In my work world a lot of people make considerable fuss about ‘going viral’. At its worst, going viral is the futile peddling of an overly promotional, unfunny video – whereas at the other end of the scale and more deservedly, it’s probably a cat meowing the theme tune to Game of Thrones and being watched around the world. It basically means that even though you hate it and know that you are wasting moments of your life – you still watch it, and clock an inch onto the ego of the agency type that probably dreamt it up, as make no mistake these things are rarely naturally conceived.
Before the digital age, in a time when people my age played American Football on asphalt cul-de-sacs and enjoyed Jet Set Willy, viral was a hard to achieve status. But someone I know unwittingly managed a fete akin to the Harlem Shake of today in the viral stakes and that was the perpetuation of the phrase Y-Doom.
Unbeknown to the many thousands that eventually uttered the meaningless drone of “whyyyyyy – doooooooommmmm”, it actual had a logical origin. Sort of.
One unfortunate character captured the attention of my friend in the playground. His surname was Moody, and unluckily for him my friend was the Frankie Boyle of the playground. Nobody was safe. Moody became Y-Doom, and Moody himself morphed into an over lunchtime sensation as his fans chanted his name, backwards, over and over again.
Now you would think that this wouldn’t go beyond the playground, but it did. Limehurst High School was fatally infected by the end of the week. Kids’ older brothers from bigger schools chanted it as they punched you repeatedly in the arm. Rival schools began to chant it at each other in lunchtime feuds and there was talk of it being chanted in schools in Quorn, and further afield in Leicester and Nottingham.
You have to feel sorry for Moody himself, as the victim of my friend’s humour. If this had been today, he could have monetised his humiliation and become some child pop sensation! You have to remember that at the time Y-Doom’s spread was just hearsay – the urban myth of the playground and a little beyond.
Then it happened.
In the same way that someone would celebrate the notching up of 1 million YouTube views, the proof of the contagion was delivered through the medium of some crappy kids’ TV show where youths from all over the country came together to compete in some mindless, screaming, foam soaked battle – *citation please? In the heat of the conflict, a lull in the fighting provided a pause, whereupon a solitary voice shouted “Y-Doom”. I nearly choked on my chipstick at this point and was close to tears when others started to chant it back. In the absence of Facebook I think I must have called at least four people to ask if they had heard it. They had. We were elated.
The next day at school was as you’d imagine. My friend the protagonist’s playground status was akin to that of Lord Byron – his reputation sealed in Loughborough history. As for Moody (or Y-Doom) himself, he literally drowned in a sea of chants after his unwitting TV moment, but appeared blissfully bemused by the whole thing, and I kid you not, he signed autographs that week.
In the grand scheme of things and with four TV channels – Haribo would have probably sold its grandmother to get that kind of exposure on ITV at 4:00pm in the mid-80s. As for my friend, who I’ve chosen not to name, he would have probably won some Marketing mag award for his efforts and now be ‘pitching for Jaguar’.
To bring this back to my work world, I suppose the moral here is that social media channels are just tools and that it’s the message that’s the real active ingredient in viral campaigns. Someone now has to make my day by saying that they remember this!