I hate commercials. Well, that’s a lie. I used to hate commercials… until a friend emailed me a link to the new Kenny Powers K-Swiss CEO YouTube video (Uncensored of course). It is by far the most horribly distasteful, unsuitable-for-most-audiences advertisement I have ever seen. I would know because I’ve now watched it at least five times.
It features character Kenny Powers, from Eastbound and Down – a TV show that is objectionable to women, athletes, and generally anyone with a mullet. He’s crude, obnoxious and kind of an idiot and K-Swiss doesn’t water him down either. I counted 11 expletives typically reserved for HBO within the first 60 seconds (and we’re talking about a five minute commercial). It’s not the profanity that makes this a phenomenon though. It’s the fact that the content and language guarantee that it will never be aired on most TV channels alongside animated bears with bits of toilet paper stuck to their butts. This ad was meant to be seen on YouTube, forwarded in emails, and written about in blogs – then seen on YouTube again.
Considering that it will never hit the airwaves, it was far from an inexpensive production. K-Swiss parlayed the fortune they would have spent on TV air time into an impressive celebrity lineup. They paid big bucks to include Jillian Michaels (from The Biggest Loser), NFL stars Matt Cassel, Willis and Director Michael Bay, just to name a few.
That money was riding on the hope that a very specific niche market would find Kenny Powers more hilarious than repulsive (or maybe find his repulsiveness hilarious) and tell a friend. Two weeks and 658,386 views since the original post and I’d say the risk is paying off. It’s not for everyone – but that’s exactly why it’s so potent. It gives viewers the satisfaction of being in a club of people who get the humor and they in turn forward it to someone else who shares the same shameful definition of funny.
Viral marketing is powerful. I actually paused the TV show I was watching to play the full commercial. I not only watched the entire five minute ad from start to finish, but cued it right back up again for my husband to watch. Both of us agreed that I should get a name plate that reads MFCOO and then watched it again before forwarding the link to anyone who could appreciate a character who says things like “Konichiwa Bitches”.
Viewers have become intolerant of material that doesn’t directly target them. We fast forward through every commercial on our DVRs and opt for the crappy Netflix streaming selection because, hey, at least there are no advertisements. We are more likely to click on an article that a friend posts on Facebook than if we come across it ourselves in the Wall Street Journal. Advertisers are learning that their content can’t be all things to all people – but if they direct it at a very specific niche audience, they just might strike viral marketing gold.