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Last evening was session number ten of the Canadian Marketing Association‘s eMarketing Professional Certificate Course. Hard to believe there are only three sessions left in the fall semester already. It seems to have whizzed by. The experience of teaching has been very rewarding as I have a great group of smart students and there is always lively discussion.
The theme of the session was Building Online Buzz and how to drive visitors to your site. One of the items we discussed at length last evening was the viral effect, what it is, what it isn’t and how marketers should approach it. There was consensus that “viral” is an outcome, not something that can be planned or requested from your agency. It is a rare thing that is not readily engineered.
There have been many attempts to describe, quantify or qualify what constitutes “viral marketing”. I believe the most important point is often overlooked. When something “goes viral” it is the result of great, entertaining, informative, quirky or compelling (and sometime even really bad) content. Its starts with an idea, or concept, not a plan to create a viral campaign. As Seth Godin wrote in Ideavirus , “a big idea that runs amok”. The digital world provides the perfect launch platform for big ideas to run wild and instantly reach a wide audience.
It made me think back to 1995, before broadband was pervasive and video was commonplace. My first glimpse at the online viral experience was through an email send by a friend with dozens of other people copied who then proceeded to forward it on. It contained a college admissions letter written by Hugh Gallagher which had taken the status of urban myth at a very early stage of Internet growth.
Today, it seems to have been lost in the shuffle of YouTube, Consumer Generated Content and everything else that captivates us for brief moments. I wanted to bring it back because it is one memorable piece of writing that, for myself at that time, defined the potential of digital channels to reach far and wide. It was before Google, before the Ideavirus and before most people had even surfed the information superhighway. It was an age of digital innocence (apologies for the cheesiness, could not resist).
I Googled a few of the lines that I remembered and up popped the name Hugh Gallagher. So, I thought I would share it with you. If you have not seen it before it is a unique read. A great imagination at work. Enjoy.

Hugh Gallagher’s ‘College Essay’

3A. ESSAY: IN ORDER FOR THE ADMISSIONS STAFF OF OUR COLLEGE TO GET TO KNOW YOU, THE APPLICANT, BETTER, WE ASK THAT YOU ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTION:
ARE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD, OR ACCOMPLISHMENTS YOU HAVE REALIZED, THAT HAVE HELPED TO DEFINE YOU AS A PERSON?

I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.
I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.
Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I’m bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.
I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don’t perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat 400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.
I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.
I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prizewinning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.
But I have not yet gone to college.