Wednesday, April 20, 2011

the killing of interactive and throwback viral

13 million people shared a refreshed version of subservient chicken. But what made Tipp-Ex popular even amongst those of us who have already seen it all before?

The experience happens on youtube. Here's how it works : You load a video called Hunter Shoots Bear and in that video a hunter is about to shoot a bear, but before he does, he reaches outside of the video frame, grabs the Tipp-Ex Product (a liquid paper/white out style thing) and uses it on the title of the video to create blank space where the word Shoots used to be. Then you type a verb into the blank space to create a new title. Then the magic happens and you watch what you just typed come to life -as a video!!!! (Sound familiar?)

So that is the user experience. But.....

Here's why it works : It exploits your need to control and/or participate with the web. (Exploiting is not a bad word here.) That's how the web was sold. It was grass roots. It was by the people for the people. It was FREE. It used to be called interactive long before it was digital. Remember? It was new media. It was better than any other media because it was lean forward and not lean back. Finally! The medium that put the power back in your hands.

If you spent countless hours in front of a TV you were fat and lazy - a couch potato. But countless hours in front of a computer was ACTIVITY. Learning, surfing, sharing, blogging....all ACTIVE verbs. Doing more than watching. There is a certain status to being wired and wireless. There is no status to watching American Idol and Jersey Shore. If you admit to watching TV you need excuse your behaviour in some way...or counteract it by pulling the geek card : "I don't watch TV anymore....I download." As if that is different. Mad Men on TV and Mad Men from btjunkie is still Mad Men. Couch potatoes are not cool - web junkies are.

Experiences like Tipp-Ex (and Subservient Chicken and Old Spice) work because they give you the illusion of control over your medium and subsequently they perpetuate the underlying belief that the web is better than or different than TV.

And it is. Kind of.

But the difference no longer lies between active vs. passive. Ten years ago it did. Now, the web and TV are practically on even playing ground. TV producers are coming up with new ideas to get you involved with their programming and as of late the web has become about watching video. Just look at any award show and find the category called "online video" if you need proof. What was touted the lean forward medium is increasingly lean back.

Tipp-Ex Blank the Bear is a reminder of what the web used to be when it was born. What it was intended to be! Technically Blank the Bear is old-school. And there is nothing wrong with that. I say more power to them for refreshing throwback. It works because I expect to sit back and watch yet another video of yet another amazing circumstance of man vs nature and instead, I take a little control back by using my ACTIVE verbs. Blank the Bear is a very literal statement about what we've been slowly losing from our marketing efforts....INTERACTIVITY.

See it here.