Let’s Talk About That Egg.

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?

8 comments

  1. I am on Instagram and active on social media, and I will admit this is the first time seeing “The Egg”. I’ll make the excuse that I’m not active enough on social media! Reading this post, I was not expecting it to go down this road…I was thinking ‘okay someone wanted a viral post and ended up capitalizing big time when it truly did become viral, cashing in on Hulu’s advertising offer.’ What a great way for Hulu to pull users to its site and shock them with an ad of this type; combating a topic that isn’t easy to talk about. I agree this proves to advertisers they must be consistently thinking outside the box when targeting a younger audience. Very well written post!

  2. As someone who liked the “world_record_egg” on Instagram and saw it surpass Kylie Jenner’s baby reveal, I didn’t actually follow the account, which means that I wasn’t up to date on the latest egg happenings. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised with where your post went and the fact that the egg helped to bring attention to a topic that is often incredibly difficult for people to talk about. The more that I think about the subsequent Instagram posts and Hulu ad, the more I feel that this is something that was planned out from the start. This is due to the fact that the account could have posted an image of practically anything and said they were trying to break a record and most people probably would have still jumped on board to see it happen, but I feel like an egg has some significance. We’ve all been taught that eggs are fragile and that you have to be careful with them or else they could crack and break, which seems to make it the perfect image to go along with the topic of mental health awareness because humans are fragile too. Whether or not this was planned from the start, it was a creative and effective way to get peoples attention and reach their target demographic.

  3. Your insight to the egg itself provides another layer of analysis that I hadn’t even thought of! You’re right, I think the choice of an egg was probably very intentional – I mean you could argue the object choice was random, but if it was really random, it might have been something meant to poke fun at Jenner and other Instagram giants

  4. I’ve seen these “fake viral” marketing accounts over the years of teaching. I think LonelyGirl15 was the first https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lonelygirl15. This one doesn’t seem to fit the mold. Maybe it was his plan, but my sense is that the application was more after the virality rather than the intended goal beforehand. If not, at least it was for a good cause.

  5. I really like how you delved deeper into this Instagram and tried to understand its original purposes. I agree that influencers and people in marketing need to come up with creative ways to capture audiences, especially when competing with celebrities who have huge followings. I also felt the same shift in emotion when I realized that the egg was used to bring attention to mental health issues. Great post about a picture that went extremely viral!

  6. I love this story, and it’s ability to articulate the meme-driven, petty culture we are living in. I originally thought the egg was a standalone post. I thought that someone with an understanding of social media and virality had to be behind it. Because even if you are not getting 52 million likes, to get a post to purposefully pick up traction like that you need to know what you are doing. Especially, if it is coming from a brand new account, with no following. And then due to its success the user felt morally obligated to do something good with their new found platform. However, the symbolism of a cracking egg mentioned in the previous posts, has me thinking maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it was calculated from the beginning. Either way, I love what the user did with their power. Mental health, particularly in the context of social media/false portrayals of self, is an issue we need to be addressing!

  7. Oh my goodness I just love this story! I had no idea that the egg had taken on this second life!

    Part of me would love if the egg had been organic in its inception, however I don’t think you can go from posting a picture of an egg on January 4th to getting a meeting with Hulu execs and plotting a SuperBowl add by January 18th – I could be wrong but even if I’m not I think ultimately that’s beside the point.

    What is truly amazing about this is the fact that the people behind the egg choose to use its success, whether curated or not, to highlight an extremely worthy cause and, given how prevalent mental health is among teenagers and young adults, it’s amazing that they did so in a way that captured our attention. It’s often said that healthcare is decades behind in their adaptation of technology, and in general I would agree. That’s why seeing a forward thinking marketing campaign coming from this space is so refreshing.

    Also this piece was really well written – well done !

  8. Great post! Like many of our classmates who commented above, I also had no idea about the second life of the infamous world record egg. I’m glad that the whole debacle ended on a positive note by bringing light to the dangers of social media and mental illness, but I can’t help but lean toward the notion that whoever created this account had no idea where he or she was going with it when it was created. I am inclined to think that it was a mere experiment generated by an advertising agency to test the waters of viral social media marketing, and when the company realized the amount of traction the account actually gained, they figured why not put this attention toward a good cause. On the other hand, who on earth know what they were thinking. I am tempted, however, to try something like this myself just to see what happens.

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