Red Bull Stratos
A brand is as strong as the hype it creates! A Red Bull invention, without a doubt. You’d be hard-pressed to find even one event that isn’t sponsored by this energy drink brand. Urban street races, airplane stunts and the ultimate stunt and summit of media hyping: the launch of ‘super sky diver’ Felix Baumgartner from just below. Red Bull gives you wings! But marketing budget helps, too.
iPhone D Day
Marketing is about creating a hype every time you launch a new product. No one understands this better than Apple, which turns every iPhone, iPad, iPod and Macbook launch into a true spectacle, an invitees-only conference that makes headlines all over the world time and again. Successful hypes: Apple creates them every year.
Bavaria Babes
A good marketing hype can come dressed as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The cameras loved the alluring girls in matching orange mini-dresses on the stands at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and they became world news. It proved to be a cunning stunt by Bavaria to promote its beer. And it worked! The Bavaria Babes were a true free publicity hit.
Strangers Kissing
It was quite a phenomenon: a poignant YouTube video of young people meeting each other for the first time and kissing in front of the cameras. Strangers Kissing was an instant viral hit: the idea was simple, the concept romantic… and dozens of millions of viewers later, it all turned out to be a successful marketing stunt. The real focus of the videos were the jeans that the ‘strangers’ (actors and models) wore.
Hema Push Up! Andrej Pejic
The Hema department store chain is known for its practical no-nonsense attitude. But at times it takes a quality twist and a bit of savvy marketing to touch a woman’s consumer heart. To ‘push’ their Push-up bras, the Dutch retailer hired the controversial male model Andrej Pejic: more beautiful than all the top models, but a man nonetheless. Kate Moss? Heidi Klum? Gisele Bundchen? Everything looks better on Andrej! And if you can hype your advertising image, from billboard to billboard – success is guaranteed.
Oscar Selfie
Oscar host Ellen Degeneres, world-famous talk show icon, excitedly ran into the celebrity audience during the live ceremony and took a selfie with the movie stars. She posted a photo on Twitter and asked all her viewers to share it and make it the most-shared tweet ever – and they succeeded. But... the smartphone she used to take the picture in question was provided by Samsung, who happened to be the event’s sponsor.
They suddenly popped up out of nowhere: superfoods! Healthy food had been big for a while, but with its new moniker, expensive dieting was hipper than ever. All the world’s quinoa and goji berries could barely meet the demand as every self-respecting consumer became superfood-minded overnight. The supermarket war had been raging for a while; now, consumers were ‘aware’ and healthier than ever, making them reborn fans in the marketer’s crosshairs.
Before we flocked to creating stunt videos and mini-musicals using Vine, there was the flash mob: surprising the unsuspecting passersby with an organised group performance. With the advent of the internet these happenings suddenly became ubiquitous, with flash mobs organised online through messages posted on notice boards and social media. Marketing was quick to recognise the potential, turning flash mobs into a new advertising tool.
Color Run
No marketing hype is more contagious than the Color Run: ‘Run run run, in a sea of color’. These events are usually sponsored, making them somewhat half-hearted: half marketing, half festival. And in truth, they have very little to do with sports in any way at all. Their effect is made manifest on Facebook and Instagram: profile pictures and status updates are more vibrant than ever.
I Got A Crush… On Obama
In 2007, Obama was a new star on an election tour. The somewhat stiff newcomer was given a ‘sexy’ image boost with the YouTube hit and love declaration, ‘Crush on Obama’. It charmed millions of viewers and his message of ‘hope’ won him the election. In fact, ‘Obama Girl’ was a paid actress, and the video was a joke, not a campaign stunt.
Obama’s Facial Expressions
In this Internet age, political sainthood can spawn entirely new hypes, as illustrated by the constantly emerging strange pictures of Obama’s face. The plasticity of Obama’s physiognomy made him the focus of a highly popular new pastime: capturing Obama’s oddest expressions. Frowns, grins, looks of surprise or jester-like anger: it’s a guaranteed hit.
Michelle Obama: First Lady
The First Lady matters! Political marketing loves Michelle Obama and spares no effort in making her an idol. Gracefully she poses for magazine after magazine, with the cover of Vogue America as her crowning glory. Michelle Obama is being hyped as a role model for all female voters, and can serve as a glamorous red herring when her husband finds himself in hot political water.
