If you’ve been on Instagram, or even remotely active on social media, in the past month you’ve no doubt heard about @world_record_egg. On January 4th 2019 a stock photo of a single brown egg popped up on Instagram. With a caption challenging users to beat Kylie Jenner, The Egg propositioned users to make it the most liked photo on Instagram. Within 10 days The Egg accomplished the impossible and has since then almost tripled the amount of likes from her 2018 post announcing the birth of her daughter. 52 million (so far) to be exact.
The account had no identifying factors, just the name “EGG GANG” and a Gmail contact address – oh and 10 million followers. @world_record_egg spread quickly through millennials and Gen Z, turning into memes (what else?) that monopolized pop culture and Instagram explore pages for weeks – even getting a response from Kylie herself. The egg quickly attracted copy cats, all trying to get a piece of the attention.
While the internet was buzzing about The Egg, the account remained radio silent. Until January 18th. Exactly two weeks later. An almost identical photo of The Egg was posted – this time with a tiny crack coming from the top left of the egg. The post today has more than 11 million likes. Four days later another picture is posted, this time with a second crack. Almost 9 million likes. January 29th another photo with yet another crack earns 6.5 million likes. Still no captions. Then February 1st @world_record_egg posted another cracked egg, but this time with laces stitched down the side like a football. The post read, “The wait is over. All will be revealed this Sunday following the Super Bowl (eyes emoji) Watch it first, only on @hulu”.
Wait. Could it be possible that this was an add the whole time? Was this just another influencer hired by an agency? Either way the egg was now linked with the U.S. advertising event of the year and with one of the biggest streamers in the country.
To me personally, and to many friends who I talked about it with, the idea that the egg was another advertisement left us feeling cheated. I felt like I had been tricked. The whole intrigue was the idea that something as random as an egg could dethrone someone who’s internet persona was so carefully (and probably professionally) curated. Simply put, it was funny. The possibility that the whole thing was orchestrated and not some kind of counterculture movement or joke was disappointing.
The Super Bowl came and went and right before I went to bed, I remembered about the so called “big reveal”. As I logged into my Hulu account, I couldn’t imagine what it could be. Sure enough, right on the homepage of Hulu, was something called “The Reveal” with a big photo of the egg prompting users to press “play”. I clicked on it immediately and was not expecting what I saw:
“Hi, I’m the world_record_egg (you may have heard of me),” the video started, animating the egg in front of it’s usual white background. “Recently I’ve started to crack. The pressure of social media is getting to me. If you’re struggling too, talk to someone. We got this. MentalHealthAmerica.net”.
This completely changed my previously disappointment. It seemed to be really ethical advertising – somehow it was ok with me that this was an promotion now that it was for a good cause. But I still couldn’t help but wonder if The Egg had been an advertisement since it’s inception or if someone had gotten a lot of attention and decided to put all of that towards a good cause. Buzzfeed offered some perspective when they posted an article linking The Egg to an employee of the London branch of an agency “that has been involved in other viral stunts in the past”. The first shares and tags of world_record_egg seemed to have come from people all connected to this agency. The partnership with Hulu makes it seem even more suspicious – why not just make this big reveal where you already have the attention of your target audience? This made me think more and more that it might be possible someone had orchestrated the most viral post of all time.
With depression posing a huge mental health threat to Americans today, especially for young adults and teens, and the façade of social media making image seem more important than ever, Americans certainly have a problem which needs to be confronted. By appealing to the “petty” inclinations of young people everywhere and posing a challenge where they could take part in dethroning the queen of Instagram, @world_recod_egg was spot on in getting in touch with their targets. It got the attention of young adults without arousing suspicion, and then delivered a message they desperately needed to hear. Orchestrated or not, The Egg was wildly successful.
What I think we can all learn from this whole egg debacle (besides the fact that my generation is super petty), is that influencer marketing is changing. Sometimes it’s not celebrities or Instagram models that get the attention of the elusive millennials or Gen Z, but an egg. Young people are over the curated social media feed. As illustrated by the massive popularity of the idea of beating out Kylie Jenner on social media, users want to be a part of something fun, something entertaining, and something collective. I think this serves as a challenge (or a wake-up call) to marketers and advertisers to think outside the box when it comes to influencer marketing and marketing on social media in general. Maybe advertisers need to start creating their own influencers.
I’m not sure if this whole thing started out with the intention of being an ad, a statement about social media personalities, or simply as a joke. But what I do know is that somewhere along the way someone realized they had amassed the attention of millions. And whether it was an advertiser or not, this person knew they had a platform and an opportunity to serve a message. And they hit the nail right on the head with this one.
What do you think? Was this masterminded from the start or did someone swoop in and capitalize on the most viral post of all time?