In the eye of the puddle: The inside story of how #DrummondPuddleWatch captivated the world

For a few hours on Wednesday, a Periscope stream of a puddle in Newcastle gripped the world. Here Beth Hazon, managing director of marketing agency Drummond Central, which set up the feed, shares the inside story of the puddle that became a viral sensation.

Okay, it’s time to fess up about ‘that puddle’. How did #DrummondPuddleWatch begin? Why did we do it? And how did we generate a ripple effect that started on a small patch of tarmac in Jesmond, and ended up reaching the four corners of the world?

We’d love to say it was a premeditated stroke of marketing genius, but on this particular occasion, it wasn’t. We just wanted to see if someone would fall in.

On Wednesday morning, a few of us began noticing the free, live comedy event unfolding right outside our front door – a continuous stream of people trying to navigate a puddle that spanned the full width of the footpath.

Some people tiptoed, some leapt, some climbed around it, some turned and walked away, others simply stood there staring at it. One girl carefully placed a few sheets of A4 paper on the ground in the hope they would somehow take on the physical properties of stepping stones. It was comedy gold.

More and more of our staff abandoned their desks to have ‘a quick look’. But as hundreds of thousands of viewers around the world would soon find out, one quick look wasn’t enough. We were all hooked. No one at Drummond Central was working anymore, meetings were taking place with nobody in them. Something had to be done.

We decided to set up a live Periscope stream. Mainly so that we could all keep an eye on the action while we worked, but also because we’re a curious bunch and love playing around with new technology. And if a few more people got to see what we we’re seeing, even better. We’re all for sharing at DC; we have sharing tables on every floor for sweets, cakes, biscuits or whatever. Someone once shared a pair of complementary hotel slippers. There were no takers but the thought was there.

For hours, nothing much happened on Periscope. We slowly acquired viewers, got some great commentary and got quite excited when the total number of live puddle watchers reached 100. Who knew that a few hours later it would peak at around 70,000 and break Periscope.

At some point after lunch it all went a bit viral. The likes of Buzzfeed, The Poke and Unilad picked it up and the viewing figures began to soar. Before long, #DrummondPuddleWatch was trending on Twitter and eventually reached the top spot in the UK and number two worldwide.

We never expected to be talking to the international press or appearing live on BBC or CNN talking about a puddle. I think it shows the power of reactive social media and the effectiveness of simple ideas.

By late afternoon, the puddle had achieved celebrity status and was now getting a little overcrowded. People were surfing on it, taking selfies next to it and even bottling it. Brands and the paparazzi were turfing up and trying to cash in. It just wasn’t the same. So, after six hours and 548,000 Periscope views, we decided to quit while we were ahead and pull the plug. Sorry world.

Beth Hazon is managing director at Drummond Central