Full Disclosure: I have been friends with Bronwyn Page for a few years now. Her brother was my roommate, and we have a number of mutual friends. Bronwyn is a vibrant, social, and intelligent young woman. She is a combination of Holly Golightly and Mindy Kaling. She is also someone who (by her own admission) loves attention. Every year she throws herself several birthday parties, and her friends are indie rock musicians, CBC producers, craft brewers, writers, and other young dynamos.
When this Ikea Monkey story blew up on Sunday afternoon, I thought it was hilarious, and I knew it would be right up Bronwyn's alley to talk about the fact she was there.
By Sunday evening she'd already done four local TV interviews and lined up a handful of interviews for the next morning. On Monday, Bronwyn woke to find that much of Europe had caught on to the story and were requesting pictures and interviews from her. She Skyped with BBC World News later that day.
I called Bronwyn up to talk about the media firestorm, and how she is handling her new-found celebrity. As usual, she is handling it with great aplomb. Her Twitter feed has been "non-stop since Sunday." She has gained hundreds of new followers, and stayed up until 2 a.m. on Sunday night dealing with all of the social media buzz around the story. She then woke up early on Monday morning to give interviews.
While she was modest about her success ("I don't know how it happened! Other people had much more to do with the monkey than I did."), Bronwyn did a remarkable job capitalizing on the rising interest of the story. She responded to media requests immediately, and stayed active on Twitter and Facebook.
Her friends designed memes (one of her live interviews even got auto-tuned), which she shared online. She had a significant role in building buzz around this issue, to the point where she had friends in Denmark and Sweden contacting her about the media attention she was receiving in their countries.
I asked how she would capitalize on this zeitgeist. More to the point, is it even possible to do so? One of the fascinating aspects of internet celebrity is how incredibly small the window is to capitalize on fame. The news cycle is fast and furious, and even being a day late means you are old news (as I will be when this article is published).
Bronwyn expressed interest in connecting with media figures and celebrities who she admires, but realized that her best chance to get responses is while there is still so much news and media attention on her. That means in the next few hours or, at most, days.
In this case, the star of this bizarre and hilarious story is a rising star in Canadian media. She studied Radio and Television Arts at Ryerson, and has worked on a variety of programs at CBC Radio, most recently as an Associate Producer with CBCMusic and Canada Reads.
Her own media savvy had a large role in this story being as successful as it was. While she initially was surprised by how quickly and vigorously the story was picked up, she was able to handle media interviews and online interest with skill and confidence.
I'm happy Ikea Monkey is so popular, because it is cute and hilarious. I know that in time, Bronwyn will be more than the "She Saw The Monkey" girl, but for now...that just might be enough.