Why I’m Watching a Viral Vid from 2009

While waiting for a ferry to Toronto Island a few weeks ago, my friends and I overheard a gaggle of teenagers singing this with unbridled enthusiasm: “At the red houuuuuse: where black people and white people buy furniture!!”

We couldn’t believe what we were hearing. Presumably, neither could they when they first stumbled upon the youtube sensation from which the song originated… in 2009.

What intrigued me wasn’t the initial popularity of the video – which generated over 2 million views in 1 year – but its resilience. The kids singing this ironic jingle couldn’t have been older than 16. Their spoiled 13 year old selves could have been streaming this video on their new 2009 iPhone 3Gs all those years ago, but as the vid’s current views top 4 million, it’s likely they found it more recently through searches, social media sharing, or Youtube recommendations.

Why is this a genius concept for a commercial? Its content defies context. A simple furniture store jingle exalting the joys of racial equality can be surprisingly relevant in any number of contexts. Obama had only been in office for a year when this video was originally posted, so its popularity could be attributed to the issues of race and race relations Americans were discussing at that time. But the video could easily be embedded in any number of satirical columns, humour lists (think Buzzfeed, Cracked, or College Humor), or any other content related to 2012 presidential race, low budget commercials, song-writing, race-relations, furniture, or the South.

Digital content doesn’t need to be high concept or high budget to go viral: if it’s funny enough, it will beg to be shared beyond the context in which it was created!