Let's acknowledge right away that bad satire can be very, very bad. And the internet is chock full of spoofs and parodies, from the bad to the downright bizarre. Before the internet, we had The Onion. We had Weekly World News. Today, every YouTube user, blogger, and tweeter wants to spoof something. But when you wade through the junk, you'll see that a great satirical piece is both entertaining and constructive. Satire makes us laugh, learn, and question.
Funny enough, one of the most popular things to mock on the internet and social media happens to be the internet and social media. Those of us in the digital marketing industry know better than anyone what it's like to be constantly submerged in digital media and technology. We get the jokes, and they are often healthy reminders not to take ourselves too seriously, or to rethink standard practices.
Satirical TV favorites "Saturday Night Live," "The Colbert Report," and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" have all dabbled in poking fun at social media, technology, and marketing. And now the internet is catching on as well, with countless online native publications like The New Yorker's Borowitz Report and The Daily Currant. There is even a humorous blog called Literally Unbelievable that posts reactions from social media users who believe satirical articles are real.
Here are the best and brightest of the parodies, spoofs, jabs, jests, mockeries, and satires that took on digital and social media.
"Using Social Media to Cover For Lack of Original Thought" (The Onion)
This video is the first of The Onion's "Onion Talks," a series that spoofs TED talks. It's certainly not uncommon to make fun of people with "social media" in their job title, and this video is right on point. It brings to light some fundamental truths that the industry needs to confront about the questionable worth of social media marketing. Let's just hope it doesn't go as far as the speaker says: "Ideally, real human users will leave social networking altogether, and all that will be left will be thousands of robots, talking to each other, who we can then advertise to."
"Catvertising" (John St.)
In case you live under a rock and failed to notice, cat videos are huge. Last year marked the first ever Internet Cat Video Festival, hosted by The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. And it's about time marketers started taking this trend seriously! Am I right? This much-loved video from ad agency John St. makes the case for "the world's first and only Catvertising agency." Stephen Jurisic says it all: "Nobody wants to see ads anymore. They want cat videos."
"The iPhone 5 (Parody) Ad: A Taller Change" (Satire, Cinesaurus)
Who doesn't love taking a jab at Apple? This spoof on Apple's iPhone 5 ad features a "taller" iPhone -- 795 percent taller to be exact. And it even reduces "scrolling fatigue." Thank goodness! This silly parody comments on the iPhone's constant revamps with largely insignificant upgrades, as well as the comically serious original commercial for iPhone 5.
"Condescending Corporate Brand Page"
Social media parody accounts are plentiful, but the good ones can be spot on. "Condescending Corporate Brand Page" has nearly 40,000 likes. It's mission? "We're a big Corporate Brand® using Facebook. So look out for us asking you to like and share our stuff in a faintly embarrassing and awkward way." This parody account has become a refreshing place to enjoy snarky updates, as well as a hub for users to call out brands on their most ridiculous and awful Facebook posts. Be sure to check out the "About" section and some hilarious cover images.
"Are Chairs Like Facebook?" (Dónal Mulligan, Cian Markey, and Richie Nolan)
When the "Chairs Are Like Facebook" commercial was released last October, it sparked a gigantic wave of spoofs and parody videos. Facebook's ad was scrutinized by many for its awful metaphor and tone of meaningless sentimental crap. The spoof above says it plainly: "Chairs make money by selling information about you. And that is why chairs are like Facebook." Perhaps the most clever response to the ad was the simple and brilliant parody site, "_______ Are Like Facebook." Fill in the blank with any word you like.
"Buyral" (John St.)
Here's another witty project from John St. The video is a great commentary on the debated value of the click, and the marketing industry's desperate attempts to define what makes a video go viral. Here's a solution! Turn people into professional clickers. The sad part is that it's not very hard to believe.
"I Have Timeline" (Funny or Die)
This goofy video from Funny or Die portrays Facebook Timeline as an STD. "It doesn't matter how safe you are, you'll get timeline." We all got it eventually, even though we didn't want it. Facebook is a favorite for satirists, and this comedic video gets at a fundamental pattern: Facebook doesn't exactly consult it users when it rolls out new changes, and this often results in a period of predictable online outrage followed by tired submission. Few actually abandon the social network in exchange for "real life."
"The Fake Pinterest"
Here's another great social media parody account. With just under 10,000 followers, "The Fake Pinterest" takes delight in mocking, often quite morosely, the stereotypical Pinterest user. Defining this stereotype is, of course, open for debate, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say dumb, bored housewife just about covers it. (Good for marketers to bear in mind, if this happens to be your target audience.) Another tweet: "Cupcakes in literally anything but cups. Cups are for NON-creative people." Eoin Keenan said "The Fake Pinterest" works because "the key to great satire is to leave people thinking, 'that's ridiculous but it could be real.'"
"I'm all over Facebook" (Stephen Colbert)
In this clip, Stephen Colbert gives a hilarious laundry list of social media networks he is "all over," including "Gargler," "Flumpler," and "Muffler." This bit is a warning to job seekers about how the internet is becoming one giant resume. He then recalls Google CEO Eric Schmidt's infamous solution to privacy concerns: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." Colbert responds, "Are you listening young people? Just don't ever make a mistake. How hard is that?" Marketers shy away from discussing privacy issues at all costs, but the ad industry can't get away with this for long.
"CIA's 'Facebook' Program Dramatically Cuts Agency's Costs" (The Onion)
Here's a video that will make you laugh, but also seriously give you the creeps. The beauty of satire is that it's nearly believable, which often makes us confront some ugly truths about our society. The assertion that Facebook is a CIA program intended to spy on American citizens -- that American citizens willingly participate in -- is a perfect example from the masters at The Onion. In the post 9/11 climate, this situation is totally conceivable. They say you have to laugh to keep from crying.
Here's a sample of some recent articles from great satirical publications. Often, the headlines in themselves are priceless.
- "SXSW As Cool And As Real As it Gets, Reports Marketing Associate"
- "Weeping Tim Cook Spotted Screaming For Help at Steve Jobs' Tombstone"
The Borowitz Report:
The Daily Currant:
- "Facebook Begins Charging to Delete Photos"
- "Apple Sues Orchard for Logo Infringement"
- "Groupon Hires Its First Accountant"
Finally, for more hilarious and thoughtful satire for digital marketers, look no further than iMedia's own David Zaleski and his satirical blog series, which includes:
- "Yahoo's 'no work-from-home' policy completely saves company"
- "IAB admits all online banner clicks are accidental"
- "Zuckerberg unveils 'Facebook Phone,' forgets to add call feature"
- "Exclusive first picture of Apple's iWatch, experts marvel at design"
- "9-year-old boy appointed CMO of Samsung"
Chloe Della Costa is an editor at iMedia Connection.
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