Late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel may have duped the internet last week with his twerking-gone-wrong YouTube video, but he also taught us all a few lessons about how to create a viral online campaign.

With apparently no promotion whatsoever, Kimmel’s video was viewed over 9 million times and received coverage from hundreds of news stations. That’s the kind of stuff online marketers’ (and Miley Cyrus’s) dreams are made of. So, here’s the lowdown on how we all got schooled by Kimmel:

Cultural mining

Like it or not, Kimmel tapped into the cultural zeitgeist with his video that depicts a woman twerking in a handstand against a door, and then falling onto a table of lit candles after someone opens the door. Nobody knows the popularity of twerking better than Miley Cyrus herself, who boasted in a tweet that her infamous MTV Video Music Award twerk-show garnered 306 thousand tweets per minute (more than during the Superbowl black-out).

As the success of the Wonderful Pistachio Crackin’ Gagnam-Style Superbowl commercials proved, appropriating pop culture can be effective. Just thank goodness Kimmel got to twerking before we had to see Cyrus air-humping pistachios.


We can all thank (or curse) Miley Cyrus for popularizing “twerking,” but don’t get it twisted: twerking was a thing even before Miley tapped into it.

A quick search of the hashtag #twerk on Vine will attest to that. Kimmel must have been aware of the trend too since he made his video a couple months ago. It might have done all right had he released it then but he waited for the right opportunity, and that opportunity came when Cyrus twerked her way through her attention-grabbing VMA performance.

Kimmel seized the twerk-frenzy that erupted after her performance by uploading his own twerking-fiasco video only a few days later. Had he waited too long, we may have all been sick of twerking (Harlem shake, anyone?).

Miley Cyrus performing at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.

Miley Cyrus performing at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.

Comic relief

While Kimmel recognized the cultural phenomenon of twerking, he may have also recognized that the general attitude toward twerking is ambivalent at best.

Had Kimmel’s stunt woman twerked her way to success, the video may have just joined the growing tally of #thingswrongwithoursociety. But instead, as the woman fell into a twerking-blaze it almost felt as if the world, which had just witnessed Cyrus’ cheeky effrontery, was now experiencing some kind of poetic justice: If you twerk with fire, you’re going to get burned? Anyone?


Apart from providing the internet with a sigh of comic relief, Kimmel’s video was totally meme-friendly. #Twerk #Twerkfail and #Fail are already established and easily transferable memes. #Firstworldproblems is a meme. #Thingswrongwithoursociety isn’t.


Creating a narrative

We may have all felt a little comic relief in seeing a twerker get her comeuppance, but we’re not jerks: we wanted to know that she was okay.

Kimmel must have realized that, which is why, apart from wanting to punk the internet, he split the video into two parts. The success of the initial fake-twerking video was suddenly rivaled by the extended video, in which Kimmel heroically bursts through the door in a matching spandex outfit and extinguishes the flaming stunt girl. Because of the second video and the twist ending narrative it provided, Kimmel’s twerk stunt was able to ride out its 15 minutes of fame a little longer.

Meanwhile, media outlets that had aired the initial video now had another story to report: we’ve been schooled, world. We’ve been schooled.