TNT Benelux (Belgium/Netherlands/Luxembourg) hit it big with A Dramatic Surprise on a Quiet Square (43 million views), which was a featured case study in The Viral Video Manifesto and our pick for the best branded viral video of 2012. Now, TNT Benelux is back with A Dramatic Surprise on an Ice-Cold Day, and unfortunately, it misses the mark in a few important ways. While it still has many things going for it, and it’s generated 6.8 million views, it fails to capture what was so special about its predecessor.
Here are the two videos:
An Ice-Cold Day makes many of the same mistakes T-Mobile made with The T-Mobile Welcome Back (13 million views). Although Welcome Back also had its strengths, it failed to score as high as their previous effort, The T-Mobile Dance (37 million views), because of over-production and subtle aggression toward passersby. For an in-depth case study of The T-Mobile Welcome Back, check out our book, The Viral Video Manifesto.
Now, let’s look at how An Ice-Cold Day compares to A Quiet Square on the four rules.
Rule One: Be True.
Like A Quiet Square, this video is classic Candid Camera. Both videos stage an elaborate scenario to, ideally, delight the people who wander into their traps. While both videos are a bit overproduced, A Quiet Square has fewer camera angles that feel more like hidden cameras, whereas An Ice-Cold Day has cameras that zoom around and make this feel more like a TV commercial. For viral video, simpler is better.
An Ice-Cold Day also has many video effects, like slow-motion and blurred circular frames (as if we’re looking through a gunsight), that, again, makes this more produced and less true. Key to the success of A Quiet Square was that it was TV drama stereotypes recreated in real life with a filming style that remained (mostly) true and unobtrusive. An Ice-Cold Day has TV drama stereotypes seen through a filter of…TV production stereotypes. This overproduction distances us from the action and makes it less involving and consequently less contagious.
Rule Two: Don’t Waste My Time.
No problems here. Like it’s predecessor, it has minimum set up, maximum payoff. It introduces the concept and gets right down to business.
Rule Three: Be Unforgettable.
Here, the video is directly competing with its predecessor. As with all sequels, the pressure is on to top what’s been done before. In general, An Ice-Cold Day is louder but not more satisfying. It has plenty of guns and explosions, but more interesting are the clever twists like the guy descending on wires from above and an Elvis impersonator showing up, guns blazing. Those kinds of surprises are what make both videos unforgettable, and it would have helped if this video had delivered a few more of them.
Rule Four: It’s All About Humanity.
This is where the video falls short in an interesting way. Candid Camera-style videos are at their best when showing us joyful human reactions. It’s active, positive emotions, after all, that are most contagious. But this video is consistently more aggressive and less fun for the participants than the previous video. There’s an important rule in theater: if you get a volunteer up on stage, always treat him or her well. The audience sees the volunteer as their representative. If you are mean to your volunteer, it doesn’t build positive emotion and trust with your audience.
An Ice-Cold Day isn’t so nice to its volunteers.
Sometimes subtle, sometimes not, this is a pervasive and critical failing of the video. It begins by literally putting the volunteers in the crosshairs of a gunsight. That’s representative of the attitude throughout.
The first thing that happens after they choose yellow or blue is someone getting shot right next to them. In A Quiet Square, gunfire doesn’t erupt until 1:09, when everyone is ready for something like that, and even then, it’s less graphic and farther away.
Next, the volunteer is dragged into a van and driven away at top speed. Some people may be okay with that, but it’s a violent thing to do to someone. We wouldn’t blame someone for reacting quite violently in response, and the mere possibility of that violence erodes the trust between the video creators and the audience.
Quite simply, if we are worried about people’s safety, if they look scared, or if we’re wondering why they aren’t freaking out, we’re not smiling. And to get us sharing, you want to get us smiling. This video will make some people smile, but it makes us subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) uncomfortable.
The original video, A Quiet Square, has almost none of these concerns. It is far more considerate to people who press the button, which makes it more fun for people watching and, consequently, more contagious.
So in the end, while A Dramatic Surprise on an Ice-Cold Day has some great moments, its production techniques are more flashy TV-style and less simple Internet-style. That creates an emotional distance. Plus the video consistently has a more aggressive attitude toward the people who push the button. All of this, unfortunately, makes it less contagious than the original, A Dramatic Surprise on a Quiet Square.
With fewer camera angles, simpler production values, and a more considerate attitude focused on bringing out joyful reactions from the people who push the button, A Dramatic Surprise on an Ice-Cold Day could have been a much bigger success.