by: Danah Boyd
This morning, I spoke on a panel at the Retail Industry Leaders Association. The day before, a guy from Unilever gave a presentation on what happens when users take up your content and spread it all across the web. He was invited to be on the panel at the last moment because of a cancellation and because his presentation was so well received wrt Web 2.0. Right before we go on, I'm informed that the guy from Unilever was talking about the Dove Evolution campaign that was spread all over YouTube. This is the moment where I went white.
Y'see... I played a role in that. I saw the Dove Evolution ad and wanted it to be spread around, especially to the anti-violence against women folks that I was connected to through V-Day and the teens who I was talking with. I was pissed off that it wasn't on YouTube or in any embeddable format (at the time it wasn't findable, but since, it appears as though people did post it before me). I knew it needed to be embeddable to be spreadable. So, with the help of some tech-savvy friends, I scraped the Flash video from the Unilever site and uploaded it to YouTube. And then I posted it to MySpace. And then I posted it to other video sharing sites. And then I sent it to a bunch of friends. And then I blogged about it. I knew it was interesting and spreadable and wanted it to reach certain audiences. So I scraped and uploaded and blogged. And I gave copies of the scraped version to others to upload in case someone tried to take it down.
I wasn't the sole contributor to its proliferation on the web. Other versions had more views and bigger blogs posted links to various versions. Every few months, I would get a letter from someone asking if they could use the video for this that or the other. Lately, people had been writing to me as though I was the producer of that commercial and I always responded that I was not. Collectively, this ad was viewed as important and because of this, various folks got involved in spreading it. Myself included. Beyond that, I didn't think about it.
It seems as though this "phenomenon" was a big deal to Unilever, an event that made them realize the power of Web2.0 and spreadable content. While I had been worrying about C&Ds as a result of reposting it, they were struck speechless by the spread and were all in favor of it. In other words, they were doing exactly what a company should be doing when something they put out there becomes a user phenomenon. And, somehow, I was doing exactly what a good "fan" should do, even though I had never thought of it that way. I tend not to analyze my own habits, but sure enough, I was helping fulfill a marketer's dream. Only it never dawned on me cuz I was busy observing others' activities. Oh, the irony.