Introducing the Emerging Culture Composite Index

In my role as Creative Culturalist at Y&R, I constantly looking around to see what is resonating in culture. Who are the content creators and what is the content that people are drawn to.  But I didn’t want to just look at topline data such at Nielsen ratings, box office numbers or traditional best seller lists. I wanted to try and find data points that speak to more than just passive consumption, but rather illuminate a more engaged participation.

Enter the Emerging Culture Composite Index.  With this weekly list I used more than a dozen sources, including: Hulu, TV by the Numbers, SocialGuide, Hollywood Stock Exchange, YouTube, Android and iPhone app lists and Raptr. My goal here was to find indications of where people were taking actions to show interest, whether that be via social media, game play or buying virtual shares of stock in movies. It’s from this sort of behavior that we can identify the level of fan interest in a property/brand.

Suffice it to say, this is not an exact science. In looking at roughly 150 different brands, I whittle it down to 10 based on my best educated guesses and some gut instincts. Over time perhaps it will become more scientific, but right now it’s mostly theory. I do however expect to be able to make some more educated assessments over time, and deliver some thought-provoking insights based on the cultural trends I see.

So, here’s the premier edition of the ECCI for your viewing pleasure:


DJ BL3ND: Consistently topping the Billboard “Uncharted” chart, this L.A. DJ has an avid fanbase who have viewed his YouTube music mixes more than 150 million times.


Love and Hip Hop: The VH1 reality series drew record ratings for its 2nd season premier as well as generating online buzz.


Cloud Atlas: Star-studded cast led by Tom Hanks and directed Andy Wachowski (Matrix). Based on the award-winning 2004 novel, this will be this summer’s “thinking man’s” blockbuster.


Where’s My Water?: This mobile app hit features Disney’s first-ever original character for a mobile game. The popularity  of the game has led to a web series this year.


Cut The Rope: Another casual game for mobile devices, still consistently among the top downloads on both Android and iPhone. The property has branched out to a comic as well.


Dark Shadows: Can the cult TV hit ride the current vampire wave? With Tim Burton and Johnny Depp involved, this could be a summer hit. Hollywood Stock Exchange rates it a buy.


Vin Diesel: The probable 2012 revival of two vehicles – XXX 3 and Riddick 2 – and other upcoming roles could turbo charge Diesel’s career.


Daniel Tosh: His Comedy Central show Tosh.0 often pulls more viewers than John Stewart or Stephen Colbert. His highly social audience includes more than 4 million Twitter fans.


Naruto Shippuden: This Japanese anime import has a cult following on Hulu. The show also airs on Disney XD.


Angry Birds: Has this cultural juggernaut finally jumped the shark? Not yet. It’s still top of the download charts and there’s a movie in the works as well.


Inside the Chart:

Daniel Tosh is the quintessential 21st century comedian. While he still performs stand up gigs, and has a TV show on Comedy Central, he’s built an audience via Social Media. With nearly 7 million fans on Facebook and another 4 million on Twitter, Tosh is plugged into a young, engaged audience.

He seamlessly integrates online culture in his show and has a keen understanding of what works for a Millennial Generation audience. His “envelope pushing” material doesn’t work for everyone, but for brands looking to engage a young audience he provides an intriguing opportunity.

But if you want to get with The Tosh, you better hurry, he plans on retiring on his 38th birthday in May of 2013, and has a countdown clock on his website to prove it!

If you’d like to receive the ECCI weekly before it gets published here, send me an email:



What We Can Learn From The Splendiferous Barfing Cup

Two of the questions most often asked by clients of their agencies within the field of social media are: Who are the influencers, and how can we create a viral video?

Recently my colleague Tracy Shea shared with me this video, delightfully titled, The Splendiferous Barfing Cup:

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As I write this, the video has just over 1,200,000 views. When I first saw it the last week it had just about 118,000 views. Clearly something happened recently to shoot this video into the pop culture. But before we get into that, here’s another piece of the puzzle. Take a look again at that video and you’ll see that it was originally uploaded more than four months ago. Now, this isn’t a branded video so it’s not as if there was a big marketing campaign behind it, but the quality of the content hasn’t changed. Would an agency have gotten it in front of the “right” people sooner? Hard to say.

So how did this video suddenly add about 1 million views in a week after lying relatively dormant for several months? It doesn’t appear to have been through the channels you would expect, at least not directly.

I did a little detective work and here’s what I found:

  • After four months, the video turns up on, and bounces around to some other sites, picking up a couple of hundred views along the way.
  • The Hockey Stick moment comes when it gets on racking up 47,000 views
  • Reddit user Nabby posts a link under the title, “I can’t stop watching this.” It gets more than 1,300 votes
  • From Reddit, it also gets picked up on the DailyWhat
  • The video is then picked up by the Tosh.0 blog and airs on G4’s Attack of the Show

Now, if you are a Malcolm Gladwell ‘influencer’ disciple, this is troubling, and most agencies (and brand managers) are Gladwell disciples.  This video certainly was propelled by ‘influencers’ like Tosh.0 and AOTS, but who were they influenced by? Raise your hand if DailyWhat is on you “must engage” list. Step forward if Reddit user Nabby is at the top of your “must call” list.

At this point, the Duncan Watts disciples are smiling and nodding knowingly. They understand that yes, there are indeed influencers, but it’s virtually impossible to figure out who those influencers are going to be for a given idea or piece of content.

So, what should brand managers and agencies do? There has to be an understanding that throwing all your eggs (and by eggs I mean money) in one basket is risky and expensive. Clearly high production values are no guarantee, nor apparently needed, and spending on paid media won’t help crummy content. Better to spread your bets on many small pieces of content.