Memes and ads

The local transportation in Stockholm recently launched a new campaign for their summer tickets with the widely popular “doge” meme.

SL’s version of doge

The meme, featuring the same style of writing and imagery used in countless internet jokes, is on posters all over Stockholm’s underground stations. What is interesting is the timing of the ad. From Google trends we can see that the meme peaked sometime late last year and the beginning of this year. The past months its popularity has begun to dwindle, indicating that people will have lost interest almost completely by the end of this year. For the moment, however, the campaign seems to have been a success, receiving both mainstream media coverage and social media exposure – apparently people are even stealing the ad posters.

What we have here, then, is an example of  using (or some might say colonizing) internet culture for ad purposes. When the meme reached the mainstream, it also attracted the interest of advertisers, or perhaps more accurately, ad agencies.

In an article from last year, Digiday listed 5 memes that later became ads:  success kid, grumpy cat, Y U No guy, Chuck Norris facts and Honey Badger.

While the Hipchat billboard was introduced when Y U NO was still on the rise (and the billboard was deemed a success), Virgin Media’s Success kid campaign started when  the meme was on its way down. Similarly, the more Grumpy cat appeared in the mainstream, the less interested people were.

From this we can speculate on a few conclusions:

1) If the brand is less popular than the meme, it can ride on its popularity
2) if the brand is well-known, it might raise resentment for “colonizing” an internet joke
3) larger companies are often a bit late to the party.


One thought on “Memes and ads”

  1. It’ll be intresting to see how long does it take before new hip thing turns into a desperate attempt to exploit content. There are only so many of usable memes (I wouldn’t use trollface as any brand image) and so many companies willing to use these assets.

    There is also the question of who owns the memes? It might be ok (or at least less frowned upon) for anonymous person to post picture someone else has taken or drawn into a imgur. However capitilizing it in commercial means is something else.

    Hyvää settiä Jocke, vastedes suoraan RSS-lukijaan.

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