I can’t believe it’s been 15 years since John West graced us with their brilliant ‘viral’ bear ad from the UK. I still remember the file arriving as an email attachment, back at a time when sending YouTube links wasn’t even a ‘thing’. I remember watching it and laughing out loud. Oh how I laughed! Unfortunately, Facebook did not exist at that time so I was denied the kudos of ‘sharing’ such hilarity through a social network and scoring hundreds of ‘Likes’. So I proceeded to forward the ad to everyone I knew with an ‘email address’.
Despite the technological simplicity of the day, I still remember thinking “Wow! It’s an actual ad that people are willingly sharing to promote a brand. There’s no TV network even being paid!” I should have called my stockbroker that day.
I will always remember the John West Bear as my first viral video experience, and arguably it’s never been beaten. Lord knows exactly how many million views it has now amassed, however, my highly scientific Google research tells me that way back in 2006 it had clocked 300 million. A truly staggering number of eyeballs.
Speaking of flashbacks, I actually just remembered the many years I had a folder on my desktop called ‘Virals’, where I lovingly kept MPEGS and Quicktimes of any good video attachments that graced my inbox. It’s funny to think how rapidly file-sharing has changed. Since those days I have of course consumed at least 1.2 billion viral videos, or as we modern folk call them, ‘content’.
Do you remember your first viral video experience? Was it the John West Bear ad too? For a trip down memory lane, take a look at this cool video compilation celebrating YouTube’s 10th anniversary.
Nick Ikonomou is a Senior Writer at BCM