If you watch just one video on YouTube today, perhaps you’d like to make it this one.
It’s titled ‘The Most Boring Viral Video’, and it sure looks, at first glance, like it might be. But give it a minute…or at least 30 seconds. You may change your mind..
First posted to YouTube in May this year, the video makes no claim to being trendy, its content is not the stuff of typical YouTube success, and it uses no tried-and-true keywords to lure us in (well actually, that last part isn’t entirely true).
What it has done, though, is garner nearly 800,000 views in just a few months.
The way YouTube ads work is that advertising brands are automatically associated to specific keywords, meaning their advertisements appear in and next to videos containing those words. So Spanish homelessness charity the Arrels Foundation ━ with the help of ad agency The Cyranos McCann ━ embedded various and specific words in its video in order to attract the big name brands, words such as ‘joy’, ‘luxury’, ‘family’, and ‘success’.
With every view of at least 30 seconds, its creator ━ the Arrels Foundation ━ gets a small cut of the YouTube advertising spend of these big brands. What’s happened here is that they’ve used these keywords to, essentially, elicit donations from big corporations.
And here’s where it gets really clever: as the video points out, those same keywords are the very things homeless people lose after finding themselves on the street.
Makes you think, doesn’t it?
What this video also does, though, is cause us to think not just about homelessness and the disparity at play in our society, but about our viewing habits ━ about what we watch, why, and who profits from our time spent. And in a world that watches four billion YouTube videos each and every day, that’s a powerful thing.