Sarah Palin
No matter how deep a campaign’s pockets, you can’t create an ideal candidate. Sarah Palin, once a prospective vice president, learned this lesson at a very personal level. In the election campaign of 2008, her every mistake added fuel to the fire as her political opponents created an anti-hype on the internet. Soon enough the parodies infected the world of television, and Palin disappeared from view.
Very deep pockets and barefaced cheek can propel one to political heights, as billionaire Donald Trump has proved. With his commonest of common sense and a rich repertoire of blunt one-liners, the businessman is successfully winning people to his side. As it stands, #Trump2016 is not all that unlikely… From business tycoon to television hero to – possibly – president, the both loved and reviled Trump is hyping himself.
Call Me Caitlyn
When Kardashian’s stepfather, former Olympic champion Bruce Jenner, underwent a sex change operation, this was successfully presented as the greatest celebrity stunt in years. ‘Caitlyn’ broke onto the scene on Twitter: “Call me Caitlyn”. Next was a Vanity Fair cover of ‘the new Jenner’, shot by the famous photographer Annie Leibovitz. The tweet brought in millions of followers within mere hours. Jenner’s rebirth was a success on all fronts.
Kim Kardashian: Break the Internet
Kim Kardashian, reality TV star, featured on the cover of the cult periodical Paper Magazine in 2014. The naked cover picture – and ditto images in the issue itself – caused much commotion, just as the magazine expected. Paper Magazine placed small previews online, which drew so many views that the website crashed. The pictures became world-wide news and dominated social media.
Justin Bieber for Calvin Klein
Teen idol Justin Bieber was the face of fashion giant Calvin Klein’s underwear campaign in 2014. This casting of the you-either-love-him-or-you-hate-him Bieber was a doubly smart move: teen fans stormed the stores, while the resulting Internet parodies of the pictures made Bieber into an advertising icon for Calvin Klein, both loved and hated – just as planned.
Miley Cyrus: Post Disney
Disney star Miley Cyrus was ready to embark on her adult career and gain acknowledgement from a new audience. But then she had to drop her goody-goody image first, and from that moment on all her public performances were dense with sexual innuendo. Experts were hired to smuttily repackage her sweet angel face. The message hit home, and Miley Cyrus is becoming more infamous, unpredictable and popular by the day.
Nicki Minaj: Anaconda
The music industry quickly seized on the power of hyping as a marketing tool. And why be subtle about it? For Nicki Minaj’s single ‘Anaconda’, the hyped image was the point. A fulsome, perfect derriere underscored the song text: ‘My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns hun’. So it was big buns or nothing. Fodder for the fans, who within hours/days recreated their own versions of Nicki Minaj’s beautiful larger than life posterior.
Blurred Lines
It wasn’t just the music that made ‘Blurred Lines’ as big as it did in the summer of 2013 – the notorious video did its part as well. Robin Thicke’s and Pharell Williams’s collaboration was presented on MTV and YouTube as a s oft porn sketch in pastel shades, with exposed breasts and the idolised singer (fully clothed in a suit) as the worshipped centre of attention. Lyrics and images ignited a firestorm about misogyny in the media; the X-rated version went viral as a 16+ worldwide hit.
Alex from Target
A young sales assistant at Target department store shot to world fame overnight when a young client placed a picture of ‘Alex from Target’ on Twitter, accompanied by a declaration of love. Eight hours later, by the time Alex was ending his shift, he had become an internet sensation. He now has millions of followers on Instagram and Twitter. And the dark side? Death threats and hate mail. These days, Alex prefers to stay home and works behind the scenes in the Target storerooms, far from the fans who stalk his shop.
Marnie the Dog
First there was Grumpy Cat. Now we have Marnie, the celebrity dog. From a dog shelter inmate with a medical condition, the terrier acquired international fame with its very own best-selling calendar. Its owner even gave up her job to manage Marnie’s career. Marnie is now the number one selfie partner for the world’s glitterati and has its own merchandising and advertising deals.
Geometric Grooming
In Taiwan it’s easy to order your own hype dog nowadays: poodles of all shapes and sizes are transformed into your dream social media material at the wink of an eye. So go ahead and post an Instagram update of your four-legged friend in the latest trend appearance: as a cube, a sphere or fashionable egg shape, and your dog might score hundreds of likes worldwide.
