Back in 2001, broadband internet was just beginning to gain a foothold in America. One day that Summer, small movies files of a canned salmon ad from a brand no one had every heard of suddenly filled U.S. e-mail inboxes. Burnett London created what appeared to be a nature documentary of bears working a salmon run who were jarringly interrupted by a feisty fisherman intent on taking their best fish. The spot quickly devolved into a slapbattle between man and beast before ending on the sell for John West Salmon.
I remember getting this seven times in one day, but it wasn’t just passed around within the ad community. All kinds of people saw and shared this TV commercial. Once this video file hit your mailbox, it was only natural to send it on to your friends.
Which is how it became arguably the first viral video in history. Fueled by a great idea and the widening availability of broadband, “Bear” tickled a nation’s funny bone and arrived in a form that was easy to forward.
This breakthrough unleashed the flood, as soon thousands of video clips of ads, film scenes, TV skits and home movies began clogging in-boxes and frustrating server-protective IT people in America’s corporations. Seemingly overnight, production houses and agencies dedicated to viral video creation formed to take advantage of this new, and still not fully understood, video distribution channel. And “Content” became an advertising buzzword. It was all so new and promising. Over a decade later it still is, albeit with far higher resolution.
But it all started with a simple :30 television spot, albeit one that was supremely shareworthy.
You know, ’cause did you see that fisherman kick the bear in the nuts?
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson