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How to make a viral video, Jack Bauer style


August 7, 2007 – A viral video of a young man named Tay Zonday, singing an original song titled “Chocolate Rain,” circulates among the space150 staff. Tay looks like Michael Jackson in the Thriller years, with doe eyes and a baby face that oddly belies a vocal range rivaling Barry White. It’s easy to see how the video became the latest viral hit with 4.5 million views and scores of parodies. As space150 staffers watch Tay sing the infectious and comical performance, the fate of us interns is cemented in chocolate stickiness.

The video was soon forwarded to the entire staff and Billy, our founding father and CEO. The endlessly excitable and slightly sadistic spirit-leader of space, Billy promptly fired off his own response, proclaiming that the space150 interns have “volunteered” to create a space150 rendition of the video, to be completed within 24 hours. “Billy’s joking, of course,” we assumed.

The realism of the project didn’t hit home until I walked into space150 to see giant projected red numbers, counting down 24 hours, a la “24.” Cue dramatic music.

“Oh my God, they’re serious! OK, let’s get going.” After a little brainstorming, Ned Wright, Katie Book, and I were off on a field trip with $150 in petty cash to gather supplies, while Elsa Perushek and Jason Piemeisl stayed behind to set up filming.

We head to Eden Prairie for the keyboard (Ned’s childhood toy), and some supplies. After some shopping and an awkward exchange at the Target checkout lane, we return with 60 pounds of chocolate syrup, some towels, a plastic kiddie pool, a few shower curtains, a keyboard, soap, shampoo, a bucket and some white t-shirts and shorts. Not your typical grocery list.

We were going to make chocolate rain. Literally. We arrange our film set, a sight that would put off the most seasoned porn producers, and begin production. We start slow and clean, lip synching the song and imitating Tay in our performances. Then, with a stream of chocolate syrup running down my leg, the real fun begins.

Before we know it we’re gyrating, dancing, and dousing each other in chocolate. The smell in the air alone could have brought on diabetes. Buckets and bottles of “chocolate rain” later, we were soaked. Our white t-shirts were now 40,000 calorie testaments to the fun we had. It was a wrap.

I tiptoe out into the hallway to the shower. There I pass one of the building’s tenants, who after seeing me, surely thought, “I knew it, advertising professionals ARE twisted hedonists.”

We clean up, and after hours of careful editing by our talented production intern, Elsa, we had our masterpiece: Interns gone choco-wild.

The next day, the entire space150 staff and a few amused clients assembled over the lunch hour for the premiere. Two minutes of blushing, squeals from the crowd and shouts of, “Damn, Dane. You’re furry.” It was over. The crowd applauded. We posted it online and watched the view count rise. It was a blast every step of the way.

Lesson learned: Be very, very careful what viral video you show to Billy. You never know what will happen next.