Left Shark
At Katy Perry’s performance during the American Football Super Bowl, an annual must-watch for hundreds of millions of viewers, one of the background dancers in a shark suit was so clumsy and out of sync that he garnered instant fame as ‘Left Shark’; itself a new byword for formless blundering. (Right Shark, by the way, put in a pitch perfect performance). The GIF animation, fan art and parodies inundated the internet within hours. The singer’s legal team now has a full time job trying to hold back the surge of unofficial merchandising.
Oolong: The Pancake Rabbit
The Chinese Oolong rabbit is not just a favourite pet, but it comes with a special talent too: lay something on its head and in three hours from now it will still be there. So this rabbit can balance stuff on its head! Rabbits bearing objects like lighters and beer cans and even pancakes are gleefully shared on social media. Oolong rabbits are now officially termed pancake rabbits: just stack ‘em up.
The Dress
In 2015, a fairly simple case of optical illusion dominated Facebook, Tumblr and even the television channels. A British housewife sent her daughter a picture of a dress. But was the dress gold and white, or blue and black? Pandemic confusion ensued, becoming a global non-debate. The family concerned put in a perplexed appearance at several talk shows, to then scurry back into anonymity.
Bed Intruder: Antoine Dodson
After a bungled burglary on his sister’s apartment, Antoine Dodson recorded a passionate account in 2010, warning the escaped culprit that this was totally unacceptable. With his flamboyant style resembling staged reality TV, Dodson instantly became the day’s hot topic. His abhorrence was so all-consuming and theatrical that no one could really take him seriously, and his neighbours were embarrassed for this new ‘face’ of their neighbourhood. But the internet took a different view: the hysterical Dodson was embraced by millions and music mixes sampled his stream of invective to become worldwide hits.
Like a Tornado, Girl!
Summer of 2015. A highly agitated Courtney Barnes describes what he just saw as witness to a car accident following a police chase. The news item spread on social media worldwide. Barnes pointing his bright green fingernails at the street light that the car hit at full speed ‘…like a tornado, Girl!’... What drama! Countless music remixes followed on YouTube.
Cinnamon Challenge
In 2007, the Cinnamon Challenge suddenly became a popular pastime worldwide: to eat a full tablespoon of cinnamon, without liquid to wash it down. Not a safe thing to do, but certainly hilarious: YouTube contains thousands of videos of teenagers coughing cinnamon. It turned comedian GloZell Green into an internet star: her Cinnamon Challenge drew 45 million viewers.
Face Swapping
With evermore digital users and apps making photo editing a simple task, a new pastime has arisen perfect for the internet: the Face Swap. As the name suggests, the app swaps faces in a picture, for example to embarrass someone or to turn a serious image into a humorous one. You can for example swap Obama and Putin, and homely family photos become a lot more fun when switching around the faces of the proud dad and blushing baby.
Unflattering Beyoncé
A pop idol for over a decade, Beyoncé’s albums sell millions of copies and her image is omnipresent. But perfection comes with drawbacks: internet users spread ‘Unflattering Beyoncé’ photographs and GIF animations in which an undignified star goes through her dance steps. The star’s fans greedily further spread responding images all over the web.
Hot Convict: Jeremy Meeks
Hot Convicts have been circulating for some years now: police photographs of attractive offenders who even look good in the cell. Jeremy Meeks is the Hottest Convict of them all. He looks so good on his ‘mug shots’ that various modelling agencies have offered him contracts. Internet fans already add Prada and Gucci logos to his image, with very convincing faux advertisements as a result.
Indestructible Nokia
In the smartphone era, we fondly remember the first and ultimate mobile phones: the Nokia. These devices were indestructible – a far cry from today’s smartphones, whose screens seem to break just by looking at them. That probably explains the odes to the ‘Indestructible Nokia’ found on internet today: ‘Drop it on the floor? Break the floor…’
Keep Calm and Carry On
When the British government designed a national campaign to boost the nation’s morale and resolve during wartime, nobody could have foreseen that sixty years later this spirited incitement would become an internet phenomenon with countless imitations. New variations were thought up for every conceivable mood or worldview, and easy online tools let everyone design and share their own parody.
Charlie Bit My Finger
Babies, toddlers, kids of all sizes and shapes: big time scorers, especially when they do silly things. The ultimate example is ‘Charlie Bit my Finger’, a shaky home video of less than a minute which has racked up over 825 million views so far. Toddlers thus notch up even higher viewing figures than the average Beyoncé video clip, becoming YouTube stars before they are even aware of what’s going on.
