UPDATED: Jennifer Aniston, Smartwater & Girl Farts: The Mystery of Going Viral

So Jennifer Aniston still looks pretty good. But does she look good enough to make you buy Smartwater? An ad for the clear stuff went viral this week by showcasing “found security footage” from Aniston’s house, faux-reported as “breaking news” courtesy of Ryan Seacrest. Included in the footage is evidence that Aniston is pregnant with triplets, that she wears a wig, and her bastard grown children include Jimmy Kimmel and a space alien. Sounds pretty funny, right? Well over 1.5 million people seem to agree with you, having tuned in to turn the latest offering from the celebrity and the corporate water pusher into a bonafide hit. Hell, even NMR is writing an article about it.It’s almost enough to make one forget about her earlier collaboration with Smartwater — a similar attempt at forcing relevance by including previously viral elements such as Keenan Cahill, freak-dancing CGI babies and the “Double Rainbow” guy. This ad, which shattered the so-called fourth wall by talking about its need to go viral, debuted back in May of last year and has only just achieved 216,000 views — less than half the views garnered for a video of a girl farting while doing yoga.

So why the newfound relevance? This is the question that lies at the heart of every scrap of footage posted to YouTube: what will make people want to watch this? Clearly there is some strange voodoo involved, as Aniston + Cahill + double rainbow < girl breaking wind, but Aniston + Kimmel + alien = sweet viral gold. Is Jimmy Kimmel a bigger draw than Keenan Cahill? Not according to YouTube, where both commercials debuted. On YouTube, Cahill has 150,000 more subscribers to his channel with roughly 1000 less videos. In the digital arena, he trounces Kimmel.

In the first Smartwater ad, a guy even gets kicked in the nuts, causing Aniston to comment “That’s worth 100,000 views right there.” And you know what? I think she’s right. Without that sweet tag on the bag, this video would be rocking half its views. While that factor doesn’t answer any relevant questions, it does further illuminate the reality that there is no good reason one should do so much better than the other.

The only continuity between the two videos are Aniston and Smartwater. One video a success, the other a flop (by approximation of its elements). Clearly, the fault doesn’t lie with the pitchwoman or the product. But whatever that mysterious X factor is, the answer is worth billions in new media promotions.

UPDATE (09/24/12): On late Friday afternoon, I banged this article out after noting the disparity between the total number of views for the two Aniston Smartwater ad campaigns. The most prevalent upload of the old one shows roughly 200,000 views, but seeking out and tabulating other iterations puts the viewership in excess of one million. In my need to have an article reporting that girl farts are more popular than Jennifer Aniston, I deviated from NMR’s goal for excellent reporting and forgot to “carry the one.” I’d love to say it won’t happen again, but knowing me, it’ll happen again (hopefully not like this though). So instead of interpreting this article as hard-hitting investigative news, please consider it an act of whimsy amongst the canon of real-world factual news we present everyday. And as always, thanks for using your noodle while reading. We like a smart audience.

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