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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.

Biophilia

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’.

Any number of campaigns use biophilia. Guiness springs to mind, and there are some great examples here.

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.

Duration

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.

No malice

'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.

Herd mentality

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.

Repetition:

Obviously, 'Benton! Benton!' etc.

Again Budweiser, and its frogs, spring to mind (more alcohol), as well as its ‘whassup’ advert, and obviously insurance adverts, GoCompare and the like.

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.

Ben Davis

Published 28 November, 2011 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (9)

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Tim

It is definitely the schadenfreude, which according to the interwebs translates directly as 'damage joy'. which is a perfect explanation really.

But it's more the terror, desperation and very English rage in embarrassment in the 'Jesus Christ' that makes it so funny.

plus for every dog-owner there's a 'but for the grace of god....'

over 4 years ago

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anthony rigby

Sorry to correct you, but the video is 'Fenton' not Benton.

It is brilliant though :)

over 4 years ago

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anthony rigby

You should do a piece on the video that went viral yesterday with the racist woman with her child on the tram.

It has since led to an article in the Guardian today and her subsequent arrest.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/28/tram-passenger-racist-abuse-arrested

over 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

@Tim

'damage joy' - love it. Joy for all parties though, of course. We're all hoping 'B/Fenton' and his owner got home safely and had a good dinner.

@anthony

I guess I was using this particular 'viral' video, 'B/Fenton', as a bit of a catch to highlight how some brands produce great video content. Probably a bit fluffy of me.

I haven't viewed the 'racist woman' video, and I'd argue it's a bit of a video nasty, and isn't really ripe for any kind of cogent analysis or drawing of parallels with anything, and further more, for obvious reasons, will not spawn parodies.

Having said that, perhaps it's a bit of a nadir, and shows us just how voracious youtube users are, and how, as a brand, one is competing with Lord-knows-what in the video stakes.

over 4 years ago

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anthony rigby

@ben

'I haven't viewed the 'racist woman' video, and I'd argue it's a bit of a video nasty, and isn't really ripe for any kind of cogent analysis or drawing of parallels with anything, and further more, for obvious reasons, will not spawn parodies.'

It already is spawning parodies:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBKRhar0lHY

over 4 years ago

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anthony rigby

why are you deleting my comments ? :s

over 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

@anthony

We just have an automated spam filter that is fairly aggressive. Yes, I can see you were pointing out there has been parodies of the 'tram' video, but it was just the case that the 'B/Fenton' video reminded me of some aspects of brands own attempts to replicate this sort of 'viral' spread (a sort of 'life imitates art'). Almost 2.2 million views in 10 days or so.

over 4 years ago

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anthony rigby

So how much do you think that the F/Benton video's success is based on it's grounding in reality rather than being contrived / scripted. Do you think it is possible for a company to make a video that goes viral in as short a time as a real life event?

over 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

@anthony

Yeah, that's the crux of the matter isn't it. You're right, it's incredibly difficult to mirror this sort of success.

The contrived element can work to a brand's advantage though. @steffanaquarone, who wrote the Econsultancy Online Video Best Practice Guide, often points to the T-Mobile 'Life's for sharing' videos as a good example of part of the fun being guessing how much of the video is 'real' and how much isn't.

Cadbury's drumming gorilla had the same intrigue (even when everybody knew that gorillas only play string instruments).

over 4 years ago

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