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‘An endless supply of hilarious content’: Twitter on turning memes into viral ads

Twitter turned a popular meme into a music video after the team spotted a viral trend

The home of viral hits, Twitter knows a thing or two about what content works. Here, Viv Bowdler-Thomas senior creative, consumer marketing team at Twitter talks to The Drum about bringing tweets to life in creative and unusual ways.

Brands dream of going viral. While it’s no easy feat, it helps if your raison d’être is to churn out popular content. With an endless bank of memes and trending topics in its armory, over the years Twitter has mastered the art of elevating the conversations that take place on its platform in off-kilter ways.

“It’s just an endless supply of hilarious content that makes our jobs a bit easier,” explains Viv Bowdler-Thomas, senior creative, consumer marketing team at Twitter UK. Bowdley works within Twitter UK’s brand strategy team, which sits perfectly poised with one eye on the live feed, ready to turn around campaigns that “feel innately Twitter”.

“We have a team that loves Twitter and understands how our tweeters feel,” she says. “They know what it feels like to be a tweeter, which helps when it comes to coming up with creative, and then we work with the tweeters themselves on every campaign we work on. We don’t work in silos so we’ll work with that community, which helps inspire ideas for us to collaborate on.”

An example of this strategy in action, last week Twitter turned a popular meme into a music video after the team spotted a video that was making the rounds. It all kicked off when a clip from an emotional post-match interview with Fulham manager Scott Parker surfaced, against the line: ‘Scott Parker doesn’t talk like a football manager. It’s hard not to admire that.’ It was something about his Cockney accent and the style of his delivery that led people in the comments section to compare the interview to The Streets song Dry Your Eyes. And, quick to respond, tweeter Mark Pickard soon made a meme out of the video, fitting the interview perfectly with the song. And it went down well with tweeters, garnering over 10,000 likes.

“The football conversation is huge. There are lots of tweets that cover what’s happening on the pitch or the latest transfer news. But if you take that away, what you’re left with is this amazing wealth of culture and commentary on things, and this is a perfect example of that,” explains Bowdler-Thomas. “We had been monitoring that conversation to see how that was going, and as more and more tweets started coming in, it was more apparent that tweeters were really calling out for an official collaboration.”

And so Twitter’s creative team set itself a challenge to substitute Fulham FC’s manager for Mike Skinner in the Don’t Mug Yourself music video with the power of CGI. “Rather than looking at the things that any brand can do, this feels innately Twitter,” she insists. “It’s really taking the best of Twitter and putting it out there, to show people what our amazing tweeters get up to.”

It enlisted the help of its long-term creative agency Flying Object. Starting with the original music video, Bowdler-Thomas explains they started selecting moments where the body language is in line with what Parker is saying in the interview before it started working with a CGI and VFX specialist who substituted Skinner’s face for Parker.

Like Twitter’s original ‘Scott Parker X The Streets’ mashup, it’s becoming a trend for social platforms to collaborate with popular creators on ad campaigns. Earlier this year, after that viral sea shanty trend went mad on TikTok, it made some waves with a catchy #SeaShanty TV campaign that celebrated its unique ability to bring creators together in song, dance and comedy.

Giving people a taste of what to expect on its platform, elevating the conversations that take place on its platform is a long-term strategy for Twitter.

With the knowledge that #ScottishTwitter is one of its most entertaining communities, a few years back Twitter created a living embodiment while parodying tourist visitor centers. Opened up during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the ‘tourist center’ hub took funny #ScottishTwitter content offline, highlighting raw, unfiltered, hilarious observations.

And last February Twitter offered an antidote to boke-worthy Valentine’s customs with relatable tweets that poked fun at the perils of dating life. Staged at a time when London was being coated in Valentine’s Day romantic cheer, the social media giant took over tube platforms with tweets that told mortifying stories, cringeworthy confessions and unlikely advice.

“We’re always looking to build on Twitter content in interesting ways,” Bowdler-Thomas explains. “Working with creators means it’s always really genuine and feels really real. Because these are real people that are contributing to the conversation on Twitter every day. This means creative execution can be something completely unpredictable and hilarious.”

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