TIME Opinion

The Secret to a Viral Ad? Just Make It Really, Really Terrible On Purpose

Latest culprit: A so-bad-it's-good ad for a mall

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Unless your wifi has been down, chances are high that you’ve already seen a truly awful ad for Missouri’s East Hills Shopping Center — complete with off-pitch singing, singsong chanting about “boots and pants,” fluorescent green wods and clothing so synthetic that it’s one lit match away from bursting into flames.

It’s so bad, it’s good. But… is it too good to be true?

“Please don’t debunk this for me, I need to have faith in something during these trying times,” my friend Jordan wrote on Facebook, voicing the collective prayer of the snark-loving people of the internet as they click the video’s play button over and over and over again. (Actually titled “Terrible Mall Commercial,” the spot has been viewed on YouTube more than 1.5 million times in less than three days.)

While the commercial is, in fact, a real back to school ad for the Missouri mall, the man who made it knew exactly what he was doing.

“The whole time we pitched this idea we said, ‘maybe it will go viral.’ And it did,” Suddenlink Media’s Chris Fleck told a local FOX affiliate. Mr. Fleck said. “If you can entertain and get your message in, you’ve accomplished your goal. I just love that it’s getting this much response. That’s what commercials do, they get response.”

And this isn’t Fleck’s first rodeo. Here’s a spot in which Cecil Myers of Cecil Myers Mitsubishi raps his way into your heart:

“If you talk to [Meyers], he’ll tell you that I made him famous,” Fleck said.

This begs the question, is something that is terrible on purpose still terrible? Has this ad, sparkling as the bedazzled jeans it promotes, lost its luster?

“It makes me feel like throwing my computer out a window, or inventing a time machine and destroying ARPANET,” my friend Jordan said upon finding out.

The Mad Men of the digital era have been creating intentionally bizarre ads, made to go viral, for years. Rhett and Link, the ad duo behind the 2011 hit for Ojai Valley Taxidermy, even got a TV show on IFC entirely about creating strange local commercials for small businesses.

But while ad producers might be calculating, the local businesspeople who actually star in this particular breed of ads maintain a sweet sincerity.

Actual East Hill Mall tenants starred in the back-to-school spot, and they don’t appear to be in on the irony when they’re touting their purchases by chanting “backpacks, backpacks, come get your backpacks.”

“It’s insane — the fact that it was even on YouTube is crazy to me,” Tyson “boots and pants” Huff-Garza told FOX 26. “It’s super funny, very cheesy and gets the point across.”

And that sincerity is just what differentiates the “so bad it’s good enough to Gchat to all of my friends” ads, from the “so bad it’s boring enough to close the YouTube tab after ten seconds” ads.

We might all be pawns, but you have to appreciate that craft.

TIME viral

This Heartbreaking Ice Bucket Challenge Video is the Best One Yet

Meet 26-year-old Anthony Carbajal, who was recently diagnosed with ALS

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Some skeptics have slammed the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, writing it off as a silly social media fad, a waste of water and just another example of “slacktivism” that allows people to feel good about themselves without really doing much.

If you agree with the critics, the video above might change your mind. It was created by 26-year-old Anthony Carbajal, who explains that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) runs in his family. His grandmother had it, his mother currently lives with it, and he himself was diagnosed just five months ago.

In this very emotional video, Carbajal shows just how challenging and devastating life with this insidious disease really is as he takes care of his mom. His message for the haters and the skeptics? The Ice Bucket Challenge is actually an incredibly positive force.

“I promise your newsfeed will go back to cat videos and ‘Let It Go’ covers, but right now, the ALS community has the main spotlight,” Carbajal says into the camera with tears in his eyes. “And for once in my entire life, I’ve seen it in the forefront.”

We’ve reached out to Carbajal for comment and will update if he gets back to us.

TIME celebrity

The Many Music Video Personas of Taylor Swift, From Ballerina to Stalker

All Tay's roles in one handy supercut

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In the new video for her ultra-poppy “Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift takes on many roles: a b-girl, a cheerleader, a rhythmic gymnast… the list goes on.

This multitude of T-Swift characters inspired The Daily Dot to create one big supercut of ALL her music video personas. Some are very clear-cut (chemist, princess, office worker) while others are a bit more conceptual (Appalachian ingénue, Old Navy spokesmodel, Zooey Deschanel in New Girl.)

The video includes 40 personas in total. It’s going to be impossible to pick your favorite.

