Memes have become commonplace for the viral spread of messages; but there has always seemed to be a distinct gap between this form of communication and the 'upper echelon' of marketing, until now. Virgin Media have begun to use the famous 'Success Kid' meme in their promotional material, including their website and billboards all over UK.
Bringing a slight chuckle to us on our morning commute, we had to investigate further. Because while the image's use in memes may be ethically sketchy-yet legally acceptable, Virgin Media's advertising use would probably end with legal action, unless they've got permission from the source and paid for use. Laney G, Flickr user and owner of the photo left a comment after people started raising these concerns with her:
Virgin Media did pay for the use of the photo, so everything is okay. I appreciate everyone letting me know about this! Never in a million years could I have imagined all of this would happen that day at the beach when I took this. I'm sort of in shock that it's gone from Flickr, to meme, to Virgin Media billboards in London. It will also soon appear in Vitamin Water commercials in the US. I'm hugely flattered by everyone's interest in this.
While this does suggest that this choice of image for marketing runs separate to its use in meme virality, the unavoidable point is that the inspiration is definitely there. And as it begins to spread into various other product campaigns, only time will tell, just how far meme culture will integrate into the marketing world.
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.