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candid cameraJames Percelay and Michael Krivicka have cracked the code for creating viral videos, reports Claire Suddath in Bloomberg Businessweek (1/6/14). For the most part, the key is an extreme version of the old Candid Camera routine. Maybe you’re responsible for one or more of the 52 million clicks on a video James and Michael put together to promote the re-make of Carrie, which "featured a woman using her telekinetic powers to freak out coffee shop patrons." (link). In a forthcoming clip for another film, passersby are startled by an apparently abandoned – and definitely possessed – baby.

James and Michael create such videos as founders of Thinkmodo, which they say is the first advertising agency to specialize in making viral videos. Their goal is not entirely to make a video to go viral – it’s more important that it gets television media coverage. This matters to their clients, many of which are major film studios, because it’s much less expensive than buying television airtime. "I think studios are starting to realize that their spending is out of control," says James. The cost to produce a video is about the same as for a typical TV spot, but the distribution is far less costly.

For a snacks company, Thinkmodo "filmed a video about the Popinator, the ‘world’s first’ machine that shoots popcorn directly into people’s mouths." If it sounds like an old Saturday Night Live spoof, that’s because James is a former SNL line producer. Michael previously made spoof apps, such as one that purported to "see through people’s clothing" (link). Randall Rothenberg of the Interactive Advertising Bureau remains unimpressed, however, saying, “There’ve always been exceptions to advertising, and this just sounds like the latest one."