LIST: Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” and 7 Other Songs About Haters

WATCH: Alexander Skarsgård Jammed with Taylor Swift on The Giver Set

TIME NextDraft

The Most Dangerous Place to Be a Journalist and Other Fascinating News on the Web

August 20, 2014

nextdraft_newsfeed_v2

1. The World is Appalled

President Obama spoke following an official confirmation that the video of the beheading of an American journalist was authentic: “Today the entire world is appalled at the brutal murder of James Foley by the terrorist group ISIL.” Foley was a photojournalist from New Hampshire who was kidnapped two years ago while covering the war in Syria. Obama also said that groups like ISIL have “no place in the 21st century.” Unfortunately, they won’t leave willingly. James Foley risked his life bringing us important stories. His death is a reminder that one of the era’s most defining stories — the broad struggle between extremists and moderates — is far from over.

+ James Foley: “It’s part of the problem with these conflicts … We’re not close enough to it. And if reporters, if we don’t try to get really close to what these guys … are experiencing, we don’t understand the world.” The Atlantic: James Foley and the last journalists in Syria.

+ In May, Vanity Fair’s James Harkin wrote about the most dangerous place in the world for journalists (more than 60 have been killed in Syria) and followed the trail of two of his colleagues, including James Foley: Evaporated.

+ We are appalled today. People in Iraq and Syria have been appalled for quite a while. From Reuters: “When Islamic State militants stormed into a northern Iraqi village and ordered everyone to convert to Islam or die only one person refused.” That’s when the killing started.

2. Show and Tell?

The beheading of James Foley brings up a complex set of choices for editors and those who manage social media networks. How much graphic content is too much? As you might imagine, different publications had different answers. Meanwhile, Twitter began suspending users who shared images of Foley’s beheading.

3. Ferguson or Bust

I don’t remember a time when my Twitter stream was as totally locked in on a single topic as long as its been locked in on Ferguson. Apparently, a lot of people want to see (and take part) in the story firsthand. From MoJo: From Anarchists To Tibetan Monks, here are some of the outsiders joining protests in Ferguson.

+ “Last year, in total, British police officers actually fired their weapons three times. The number of people fatally shot was zero.” The Economist with a “reminder that civilians — innocent or guilty — are far more likely to be shot by police in America than in any other rich country.”

+ German journalist Ansgar Graw on his arrest in Ferguson: “I’ve been in several conflict zones: I was in the civil war regions in Georgia, the Gaza strip, illegally visited the Kaliningrad region when travel to the Soviet Union was still strictly prohibited for westerners, I’ve been in Iraq, Vietnam and in China, I’ve met Cuba dissidents. But to be arrested and yelled at and be rudely treated by police? For that I had to travel to Ferguson and St. Louis in the United States of America.”

4. Surrounded

In Liberia, an entire neighborhood called West Point has been surrounded by barbed-wire barricades in an attempt to control the spread of Ebola. From the NYT: “Soldiers repelled the surging crowd with live rounds, driving hundreds of young men back into the neighborhood, a slum of tens of thousands in Monrovia.”

+ James Surowiecki on Ebolanomics: “The lack of an Ebola treatment is disturbing. But, given the way drug development is funded, it’s also predictable.”

5. Way Offline

“He said he had no address, no vehicle, did not file a tax return, and did not receive mail. He said he lived in the woods.” Christopher Thomas Knight spent three decades living in the woods in Central Maine, only occasionally crossing the border into society to steal from the locals. (Just think of how much great television this guy can now binge-watch?) GQ’s: Michael Finkel on the strange and curious tale of the last true hermit.

6. It’s Not Synching In

According to recent research, people who read material on a Kindle are “significantly” worse at recalling key plot points than their paperback-reading counterparts. Now I just need a paperback with backlighting and a way to increase the font size.

7. Decade of Dominance

It’s been ten years since Google went public. And so far, things seem to be going pretty well for the company. Quartz’s Dan Frommer charts the company’s amazing growth since its IPO.

+ WSJ: Google’s IPO, 10 years later: Just 10 stocks beat it.

+ James Temple: Google’s 10 zaniest projects in the 10 years since the IPO.

