Thursday, April 28, 2011

A viral ad.

I finished last night "A History of the World in 100 Objects" by Neil MacGregor, director of The British Museum. One of the final chapters featured the coin shown here. It made me think of modern advertising.

Just over a century ago, women in the United Kingdom didn't have the right to vote. Women tried many tactics to get attention and to raise the issue, including chaining themselves to the wrought iron outside of 10 Downing Street and deadly letter bombs. But perhaps the most effective effort was their defacement of the penny.

Their message was clear. They broke the law to make it. And it was ubiquitous. There were too many pennies of this ilk for banks to recall them all. So the pennies circulated, spreading their simple, declarative message. Influencing, slowly, the people seeing that message and passing it along.

Of course, this example is not the first viral movement ever. But it made me think of two things. 1) That nothing is new under the sun. The current viral-nistas act as if they've invented something new. They haven't. This form of advertising is likely as old as dirt. And 2) For a communication to go viral, it should probably follow the precepts of our English penny. Be notorious. Be simple. Be lasting. Be easy to pass along. And finally, be meaningful at some elemental level.


Eric said...

At least with the message on the penny, it was worth a cent.

geo said...

It is a beautiful thing. I tried stamping KILL REPUBLICANS on dimes but there was too much type.

Anonymous said...

simple & beautiful