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This probably seems like 'newsjacking'. It might be. I'll try to get to bottom of what makes ‘Benton’ so shareable. (For the record, I know it's actually 'Fenton').
People in the digital industry are obsessed with memes because they spend all their days on the internet.
And it’s obviously clear that the recreation of this level of ‘sharability’ is the holy grail for brands, who find it difficult to convince the customer to suspend their disbelief when being sold to.
Some sources point to a shared piece of content being three times more likely to be viewed than a ‘paid’ piece. Below I attempt a cod analysis of ‘Benton’, to find out what makes him so sharable, along with some famous examples of adverts and video content that apply the same principles.
Edward O. Wilson posited that there is an instinctive bond between humans and living systems. In ‘Benton’ there are two species of furry mammal, a man and some green space. Everybody can relate to that. There's no obscurity, apart from the debate between ‘Fenton’ and ‘Benton’.
Schadenfreude tending to pathos
Mel Brooks sort of summed up schadenfreude: ‘tragedy is when I cut my finger, comedy is when I fall in a sewer and die’.
We laugh at 'Benton''s owner, because of his earnest yet futile shouting; but ultimately we're on his side, and admire what seems like a rewarding but occasionally trying relationship with his dog.
Pathos (plus some cuteness) is what gave Andrex's 'naughty' dog such success, and schadenfreude helped make Budweiser’s ‘Real Men of Genius’ a success.
Corpsing (and the first-person perspective)
Derek and Clive pioneered the engineered laugh, and the person filming ‘Benton’ issues an irresistible snigger at the end of the recording.
This understanding that we are seeing the footage through the cameraman’s eyes helps us to engage with the piece.
For an example of this, see Nike’s first person adverts.
I often hear the magic 90 seconds quoted, but at 47 seconds, 'Benton' is straight down to the business of chasing deer. Focused attention may be as short as eight seconds (I’d guess that’s the length of time between the herd’s appearance and 'Benton'’s owner coming into view).
Here’s a very effective ten second advert for Thorpe Park.
'Benton' does not eat a deer. 'Benton''s owner does not fall over. No deer are run down. No cars swerve off the road. Viewing is guilt free.
Here I think of how effective road safety campaign videos are. Viewers hate to see realistic accidents/violence, and so these adverts are effective in shocking us into preventative action. For any other purposes, this tactic doesn't work.
This might be subconscious, but perhaps the fact that a whole herd of deer run past plays on our own need to follow, share, etc?. Sony Ericsson’s ‘hopper invasion’ does this, amongst others.
Obviously, 'Benton! Benton!' etc.
And there are probably plenty, plenty more factors that have made 'Benton' a superstar, and factors that brands try to cash in on, every blummin’ day.