5 March 2008

Use Your Illusion: The Viral Spinning Girl

by Freddy J. Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango LLC

Time for a little viral study.

A friend sent me this image that supposedly tests how right-brained or left-brained you are (if she’s not moving, click on her to make her spin)…

One neurologist blogger, Dr. Steven Novella, has already disputed that it’s a test of anything — he asserts that it’s just a fun optical illusion. I trust the brain doc, but here’s the text that came with this illusion…

The Right Brain vs Left Brain test … do you see the dancer turning clockwise or anti-clockwise? If clockwise, then you use more of the right side of the brain and vice versa. Most of us would see the dancer turning anti-clockwise though you can try to focus and change the direction; see if you can do it.

uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies
uses feeling
“big picture” oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can “get it” (i.e. meaning)
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
risk taking

Regardless of whether it’s really a right-vs-left test, I share it here because a) it’s fun, b) it’s eye-catching, c) it’s an example of what it takes for media to go viral. Let’s look at the buzzworthy elements of this baby:

1. Creative Visual: Whether it’s a photo, video, or — in this case — gif animation, a creative visual immediately catches the eye. (Plus, we’re all attracted to the human form. Naked spinning human forms in particular.) That seems obvious, but a lot of marketers try to promote “word of mouth” with words only. Support your local artist!

2. Interactivity: This isn’t just something to read — it’s something to interact with. And it actively engages the viewer without being as demanding as, say, a multiple-choice brain teaser. Another effective form of interactivity is a simple poll, which I know I can’t resist.

3. Education: We humans like to learn things, particularly about ourselves. The reason school was often so painful was because of the uninspired presentations, and because it was also so freakin’ serious. (“Pass or fail!”) Educational media performs exceedingly well in a non-academic context, particularly if done with a little showbiz flair. As I noted in an earlier post, Suze Orman is building a media empire based on personal finance. And some of the biggest hits on YouTube are how-to or demonstration videos, such as this Diet Coke + Mentos classic:

That one video probably boosted Mentos sales more than all those creepy Swedish commercials put together. (I’m sure the folks at Diet Coke were damned gleeful over this as well.)

So if you can make your message visually creative, interactive and entertainingly educational, you’ve got the elements for one viral piece of media. To help it on its viral way, you then need to launch a little promo campaign — but we’ll save that for another blog. I’m too dizzy from watching this girl spin. (And by the way, I can only see her spinning clockwise.)

Update 3/6/8: I finally did get her to go the other way. It took a lot of sweet talking and some chocolate, but it worked…

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

10 Responses

  1. actually, I think the illusion consists in this: you don’t know the perspective from which you have to look at it (her?)
    in an eagle eye vision she’ll be spinning clockwise and the contrary if you think you see her from below.
    once you find this you can see her spinning the way you want, even if I find easier seeing at first sight the clockwise spin.
    anyway I totally agree with your statements about viral

  2. This started to freak me out a little bit, at first it was only going clockwise, but after staring at it (trying to figure out how in the world someone could see it going anti-clockwise) it switched! now it seems like every time I look at it, its going a different direction! Are you sure that its not just switching at random intervals? ;-) I guess the secret is you don’t get to see textures on the girl, so you can’t really tell if she is “coming” or “going”.

  3. That freaked me out. I looked at it for two minutes and thought there was no way it could change directions…then it did.

    I like the way you pulled this into a discussion about marketing and creativity.

    Patrick Byers
    The Responsible Marketing Blog

  4. I looked at this for 10 mins trying to figure out how to make her spin counter-clockwise. After reading Josh’s comment about not being able to tell if she’s coming or going I decided to look at her legs to determine which one my perspective is putting in front and then switch it. Worked immediately.

    p.s. This is my new favorite blog. Thank you Monica Rockles!

  5. I figured it out the girl rotation is switching.

    Watch what comes first on the right side of her head then hair or hair then head. It switches when she changes direction.

    I think they are just trying to mess with ya.

  6. Okay. We tested the girl and she is not switching because different people see her spinning different ways watching her at the same time.

  7. Watch the reflection of her foot and you might even be able to make her go back and forth like a Rockette.

  8. I can now make her change direction at will with changing what i am thinking about.

    think about a sunset ,ocean beach or day dream- clockwise

    think about math calculation or tax return numbers- counterclockwise

    a few examples of what works for me every time

  9. I remember this from a few years back. I forgot the trick. But, now I can change her at will. It’s a pretty cool illusion. Trick is to look just to the left of her legs as she spins.

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