Intrigued by multiple class discussions as well as by Sonny’s video clip presentation, the original focus of our group’s media literacy project was going to be viral marketing. Several of us surveyed students to find out what kind of Internet advertisements they enjoyed watching and how they discovered these kinds of videos. One of the Internet ads that we stumbled upon during our research was for an energy drink called Powerthirst.
The ad (as you can see from the clip above) is over the top. The deep, in your face, high energy, masculine voice, mimics that of the stereotypical football coach, an army sergeant, or maybe even a professional wrestler. The audio content and visual representations are even more compelling, more fast-paced, more masculine. The initial image reveals a pair of twin, superimposed, neon-green tinted body builders sporting skimpy bikini bottoms while flanking a can of Powerthirst. The picture of these strapping, male icons guarding their beloved, muscle-building beverage is repeated throughout the video.
The ad continues its appeal to young men, claiming in the same repetitive, vigorous voice that Powerthirst drinkers will be good at sports. There is energy and tension in the names of the Powerthirst flavors, Shockolate and Rawberry. But it’s the hyperbolic claims that make the ad so funny and outrageous. Rawberry is supposedly made with real lightning. And how about Powerthirst’s sexual vitality and conquest claims? Does four hundred babies sound manly enough?
While none of us had ever drank or even heard of Powerthirst before we saw the video, the name seemed to fit perfectly with the forceful, high-speed, fast-paced labeling trend that dozens of energy drink manufacturers have used to market their products: AMP, Blow, Cocaine, Full Throttle, Hype, Monster, Nitro2go, Red Bull, Rockstar, Powertrip, Pure Power. And Powerthirst’s marketing themes, while a little extreme, aside from the lack of X-games style sports hero sponsors, aligned neatly with the masculine intensity seen in numerous other upstart energy drink advertising schemes.
But even though the name and the marketing themes seemed believable, due to the outrageous nature and content of the ad, as critical thinkers we still had our doubts as to the authenticity of the product. The blatant Kenyan stereotype and the literary humor in the form of “turbo-puns (these aren’t your dad’s puns)” like “menergy” were almost too much. After a little research our suspicions were confirmed. We discovered that the Powerthirst energy drink video was actually an ad parody created by a comedian Mark Little, a member of the comedy group Picnicface. This revelation sent our media literacy project in a different direction altogether, and we decided to examine internet parody, the very phenomena we had inadvertently discovered in our search for authentic viral advertising.
Still intrigued and amused by the Powerthirst spoof, we decided to investigate it further and discovered that Picnicface had made a second energy drink video, “Powerthirst 2: Re-domination.”
Added to the original’s content are numerous phallic symbols, the mockery of Powerade’s glowing sweat, and the ridiculous claim that “Powerthirst is crystal meth in a can” (making fun of the energy drink Cocaine?).
In comparing both Powerthirst videos with genuine energy drink marketing (the critiques of several energy drink products and ads can be found in the posts below), we recognized that Mark Little and the Picnicface group must have had sufficient background knowledge concerning the current trends and explosions in energy drink products and advertising before creating their parodies. This discovery leant itself to a practical classroom application of Internet video parody. Students could be required to research particular advertising movements (as we did with energy drink marketing) alongside video parody of the phenomena. Or if video parody does not already exist, they could be required to create their own commercial spoof based upon a specific marketing trend. This is the kind of assignment that goes beyond the grade.
While Picnicface may have an agenda aside from fun and social commentary for creating digital videos (the promotion of their tours and products; their website even has a donation page), there are tens of thousands of Internet videos created every day, most of which are not intended to make money. There have even been numerous Powerthirst knock-offs created by Youtube users.
According to Youtube statistics, the original Powerthirst video has been viewed almost six million times. Almost thirty thousand viewers have participated in rating the video (four out of five stars is the average rating), over sixty two thousand have tagged the video as a favorite, almost eleven thousand have contributed comments, and twenty videos have been created directly in response (there are many other Powerthirst spin-offs posted on Youtube that are not directly linked to the original). The parody itself has become an Internet phenomenon.