Bro, you know I can’t grab your Ghost Chips

I recently had the pleasure of talking to Rachel Prince, marketing manager at the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), about the "Ghost Chips" ad.

Ghost chipsAs part of an ongoing campaign to tackle youth drink driving, NZTA released a video in 2011 that quickly became a hit online. Before you read any further, if you haven’t seen the video, you need to see it!

NZTA bought TV time to screen the clip, and also posted it on YouTube. It was on YouTube that it really took off. Six days after being posted, it had received more than 120,000 views, and after 12 days it had received 940,000 views! It has now reached more than 2.4 million hits.

To put that in context, Gangnam Style has 1,440,760,981 hits, making it the (current) most watched clip on YouTube. In New Zealand, other spontaneous memes like Nek Minute and Always Blow On The Pie have clocked 2,296,000 views and 450,000 views respectively. On the NZTA YouTube, where Ghost Chips is hosted, the Memorial Park time lapse camera at Taranaki Street has 30 views.

After watching the video, fans then took over; they created multiple Facebook sites that quickly gathered thousands of likes. Each one was dedicated to popular phrases from the clip, from "Monique says you’re dumb" to "bro, you know I can’t grab your ghost chips."

In November 2011, "Ghost Chips" was the most searched for term by New Zealanders. It made it onto Urban Dictionary, there was a music video clip created by "The Cuzzies", and Pak N Save even got in on the fun.

Nearly a year and a half later, you can still buy a Ghost Chips tee-shirt.

Such market presence/saturation, even if unintended, meant the clip was a success for NZTA. This was reflected in the prompted and unprompted recall rate – around 90% and 50% respectively. This means that even though the targets of the ad were young Māori, 90% of New Zealanders surveyed remember it.

During this process, NZTA learnt a few things – that in order to be successful, they would have to let go of creative ownership of the clip. This meant they allowed other groups to remix and spread the message for a laugh.

Rachel believes that this viral/remix culture extended the longevity of the "Stopping Drunk mates driving" campaign.

The most important thing is the impact on youth drunk-driving. NZTA says there has been a 50% drop in the number of teenagers caught drink-driving in the past five years. Could that be because they’re all internalising really complicated situations in their heads? Here’s hoping!

If you’re interested in viral videos, check out this interview with the Seedwell agency.