The Annoying Orange
Annoying videos have been popular ever since YouTube was invented. But the Annoying Orange beats them all. Still, this series has been viewed millions of time so far, and the dedicated YouTube channel has over 4 million subscribers. Clearly, it can pay to be annoying, and handsomely too. The creator – a production assistant at MTV – has been making a neat pile with the songs, gadgets and of course the YouTube advertisement income.
Pepe the Frog
Pepe popped up in 2006: an unattractive and poorly drawn frog that likes to say stuff like ‘feels good man’. Pepe quickly became an icon on the 4Chan platform, as one of the first genuine meme personalities. He is drawn across photographs in the news and popular media, and always with a trademark sarcastic caption.
Grumpy Cat
Grumpy Cat is a cat that always looks grumpy. And it may well be the biggest internet animal icon, and has graced the cover of numerous magazines. The cat has become a statement: every internet user adds his or her own slogan in simple meme design. Grumpy Cat has ascended from 4Chan and Tumblr to the Facebook heights of the mainstream internet user.
No sooner did the internet take off than it was flooded with blogs by cat lovers, devoted to glorifying their pets. The Lolcat is the answer to this ‘online pet pampering’. Cosy cats are given one-liners riddled with typos and spelling mistakes, as a parody on the online cuddliness.
Dog Shaming
Having seen so many ‘challenges’ on social media and pets on 4Chan and Tumblr, a welcome animal variant appeared on Facebook and Instagram recently: Dog Shaming. Is your dog chewing up your house? Does he steal food from the kitchen table? Shame him on the internet! Dogs looking guilty or ashamed, photographed with a smartphone, confess to their sins on a written note.
Lie on the floor, like a plank. That’s it. Although people have been doing it for years, ‘planking’ was one of the very first internet challenges. Plank, but make it brave and funny. Plank on the road! Plank on the fridge! The bravest planker of them all planked on the back of a sleeping tiger. Plankers have been known to fall to their death from balconies or to get run over. The search term produced the first successful bundling of social media photographs.
Planking spawned lots of variations, of which Owling is probably the funniest: photograph yourself sitting on your haunches, in some unexpected place up high. For instance on a cupboard, a shed, a tree branch (predictable, but difficult) or a car. Owling was the Planking of the new social media platforms: Tumblr, Pinterest, etcetera.
Diet Coke and Mentos
From simple home fun to social media megahit: a bottle of Diet Coke (the more litres the better) and a roll of Mentos can take you a long way. Add the sweets to the soft drink and a gushing cascade of unhealthy consumer happiness will instantly ensue, reaching spectacular heights provided you add enough Mentos! On the internet it has become a definitive sport. The most spectacular Diet Coke and Mentos stunts are now carefully orchestrated: acting as veritable cameramen, kids build complex constructions for maximum effect and place cameras on tripods to ensure perfect footage of the explosive results.
Don’t Judge Challenge
The ‘Don’t Judge Challenge’ arose as in response to the often shallow, negative reactions to selfies: YouTube videos and photo series in which teenagers first use excessive make-up to appear as ugly or unattractive as possible, followed by highly photogenic evidence to the contrary. Don’t Judge is one of the many hypes successfully challenging the online cult of beauty.
Harlem Shake
A video to promote a rather mediocre dance track became an instant worldwide hit. The concept is simple: start by standing still, quietly waiting, and as soon as the beat begins everyone starts moving around wildly and at random. Millions of versions have appeared online: made by office colleagues, sports teams, nurses in the operating theatre. By far the most popular version was created by the Norwegian army while on an exercise in sub-zero temperatures. A whole platoon suddenly goes berserk, resulting in no less than 109 million views.
Kylie Jenner Challenge
The plumped-up lips of teenage reality star Kylie Jenner caused a rather distasteful hype in 2015. Across the world teenagers pumped up their lips, using a vacuum-sucked shot glass. Aside from the absurd effect for Instagram updates, the hype also resulted in countless injuries and even torn cheeks. And so yet another Kardashian family member became a controversial social media star.
