Having just returned from a well-earned summer break and a week of relative disconnection, it would have been easy to dismiss the proliferation of self-imposed soakings with iced water in my bursting inbox as just the latest in a litany of internet crazes.
Like it or not, the ice bucket challenge has certainly grabbed attention.
Neknominate, No-make-up selfies, Harlem Shake and a host of others have captured the web’s imagination in recent times, for various reasons.
Being called to act
But whatever the why, the common theme is the call to action. And I don’t mean that in a traditional marketing sense in terms of clicking through, signing up or liking and following. Simply the fact that people have been called to act, and then acted.
A glance through #ALSIceBucketChallenge as tweets dropped in at a rate of at least a handful every second last night, two things became apparent.
The first was that there was a polarisation among posts between those just having fun and riding the Meme wave and those wanting to ensure the original aim of ALS awareness did not get lost.
The second was that this had clearly gone viral (a horrible word any day of the week and even more so in light the awfulness of the disease at the centre of this particular campaign). Nevertheless, this had definitely taken off, or even gone orbital to coin some possible alternatives.
Going orbital (not viral)
Much has been written about how you can send content into orbit and the only certainty is that you can never be certain. But what #ALSIceBucketChallenge does prove is that if you want to make your content reach, then there are certain ingredients you can put together to give yourself the best possible chance of success.
The ice bucket has it all; it’s a good cause, entertaining, eminently shareable and has an inevitable sprinkling of celebrity. But it goes beyond that. It uses a tried and tested formula that the likes of Comic Relief have used to great effect for many years. You need to appal and entertain your audience in equal measure to get them to dip into their pockets.
This is best illustrated by two videos that have risen above the rest to do just that. This compilation of #IceBucket fails does the entertainment bit perfectly, while this harrowing video is the only one you need to watch to really understand why awareness of ALS is important.
Taking the sheen off it…
Like it or not, the campaign has worked. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with Charlie Sheen tipping a bucket of money over his head instead of ice, or whether it’s turned into a peeing contest of knows the most famous people to pass the challenge on to, or whether Macmillan Cancer should have jumped on the bandwagon for their own cause. For ALS, it’s mission accomplished.
Any campaign that gets that such exposure in such a short space of time and leads to money in the bank is job done. But for every success, there are all of those which don’t quite take off, such as #KissMyALS. Same cause, a much funnier hashtag, but nowhere near the cut through until #IceBucket came along.
Can you make something viral? Absolutely. Do you also need a bit of luck? Definitely. Will this all be forgotten in a few weeks? Probably. Should you care? Awareness of a horrific disease endured by a minority is off the charts and we’ve had to endure a few videos of people chucking cold water over their heads in our timelines. You decide…