01/24/2014 11:44 EST | Updated 03/25/2014 05:59 EDT

How To Get Your Film To Go Viral

Last week's two-minute video clip of the demonic baby in a runaway baby carriage that terrified even jaded New Yorkers has gone viral. No surprise there. This genre of promotion has a name: it's called prankvertising. Even CNN's Anderson Cooper said that it was the best thing he had ever had on "The RidicuList."

The video clip was a sophisticated promotion for the horror genre film Devil's Due, which premiered the weekend of Jan. 18 and 19. The video has now racked up almost 37 million views on YouTube.

The video clip was produced by New York City-based Thinkmodo that has won all kinds of awards for viral videos. Thinkmodo was also behind the video clip promo for the horror film Carrie that premiered last October.

One of the creative brains behind Thinkmodo is James Percelay; he spoke to the CBC's Anna Maria Tremonti on her show The Current and shared the alchemy of having videos go viral:

  • Every video is unique and has never been done before. This, by the way, is also one of the definitions of "news" in journalism.
  • In the video clip, Thinkmodo shares how the video is put actually together. We see the technical components behind the scene: the wheels, pulleys, and counter-weights. So, both the producers and the audience are "in" on the gag. Who is not "in" on the gag are the unsuspecting victims of the prank.
  • Thinkmodo relies on human psychology that we all want to see other people's reactions to things. Remember old TV shows like America's Funnies Home Videos, Candid Camera, Candid Microphone, and Kids say the Funniest Things? The same principle applies.
  • The video clip is uploaded to YouTube. So, the strategy is to have great content that is later picked up by mainstream media.
  • The almost 37 million views are all organic; they buy no views or Tweets. This is the other aspect of human psychology that Thinkmodo leverages: people share YouTube videos and post them to Facebook because they find them amazing, funny, scary, or weird. In contract, people perceive traditional TV ads as an inconvenient intrusion to sell you stuff -- and a good opportunity for a bathroom break.
  • There is no traditional ad buy, period. Thinkmodo's strategy is they get all the media for free. The entire strategy circumvents the traditional ad buy which is typically the most expensive part of any TV campaign.
  • So, how much does one of these viral videos cost? Anywhere from 450,000 to 1 million. A relative bargain in comparison to a massive ad buy. When the cost of a 30-second TV spot on the 2014 Super Bowl is ballpark 4 million, some corporations must be scratching their heads. This strategy would not have been possible before the creation of the internet and social media.