Selfie Olympics
Ever since mobile phones were fitted were cameras, we have been photographing ourselves more than others or the view. Lots of hypes have come and gone already, and one of the most popular and most fun was the Selfie Olympics-hype: make the weirdest possible selfie and post it on your social media channel under #selfieolympics or #selfiegames. This hype was in response to the media madness surrounding the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Dance crazes have happened before, usually as part of a (youth) sub-culture. We all once learned some rave dance routines, and some may even remember the steps to the ‘Chicken dance song’. Shuffling is for the dance elitists: a light-footed skip-step-jump on the spot, without betraying quite how difficult it is to master. As well as best-of videos, YouTube offers a huge range of how-to lessons for beginners.
One of the very first deliberately crafted ‘viral hits’ on YouTube was Lonelygirl15. Millions followed the teenage doubts and dreams of 15-year-old Bree as she kept a webcam diary. She touchingly agonised about her life, her boyfriend, her parents, her school. But the monologues turned out to be fiction; scenario writers had enlisted a young actress to create the first YouTube celebrity.
Leave Britney Alone
After pop star Britney Spears was on the receiving end of another barrage of criticism on the internet, Chris Crocker felt it was time to make a stand. This American teenager recorded a perfectly theatrical, over-the-top emotional tear-jerking fit of anger: leave Britney alone! Despite widespread incredulity regarding the authenticity of the film, Crocker skyrocketed to fame. The art world embraced the video as online performance art, even if unintentional.
Happy Slapping
When mobile phones came equipped with cameras, a strange, unpleasant and unlawful hype emerged, known as ‘happy slapping’. The idea was simply to slap a random passer-by, catch it on film and post it online. After a number of incidents and media coverage, going for a stroll suddenly became less attractive. The police put out an alert on the offenders, and soon after cameras stuck to recording ‘regular violence’ only.
Chatroulette emerged at the end of 2009: a website where your webcam was linked up with another webcam at random, to chat and do other things. It became a furtive hit, with millions of people gazing at each other night after night, for the thrill of fleeting interaction. Soon enough Chatroulette was pervaded by sex. Memorable blunders: neighbours and other acquaintanes that pop up unexpectedly, to be guiltily clicked away.
Singing Frozen in the Car
Although internet is replete with lonely individuals and anonymous grumblers, there’s happiness to be found here as well. When Disney’s film Frozen conquered the world, and each family owned four smartphones on average, a car ritual grew that became a popular hit on social media: passengers singing ‘Let it Go’ together, recorded and posted on YouTube, and Disney happiness flowered among all the social media violence.
Eh Bee Family
Social media are not necessarily a one-man show: see for instance the Eh Bee Family hype. This fun family of four has been a hit in social media land since 2014. The American family actually operates as a company that makes its online family happiness pay through product placement. For marketers on a mission they place clear infographics on their visibility branding results on the website.
Nash Grier
When Vine conquered the world in 2013, countless teenagers embraced the new smartphone app. With a new technological format, the platform set a challenge for new content, and soon enough teenagers ran off with the bone. The most famous among them is Nash Grier, with 12 million Vine followers and advertisement income to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Logan Paul
One recent Vine star is the American student Logan Paul, who performs absurd stunts for a worldwide audience. Dauntless, well-trained, always keen to show off his all-American six-pack, Paul excels in absurdity and determination. No matter the stunt, it’s always just nonsensical fun. He bundles his best Vines on YouTube as 10-minute films.
Shia LaBeouf: Motivational Speech
The well-known actor Shia LaBeouf seemed fairly out of control, until recently. His ‘Motivational Speech’ was more like a Nike commercial from hell, and the way the actor screams at the viewer is downright scary at times. But guess what? It’s actually an art project by Luke Turner and Nastja Sade Ronkko. But it was so confusing that the film soon gained a life of its own online.
Ice Bucket Challenge
The disease ALS gave rise to the worldwide Ice Bucket Challenge: donate money and dump a bucket of ice water on your own head. Next, nominate three people to do the same. Everything is recorded on video and posted on YouTube. The challenge soon reached the world of celebrities as well, with Bill Gates, Justin Timberlake and Donatella Versace among those who participated. There are countless films online today, supporting science in its research into ALS.
The short viral film Kony 2012 reached 100 million viewers to achieve one goal: to compel world leaders to do all they can to track down Joseph Kony, war criminal and recruiter of child soldiers, simply by focusing attention on him. Viewers were therefore encouraged to share the film with as many others as possible. The film and associated campaign became so popular worldwide that the makers felt compelled to flee the media hype. It all became too much for the man behind the Invisible Children Foundation, Jason Russell, who was subsequently detained as he ran across the street, naked and screaming. He later explained that the success of his campaign completely overwhelmed him. He has since withdrawn from the public eye to recover from the experience.
