often compared with another already older term, ‘stickiness’. The two terms share characteristics but are different views on how media is spread.  Spreadability is often seen as a more overarching approach one that is “intended as a contrast to older models of stickiness”. Stickiness implies a certain control over the spread of the media content and by doing this it attempts to maintain a “purity of message” (Jenkins, 2008). By trying to maintain the message, stickiness aims to hold the visitors’ attention, whereas spreadability aims to ‘spread the word’ and motivate (Jenkins, 2008). Overall, spreadability is thus a much bigger and broader approach, looking at the bigger picture of the media content and not just one aspect of it.

An example of a viral media campaign is Dove’s ‘real beauty sketches’ video. In the video, several women and men are interviewed. They show an artist hidden behind a curtain, who then one by one asks these different women what they look like. After that they come in one by one again but are asked to describe one of the other women instead. The artist does not see any of the people when they talk to him, adding an objective reliability to the experiment. In the end, the two different drawings of every woman are demonstrated and it shows there is a significant difference in how they see themselves and how others see them. This dove commercial quickly went viral pointing to the fact that it spread very well and was relatable to many people. Most likely everyone can relate to having insecurities and feeling ‘ugly’, something that Dove illustrated very well. Many different types of women were interviewed and shown, of all body types, skin colors, and ages, connecting the message to a large group of people. There is a noticeable lack of men representatives (only a few) and they do not have a portrait of themselves. This indicates that the campaign was clearly targeted for women. The video has record breaking views with approximately 114 million views in only the first month. After Dove uploaded the video it was shared almost 3.8 million times and added 15,000 new subscribers to Dove’s YouTube channel. It was thus a great success and reflects back in Jenkin’s notion of ‘spreadable media’. Through the use of YouTube, Dove was able to spread their message to many different cultures and countries as they also translated the video into 25 different languages. When viewing the video, people were encouraged to go to Dove’s channel and their website, showing the spreadability approach instead of the stickiness method. It is also interesting to note that even though Dove sells body lotion and creams, this was not mentioned in the video at all. The message was clearly focused on the people in the video and showing them that they are too hard on themselves and more beautiful then they think, something all the viewers clearly connected strongly with.



Jenkins, H., Li, X., & Domb, A. (2008). If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead. Creating Value in a Spreadable Marketplace.


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