Media Morph: Viral Video

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WHAT IT IS: It's one of the main ways people waste time online. Videos gone viral are those goofy, weird or off-color clips that are e-mailed habitually around the Web. Many are ads.

VIRAL-VIDEO LINGO: To rip is to download a video from the Internet and add a twist to make it your own. The video can be an ad or a homegrown clip that's already been on a viral journey. To burn is to copy the viral content onto a CD or some other device that's not the Web. To share is to send the altered video flying out by e-mail again.

WHAT'S THE RISK? "Anytime you are broadcasting anything [online or offline] you have to be OK with the fact that something might happen to it," said Tom Ajello, VP-creative director, "But no one is going to be comfortable passing along an ad or anything by `the man.' " Not unless they put their own mark on it making it unique.

TWEAKED ADS: Ford Motor Co. broadcast an offbeat ad on British TV for the Ford Sportka that showed the hood of a parked car popping up and knocking a bird flat just as it was about to land on the auto. As that ad flew around the world online, it was co-opted, altered and sent out again allegedly by a consumer-this time a tabby cat leaps atop the Sportka and is decapitated automatically by a sunroof with a mind of its own. The story is that the cat clip, dubbed "Evil Twin," was not sanctioned by Ford, Mr. Ajello said. Although he admits that Ford's agency WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, London, could have created the Evil Twin, it became a potent pass-along because it didn't look or feel like an ad.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Because an agency or marketer who figures out how to get its ad adopted by the viral community gets an ad that appears in inboxes upon the recommendation of their friends. The downside? It's out of your control.

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