THE SOUND OF SILENCE
“[ASMR is] that feeling you get when someone plays with your hair or traces your back with their fingertips” - Heather Feather, YouTube ASMR blogger.
Fifteen minutes spent playing with plastic wrappers, or knocking bits of wood together for someone else’s pleasure takes a lot of commitment. Nevertheless, 2018 alone saw over 13 million ASMR videos uploaded to YouTube. This video of “ASMRTheChew” eating a pickle has over 20 million views. Even The Grinch took part, donning his festive attire to slowly eat on onion. It is clear that ASMR’s oddly intimate practice has proved infectious.
“I love ASMR! And like the weird child that I am, I try to convince my friends that “they like it too.” Sometimes I’ll sneak up behind them - and sensually whisper, “Embrace the tingly sensations” as I calmly crinkle leaves or snap small twigs near their ears.” - Quora user
The practise has inspired a number of campaigns, including; IKEA (Aug ‘17), Glenmorangie (Oct ‘17), Harley Davidson (Aug ‘18), Renault (Sept ‘18), and Carphone Warehouse (Nov ‘18). The creative focus on everyday objects - a bed, a bottle of whiskey, an engine, a car, and a mobile phone, are designed to trigger the relaxing sensation of ASMR by slowly exploring textures, sounds, and whispers. While these videos are unconventional to say the least, they are a testament to the fact that young people have embraced a ‘weird is cool’ ethos.
ALL IN: EMBRACING THE WEIRD
Saorview On Demand (created by Thinkhouse) and Dublin Bus have taken to breaking through the fourth wall to deliver tongue-in-cheek, 1980s inspired infomercial campaigns that, in their essence, poke fun at advertising itself. On the international stage, luxury fashion brands are taking inspiration from the supernatural realm to get young heads turning in their direction. Gucci used aliens to promote its Fall 2017 campaign.
“It was just so freaking random. Like, where did that idea even come from? It was so cool they had the whole family there. When I saw it I just kept thinking, what does this have to do with Vogue? It wasn’t something typical. Obviously it was staged, but it was just so out of the norm for them, which is what made me really love it.” Sarah, 27.
We’ve also seen viral characters like Gritty capture the hearts of young people around the world. Gritty burst onto the scene in September 2018 as the new mascot for The Philadelphia Flyers. The character made a name for himself by trolling rival teams and their mascots on Twitter, tackling Santa, and parodying Kim Kardashian. His weird and wonderful antics have not only won over the hearts of fans, but he has also become the voice of the anti fascist left, and the mascot of the internet.
WEIRD, WEIRDER, WEIRDEST
Whether it be an ASMR exploration of a product, the face of a brand, a concept, or a mascot for a sports team, fully committing to a “strange” concept has resulted in many success stories. Amid the challenges of 2018, weird has become the new black. Why? It promotes different means of expression. It’s a signal of creativity, of going “all-in” and not holding back.
“We might not be able to change the world, but we can watch it burn. Eyes rolling uncontrollably, slack-jawed mouth agape, laughing at the destruction and the absurdity of it all. Waiting to take back the power in our cold, squeaky hands. Like Gritty. Because in 2018, we are all Gritty. And Gritty is all of us” - Claire Reilly, Cnet
Weird content, weird characters or weird campaigns turn heads because they are different, but importantly, because absurdity is just plain fun.
2019, let’s get weird.