8. It’s Mourning in America

“I awoke incredibly puffy and sad. I started crying almost immediately when I found out … I’m still incredibly sad. You can probably hear the choke in my voice. But I’ve decided I’m going to mourn for one week and then celebrate him without sadness, as I’m sure he would not have wanted that.” Are those the words of a close friend of Robin Williams? No. They’re the words of a fan. NY Mag’s Tim Murphy on those who grieve for dead celebrities.

+ “Public mourning is there in order to allow private mourning to express itself.” New Republic’s Meghan O’Rourke: Twitter Grief is Real Grief. (Though, one hopes real grief is at least a few characters longer…)

9. Ice on the Cake

The ice bucket challenge is working. The ALS Association has raised more than $22 million since the viral project’s kick-off. Vox’s Julia Belluz wonders if viral memes should be dictating our charitable giving.

+ Wired: How long would it take the whole world to do the ice bucket challenge? (By that time, due to climate change, we’d be pouring room temperature water over our heads.)

10. The Bottom of the News

Enough with all the bad news. This will cheer you up. A four year-old reviews The French Laundry.

+ If you want to wake up in the city that never sleeps, you better head somewhere other than NYC. According to data collected by Jawbone, people who live there go to bed at a perfectly reasonable hour.

+ NPR: If You’re Born In The Sky, What’s Your Nationality?

+ Want a successful marriage? Have a big wedding.

+ Slate: What makes people look like their pets?

+ The NFL wants Super Bowl halftime performers to have to pay for the right to perform. (And given which acts they’re considering, that actually makes a lot of sense.)

nextdraft

TIME Opinion

The Fanny Pack: Symbol of Male Liberation

In defense of the world's greatest supply bag

America’s national arbiter of Southern Cool, Matthew McConaughey, declared his love for the fanny pack to the world while at Fenway Park Sunday.

“I’m not afraid of the fanny pack,” said McConaughey, when confronted about his accessory. “You gotta kind of put it on the side to make it look a little not as nerdy, but still, practicality wins out. I got so much gear in here that I don’t want in my pockets.”

The Houston Astros Vs. The Boston Red Sox At Fenway Park
Actor Matthew McConaughey stands for the national anthem at the Red Sox game at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) Boston Globe—Boston Globe via Getty Images

For those not in the know, a fanny pack is a small pouch worn around the waist like a belt. Supposedly once the pouch was worn over the buttocks, hence the name, though no one wears them that way today. They peaked as a fashion item in the 1980s.

McConaughey’s love for the fanny pack is all good and well and I offer him my sincerest stamp of approval but his statement deserves a lingering glance. He speaks not only to today’s evolving fashion trends and the utility of the fanny pack but to the society’s sexist fashion standards and the plight of modern man, especially when it’s hot outside.

Consider the options available to a man wishing to carry a few supplies out into the world (excluding winter time, when the giant coat and the fact that going out is awful anyway renders the conundrum moot).

The briefcase—No one took you seriously when you carried one in high school and no one takes you seriously now, unless there are actual briefs (the legal kind) in that thing.

The backpack—We could rename it “The backsweat.” Also kind of juvenile, but it’ll do in a pinch.

The satchel—Known to everyone talking out of earshot as your “murse,” this bag is actually pretty handy but it can be a bulky when you’re trying to feel light and free and summery.

The hand—Real men carry things with their hands. But we are not real men and haven’t been since the end of the Stone Age so moving on.

The purse—Bless you bold purse carriers, but no. Getting an arm into the strap is impossible and there is just no way to hold these things other than with hand on strap arm extended at 90 degrees. Ergonomically out of the question. I am not alone.

The fanny pack— Small, light and comfy. The flip flop of supply bags. Liberator of male-kind. The fanny pack will get you where you need to go along with your carmex, knife, road beer, sunglasses, or whatever else. You will not be dependent (in the supply arena, anyway) on a purse-wielder, nor will you be weighed down by any aforementioned bulky or discomfiting bags.

Through the centuries man has known it to be true that the fanny pack is tops. Only recently, in this dark age of meggings and other fashion crimes, have we lost sight of our centuries old love for the fanny pack. See here, symbol of manly freedom and fanny pack pioneer, The King of the Wild Frontier himself, Davy Crockett.

Davy Crockett, King Of The Wild Frontier
Silver Screen Collection—Getty Images

Follow McConaughey, men. Follow Crockett. Embrace the fanny pack. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have the world to win.

TIME celebrity

Anna Wintour Did the Ice Bucket Challenge Because Getting Drenched in Water Is The Latest Fashion

No word on whether this new look will make the September issue.

