Catching the viral bug

— Emma Greatorex and John Fernandez contributed with this article

Viral videos, something we’ve all grown to love and hate. Justin Bieber, Matt Lacey, Charlie Sheen and of course not forgetting Rebecca Black, we’re all victims of this new found craze.


Matt Lacey (bottom right) alongside other The Unexpected Items cast members. Photo: Didi Mae

Charlie Sheen, since leaving “Two and a Half Men”, the former highest paid actor in TV, has gone viral. Whether he is winning here or winning there, he has taken over the internet. With remixes, cooking videos or just insane catchphrases, Charlie Sheen is unavoidable. So how did he go viral?

His first step was less his choice, but instead forced upon him. He was sacked from “Two and a Half Men” due to his drug habits and from then on it was only up in Twitter’s trending topics. But he did not do it alone; he was helped to his world record fastest 1 million followers by a Facebook/Twitter marketing agency called ad.ly.

He was helped by the now infamous interview with ABC News’ Andrea Canning, in which he admitted that he wasn’t bipolar, he was bi-winning, that he has tiger blood and that he partied harder than Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. The public jumped on the opportunity to mock, or indeed to idolise Sheen, and it was from there that he began his internet domination.

Another victim of the viral marketing campaign is Rebecca Black. If someone says that you have “Gotta get down on Friday”, you know exactly what they’re talking about. Black’s rise to fame was helped by Arc Music Factory, an agency that produces music videos for young talent.

Websites such as Youtube have helped stars like Black become an internet sensation and receive media attention across the world. The hits soon turn into money and before long they’re appearing all over our television screens.

Black’s failed attempt at stardom has gained a record number of hits on Youtube but, there are many questions which have since surrounded this video. These have included ‘How can she drive a car at such a young age?’, which prompted the appearance of mock videos on road safety.

In the United Kingdom, there is another internet sensation, “Gap Yah”. Set up and performed by Oxford University graduate Matt Lacey, his videos have gained more than 3 million hits on YouTube.

Popularity was something Matt didn’t believe would happen and he admitted that it was all just a bit of fun: “It was something I really didn’t expect,” Lacey explained. “I wrote a lot of it at university and based a lot of the characters on my friends personalities and interests.”

Lacey now performs alongside sketch comedy group, The Unexpected Items. Since joining them he has had a variety of opportunities to perform “Gap Yah” across the UK.

“It’s lead to bigger and better things, we have been to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and plan to go again this year.”

Viral marketing is something we have to accept and it will never go away, no matter how many times we wish. So what’s going to be the next big viral disease?

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