Playfulness and Parodies

Playfulness and Parodies

What does Adele have to do with pizza and Pirate FM have to do with John Lewis? A sleuth of parodies of Adele’s new single Hello and John Lewis’ Christmas advert have shone a spotlight on one aspect of human behaviour: playfulness through parody.

Out of hibernation

The album isn’t out for release until 25 November, but already the video for Adele’s ‘Hello’ single has been viewed more than 300 million times on YouTube since it was launched on 22 October.

Having been absent from the limelight for a few years, Adele’s re-emergence has been likened to the star coming out of hibernation and even the straight-laced BBC invited the well-respected voice of Sir David Attenborough to narrate the video for Hello in the characteristic style of a wildlife documentary.

The song has been out for barely a fortnight and has already spawned a series of parody videos including one from the NFL and numerous pranks using the lyrics from the song, including one prankster attempting to order a pizza from Dominos. The stunt has been one factor underpinning 39% rise in the number of online mentions of the pizza brand since 22 October and Adele is also the most talked about topic in relation to the pizza since the launch of her music video.

Riding on the coattails of success

Over the last decade, the John Lewis Christmas advert has become something of a tradition in the UK as people eagerly await its debut on our screens. It garners a lot of publicity each year, from the cover song and the artist who will be singing their heart-rendering version of the lyrics. However, it also spawns a new wave of secondary marketing that rides on the coattails of its success with a series of parody videos being launched each year to capitalize on the success of the retailer’s Christmas campaign.

Within one week of its launch, the John Lewis advert has been parodied by radio stations (Pirate FM), satirical websites (The Poke) as well as an art college who spent £700 on their version to get the point across that Christmas doesn’t have to be expensive (the advert has been shared by MyVoucherCodes via its YouTube channel and so far notched up almost 70,000 YouTube views since its launch on 6 November).

Is parody parasitical?

To the cynics, parody of a big budget advert or video by brands might on the face of it appear to be parasitical – capitalising on whatever scraps of publicity they can get. Indeed, social listening shows that attachment to the success of viral videos (whether that be from a hit singer’s video or a retailer’s Christmas advert) results in a positive uplift in online conversation around the parody brands. However, the publicity they garner, the viral shares and the conversation they generate would suggest that parodies aren’t actually parasitical in nature, but also help to feed the popularity of the original adverts or music videos. In this way, they help to maintain momentum for the original brand.

Parodies are playful and everyone wins; the smaller brands get to take advantage of a platform for publicity that they would not otherwise have had the budget for. In turn, they help to continue driving the conversation around the original release.