Vogue editor Anna Wintour has done the ice bucket challenge — a Facebook trend in which people post videos of themselves getting doused with ice water, then nominate others to do it or donate $100 to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) research. Nominated by her daughter Bee Shaffer, Wintour has challenged tennis champion Roger Federer and English actor Dominic West to do it next.

The fundraising campaign has raised more than $15 million.

No word on whether this new look will be featured in the September issue.

MORE: George W. Bush Does The Ice Bucket Challenge

MORE: Here Is How The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Started

TIME World

These Are The Oldest Living People in the World

Guinness World Records announced Wednesday that Sakari Momoi, an 111-year-old retired teacher who lives in Tokyo, is now the oldest living man. The avid Chinese poetry reader succeeds Alexander Imich, a New Yorker who died in June at 111. Here, TIME rounds-up other known super-centenarians.

TIME viral

Little Kid Totally Freaks Out When His Dad ‘Takes’ His Ear and Nose

You'd cry too if you genuinely thought you'd have to live without these important facial features

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You know that game adults like to play where they pretend to steal kids’ nose and then promptly taunt them by chanting, “I got your nose”? Well, a dad named Jesse Fulcher decided to play that game with his son and then uploaded his “priceless” reaction to YouTube.

Fulcher begins by “taking” his son’s ear. He sees how distraught the kid becomes, so he puts it back. Then, for some reason, the kid agrees to let his dad take his nose too, which also causes him to break down in tears.

In the end, all the boy’s facial features are returned to their rightful spots.

TIME New Jersey

Watch Chris Christie Get Totally Defensive About Being Friends With Bruce Springsteen

Chris + Bruce 4Ever

Correction applied Wednesday, August 20

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie lost his cool Tuesday after a state resident suggested that the Bruce Springsteen superfan might not be in the Boss’s good graces.

After being asked about a rumor that Springsteen had requested Christie stop using his music at his rallies (a rumor that has not been substantiated), Christie totally freaked, as seen in this video from NJ.com.

“No. Never did that. No, you’re wrong about that,” Christie said. “Bruce has never asked me to do that. He never has. You’re wrong.”

The New Jersey resident then asked about whether he had been dancing with Bon Jovi in the Hamptons, prompting Christie to remind her that he has many celebrity friends besides Springsteen.

“I wasn’t dancing with Bon Jovi, actually, I was dancing with Jamie Foxx,” he said. “So if you’re gonna be cute, we should get the story right.”

But of all his famous friends, the Boss is Christie’s BFF. In fact, they hung out just recently!

“I saw Bruce about a week and a half ago,” Christie said. “And he had every opportunity to tell me not to, he didn’t, and he never has told me not to. Listen, I know him and you’re wrong. I know Bruce, and I’ve spoken to Bruce, and you’re wrong.”

The governor appeared furious at the insinuation that he and Bruce were on the outs, although he did not provide any proof of their friendship, such as letters from camp, friendship bracelets, or selfies. He ended by telling the female journalist, who seemed very calm, to calm down.

“When I leave, just so we can have this lady be a little calmer, let’s play Bon Jovi on the way out,” he said, adding: “If you want to debate, run for governor and I’ll debate you.”

Correction: The original version of the story incorrectly described the woman who confronted Christie. She was a New Jersey resident.

[NJ.com]

TIME viral

10 Dogs That Bravely Completed the Ice Bucket Challenge

From a dachshund in a shower cap to a cavapoo in a raincoat

You might be at least a little sick of seeing people dump water over their heads everywhere you turn on the Internet, even if the hugely viral phenomenon is raising insane amounts of money for a worthy cause.

But the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has now taken a cutesy turn. Here, we present some of the best canine contributions to the ever-growing collection of icy videos.

The dachshund that’s totally prepared with a cute little shower cap:

The pug that would rather just donate the damn money and have you leave it alone:

The big guy named Jet that’s pretty chill about things:

The puppy named Buttons that’s all, “can you not?”:

The corgi that actually seems excited to complete the challenge:

This chill chihuahua named Jack:

The little dude named Phineas Ernest Sander that’s rocking a fly raincoat:

The little cutie named Tinkerbelle that chills in protective rain gear while her human sings for some reason:

The dog named Boomer that realizes the challenge isn’t so bad after all:

The courageous pooch that uses an actual bucket:

Honorable mention: this cutie named Lucky that almost completed the challenge:

 

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