How Our Print Ad Became a Successful Internet Meme

And our less successful attempts to track it

Last week a colleague from our Toronto office sent us a meme that someone had made with one of our ads. It was in a Tasteless Gentlemen Instagram story and looked like it had been taken from somewhere else. 

The ad, for Berlitz Language School Canada, rolled out last November, so we wondered why it was all over the internet six months later. The internet works in mysterious ways, so we went and did our own little investigation.

It started (we think) when we posted the project on Behance in December, where it was featured in the Advertising Gallery. This means a lot of clicks but also people uploading the image to a few ad collections on Pinterest that ended up on Tumblr somehow. 

We thought someone found it on Tumblr and made it into a meme, but that's when we found a Reddit post on /r/memes that made it to the front page on April 27. We wrote a little note to /u/SunnyJim67 to learn bit more about his process. He told us he found the ad in a sponsored post on Twitter, which is weird because the ad only ran in print publications. Here's his reply in full: 

He said he was inspired by this earlier meme: 

We assume that when it made the Reddit front page, some Instagram meme accounts started reposting it. This is where we lose track of the propagation. After a quick Google Images search, we found out that the image had been translated into Czech and German and that it had its own memegenerator page under "Group Chat Chair." 

Since then, we've tried to repost it and make our own memes out of it to give it even more traction. It didn't work at all.

As I said before, the internet works in mysterious ways. 

We could conclude this with an incendiary statement like "Memes are the new print" or "Print will become the new thing again" or "An evocative visual is the universal way of communicating." But we won't pretend that we understand what just happened. We'll check the "Become a meme" box on our bucket list and stick to making work we're proud of. 

And leave the memes to the experts.

Profile picture for user Xavier Blais
Xavier Blais
Xavier Blais is creative director at Rethink in Montreal.

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