Movember has been around for a number of years, as a recurrent hype on Instagram and Facebook in the month of November. By letting your moustache grow in the autumn months to raise awareness for prostrate and testicular cancer, you are spreading an important message and contributing to a clever marketing plan. There are worse reasons not to shave, but however worthy the cause of this challenge, it remains an excellent marketing ploy.
Rhodes Bros Come Out
For the video blog twins Aaron and Austin, their coming-out served as a launchpad for their YouTube career. They are both gay and want to tell their father over the phone. But with the webcam running, the telephone speaker switched on, and very carefully scripted, the brothers leave little to chance. With over 20 million viewers they shot to world fame, at the same time serving as role models for young people in a similar situation.
Rainbow Profile Pics
When the US Supreme Court declared equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians to be constitutional, a huge wave of rainbow profile photographs rolled across the world wide web. The rainbow hype was so massive that even happy gays and lesbians felt that it was getting a bit excessive. Was it still a heartfelt show of support, or a demonstration of politically correct social media herd behaviour?
This Is My Story
When the young heart patient Ben Breedlove asked attention for his affliction on YouTube, one week before his death, it had a huge impact. Earnestly addressing the viewer, Ben explained his disease. Although YouTube confessions were nothing new, Ben’s straightforward story and his tragic death soon after sent shockwaves of dismay across the internet.
…or Hipster?
With their beards and fashionably uncool clothing, hipsters could be mistaken for all sorts of people. Not surprisingly, there are lots of ‘or hipster’ hashtags and websites, eager to hold up a mirror to hipsterdom. Is this is a homeless person on a good day – or a hipster? Is this is a Hassidic Jew – or a hipster? It casts the trend in a critical light, drawing either a wry or a hearty laugh among the internet public.
Je Suis Charlie
After the murderous attack on the editorial office of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, the message soon spread: Je Suis Charlie! Across the world people were stirred by this slogan defending the freedom of expression. But it didn’t last long. Soon enough ‘Je Suis Charlie!’ seemed an annoying expression of political correctness, and it became a widely parodied and commercialised phrase.
10 Hours of Walking
Ten hours of material compressed into two minutes: the young actress Shoshana Roberts walks through New York City, filmed with a camera hidden in the cameraman’s backpack. In ten hours, she is harassed by no less than 108 men. The video shows how often women are exposed to unwanted attention, and it quickly became world news. Despite receiving criticism as well, its message was loud and clear.
Bring Back Our Girls
The kidnapping in 2014 of 274 Nigerian school girls by Boko Haram, the West African ally of Islamic State, triggered a massive protest under #bringbackourgirls. The hashtag exploded on Instagram, Facebook and especially Twitter. Michelle Obama voiced her support for the campaign as well. While 219 girls are still missing today, the hashtag has been all but forgotten.
Free the Nipple
The ‘Free the Nipple’ movement emerged in 2015 as a light-hearted protest against the inequality of women. This infectious hashtag sparked a hippy revolution: breasts (and so nipples) are the symbol of equality. Celebrate female sexuality and embrace the nipple! After all, men’s nipples can be seen all around. Hence the slogan, Free the Nipple! And online boldly go where no nipple has dared to…
In 2012, the 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a neighbourhood watch volunteer. Travon’s body was found with a can of soda and a bag of Skittles, dropped from his hands. In response, countless African-American youths photographed themselves as Trayvon. The images formed a painful reminder of yet another security-related blunder resulting in the needless death of a teenager.
Hands Up Don’t Shoot
The death of African-American Michael Brown (18), shot unarmed and with his hands up during a routine police control, sparked a new form of protest as hype. The ‘hands up’ signal became a rallying call to protest and was spread across all media by the actions of celebrities like Pharrel Williams and Prince. The gesture continues to function as a symbol of protest against race inequality.
If They Gunned Me Down
In addition to the ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ campaigns, African-American teenagers protested on the internet against the media that had reported Michael Brown’s death as an aside, with drab photographs evoking a ghetto-like atmosphere. In response the teenagers placed two photographs of themselves under the hashtag #iftheygunnedmedown: first, as an American Dream Boy, the second as a Ghetto teenager. Contrasting imagery, as a form of protest.