The Meatrix captured a lot of people’s attention when it was released in the fall of 2003. It ‘went viral’ in a way not seen before for an advocacy film. Since its launch, the animation has been viewed millions of times and won numerous awards at film and online festivals.
The film has now become the reference point for activists who want their issue to ‘go viral’, inspiring a word-of-mouse buzz that puts an issue in front of millions of people.
Every web content creator has heard a variation of the question “How can we make our film/animation/feature/report/press release the next ‘Meatrix”? I have always wanted to ask the people behind the Meatrix a few questions, so at the end of lunch Friday I asked Jonah Sachs three questions.
1. How often do people ask you to make their project the next Meatrix?
Explicitly, at least once a week. We also probably get 3 or 4 calls a week where people mention the Meatrix. Most of these people are expecting we can do the same thing for their cause.
2. What do you tell them?
I tell them that the internet is not owned by anybody, and we don't have the power to dictate what is seen on the internet.
The beauty is that the medium is cheap, quick and a meritocracy. If we can capture the imagination of the public, you get the Meatrix. But it’s neither possible or desirable to do that on a regular basis, because it's not a broadcast network we own. It’s a public space.
What we can promise is a thoughtful approach to your project, and some good metaphors that will work to tell the story of your cause. But if your only goal is have 12 million people see your movie, we need to talk about other ways that this can be a win for you.We need to define a win in ways we can deliver.
3. How do you feel about 'going viral' as a strategy?
I do think there are people who say 'I want to spin the wheel' and see what happens. It’s a wheel that has nine busts and one jackpot, and its cool that people are still willing to risk that.
If you win, you get the earned media and the viewership of a multi-million dollar campaign for a fraction of the price.
It's just a gamble. The way you hedge your bet is to make sure your content has further educational value, and metaphors you can re-use so it's not a loss if you don't go viral.
For more info on the session on storytelling that Jonah led at Web of Change, check out this report back from Matt Thompson