“A meme can be just about any form of non-genetic information transmitted from person to person: a word, a song, an attitude, a religious belief, a mealtime ritual, an engineering concept.” – Robert Wright, NONZERO – The Logic Of Human Destiny.
Ever since Britain’s World’s angriest atheist invented the idea/phrase meme in 1976 (Yes, it’s been that long!), many people have confused the hell out of me. But it really didn’t have much relevance to advertising till the Internet became home to the hoi polloi.
First amongst meme’s were usually odd stuff, funny photos and jokes that got forwarded endlessly. And some emails with a plea for help. All of which, I am sure, you can’t blame it on ad agencies or their clients. And then things started evolving changing. Lists like THIS can truly show you what it’s all about and also overwhelm you with loads of bullshit.
And that brings me to my main point. Which is, what’s the point of all this?
While adverts have been memes for a very long time, when it comes to Internet meme’s, it has been awful with rare exceptions, here’s looking at you Subservient Chicken and Gorilla Drummer. Every cliché has also been overused when it comes to Internet Online Interactive Viral Digital Web 2.0 Web Plus marketing and advertising and still I get a queasy feeling that we are still on the Interstate and the nearest town is miles away. How many of you are familiar (or even just heard of) with ALL the items on this list? And these are the phenomena.
I also think, memes are quite different from viral advertising. Like Richard Brodie, I consider memes to be building blocks and if brands can be that ‘basic building blocks of our minds and culture’ then we can see some boundaries pushed to a higher plane. This actually happens when it comes to spoofs…for instance:
It’s funny, thoughtful and ironical.
When was the last time we saw an ad signed off by a client that adopts a tone of its consumers? To be fair, it’s easier to throw stones than build a window. There have been instances when big corporations invite consumers to create adverts with some success. That I consider a positive first step, even if it’s a critic or a spoof.
I don’t presume to have any answers to the title questions, except that we do have a long way to go.
A good non advertising meme is Barack Obama Is Your New Bicycle.
Now imagine that being your brand!