Going Viral

Viral media is changing the face of campaign promotions. And it's about time.

One of the core principles of the Internet Revolution (including the "information revolution," etc.) is the increasing segmentation of the American consumer. Just as the industrial revolution pulled us into large, faceless groups we referred to in terms of the "mass," the Internet revolution is breaking us into narrowly defined segments bonded together by similar interests.

And this should make political advertising more interesting. One of the more frustrating aspects of advertising is its mundaneness. Subtleties in message, humor and even intertextual reference have to be reduced inversely to the size of the audience. The larger the mass audience, the more simplistic the message must become.

But all that changes with the niche reorganization of groups across the various Internet platforms.

Take the example of the Challenge of the SuperDuperFriends, a parody political cartoon advertisement. This cartoon is fabulously funny to me, but probably shoots wide of the general American consumer.

Taking the familiar (to me) forms of a nostalgic cartoon, the creators embed several interesting messages about the upcoming election process without having to explicitly say anything.

Why do I find it so funny? Because I am old enough to have grown up with the Challenge of the SuperFriends cartoon (although my favorite rendition of this series was the 1984 Super Powers version, based on the Kenner toyline introduced the same year) and young enough to have cared to watch it.

I do have some research interest in superhero narratives (as a substitute for American religion, as a form of national mythology, etc.), but these particular cartoons are nostalgic only for a small generational slice of American consumers.

This viral ad would not work on television. The soundtrack, instantly recognizable to the viewers of the 1979 cartoon, would simply be inaccessible to those too young, too old or those with childhood interests other than DC super heroes.