22 December 2011

The Top 10 New Zealand viral videos and internet memes of 2011

Last year was about swapping Paul Henry videos. This year’s list is a more varied affair with a few late entries. Counting them down from ten to one…

10. Celebrity birds

2011 was the year birds took over the internet. First, there was Sirocco – the Kakapo made famous by mating with the head of Stephen Fry’s cameraman – racking up fans on his Facebook page.


He was followed by Happy Feet, the emperor penguin who washed up on Kapiti Coast beach. His recovery and eventual release was tweeted to great affect by Wellington Zoo.


Then there were the little blue penguins affected by the Rena tanker grounding and the resulting oil spill. The little blues in the wildlife recovery centre in Tauranga gained Maritime NZ dozens of retweets when they tweeted pictures of them.


Finally, Manukura the albino Kiwi caught the nation’s attention, headlines and Facebook Likes.

Manukura Little White Kiwi
What we learned: Birds with personality are a winner.

The numbers:

9. ‘Tindallgate’ - the Queenstown bouncer who dobbed in Mike Tindall

When English rugby player Mike Tindall had an ‘encounter’ with a mystery blonde in a Queenstown bar during the Rugby World Cup, bouncer Jonathan Dixon leaked CCTV footage generating one of the biggest tabloid stories of the year and landing himself in trouble with the law.

What we learned: Anyone with an incriminating video and an internet connection could potentially create havoc for the rich and famous.

The numbers:
  • 99,813 YouTube views
  • Thousands of news articles

8. The ‘Naturally, I finished my set’ guy / Oslo bombing witness

New Zealander Cameron Leslie was working out in an Oslo gym at the time a bomb exploded, the first act in the murderous spree of Anders Breivik who went on to massacre 69 people on an island.

Mr Leslie was interviewed on New Zealand television current affairs show Campbell Live describing how he had cycled for 20 minutes to the gym and was in the middle of bench-pressing 165kgs when the bomb went off.

“Naturally, I finished my set,” Leslie explained.

This lame attempt at humour ensured Leslie entered the internet hall of infamy.

The story gained world-wide attention after popular culture blog Gawker.com featured the video. Later the Huffington Post followed suit. Leslie’s words were even immortalised on a t-shirt… much to his horror.

What we learned: Embarrass yourself on TV and the internet will make sure everyone knows about it.

The numbers:
  • 653,985 views of the TV3 video
  • 290,112 YouTube video views
  • 77,000 views of the Gawker clip
  • One t-shirt

7. Abstain from the game

In September, Telecom NZ decided to promote its support for the All Blacks with a campaign suggesting that fans abstain during the World Cup. The campaign made headlines and outraged fans took to Twitter and the campaign survived for 48 hours before being pulled.

What we learned:
The internet can promote an ad campaign… or end one.

The numbers:
  • Thousands of outraged tweets
  • 29,470 YouTube video views of the uploaded clip (the original upload had many more)

6. #eqnz

This Twitter hashtag isn’t a a viral video or meme as such, but it deserves mentioning. February 22nd was the day social media came into its own. After the devastating earthquake struck Christchurch, users jumped on Twitter to share news, information, rumours and their condolences. The #eqnz hashtag emerged as a way of grouping those tweets.

Ironically, most of the people who needed the information most wouldn’t have been able to access Twitter due to power outages and overloaded cellphone networks.

What we learned:
Twitter can be a powerful tool for sharing information... and misinformation.

The numbers:
  • Thousands of tweets using the #eqnz hashtag

5. Snowpocalypse

In August, a freak weather system brought snow to parts of New Zealand that hadn’t seen snow in 30 years.
Visiting actor Stephen Fry declared that ‘New Zealand has officially gone mad’ as people rushed outside to take photographs and make snowmen. Those people then rushed back inside and jumped on Facebook and Twitter to share those photos with friends and family.


‘The Day It Snowed in Wellington’ Facebook page appeared out of nowhere and gained over 10,000 fans over a couple of days. Thousands of blurry cellphone images were uploaded to Twitter. And the below video made the front page of the New Zealand’s news websites…

What we learned: People love sharing their experiences with each other.

The numbers:
  • 16,780 fans – the ‘That time it snowed in Wellington’ Facebook page
  • Thousands of tweets using the hash tags #snowpocalypse and #snowmageddon

4. Planking

Planking (noun): an activity involving being photographed lying on a horizontal surface face down, arms at your sides, body straight from head to toe.

It was big in Australia before it hit New Zealand. The rise of this fad in Kiwiland ironically arose with the death of a man in Australia in May who fell off the balcony of his apartment while attempting to plank. “Aussie PM warns against planking fad” blared the headlines on NZ news sites.

And then everyone jumped on board, fanning NZ Planking Facebook pages and uploading images by their dozens.


The height of planking’s popularity came when NZ Prime Minister John Key’s son, uploaded a picture of himself planking on a couch with his dad looking on in bemusement (or doing a ‘vertical plank’ as some wits put it).

Since then, interest in planking has flared out and it’s hardly had a mention since August.

What we learned: Internet fads can disappear as quickly as they arrive.

The numbers:
  • 16,571 fans of the New Zealand Planking Facebook page
  • Thousands of planking images uploaded

3. Ghost chips

This kooky ad campaign from the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) featured a young guy at a party “internalising a really complicated situation” regarding what would happen if he let his best mate drink and drive.

As well as being mighty entertaining, it also introduced the phrases “Monique says you’re dumb” and “ghost chips” into the New Zealand vernacular. As of writing this sentence, it’s racked up over a million and half views – a fact well-publicised by NZTA.

What we learned:
It’s possible to create an ad campaign that can become a genuine viral hit.

The numbers:
  • 1,543,504 YouTube video views

2. Flash hakas

As the Rugby World Cup descended on New Zealand, kiwis took the streets and shoppping malls to perform spontaneous haka. It started at the Sylvia Park shopping mall in Auckland. Soon flash hakas were popping up all over New Zealand.

What we learned: Everyone loves a bandwagon.

The numbers:
  • 1,248,746 YouTube video views – Sylvia Park flash haka
  • Dozens of flash hakas throughout New Zealand

1. Nek minnit

One of NZ’s first-ever bonefide internet memes is also one of the dumbest. First uploaded to YouTube as “Negg Minute” on May 8th 2011, the premise is this:
In a 9 second video clip Dunedin-based skateboarder Levi Hawken says in an accent “left my scooter outside the dairy” [pause – camera pans down to remains of scooter] “nek minnit”.
That’s it. Seeing is believing.

Soon everyone was using the term to describe unexpected events. Such as the arrival of new right-wing political party the Conservatives


The high point (or the low point, depending on your perspective), was Radio NZ’s Kim Hill using the term in a promo for her Saturday Morning show, much to the disgust of the commentariat.

While undoubtably the biggest meme/viral video of year, it’s still to be seen whether Nek Minnit has international appeal… or staying power for that matter.

What we learned: Memes can arrive from the most-unexpected of places.

The numbers:
  • 1,813,944 YouTube video views
  • Thousands of parody videos and images
  • A new entry into the Kiwi vernacular