What a strange week or so it's been. A Big Mac I bought and kept for two months got global media attention and kind of went viral. I'd been working towards something like this happening for several years with all manner of random online projects. For a brief time, this Big Mac thing seemed like it was becoming my defining moment.
How it all began
A couple of weeks ago I blogged about my Pet Big Mac project. To sum up, I bought a Big Mac, forgot about it, found it again and then kept it as a kind of "pet", taking daily photos of the Big Mac doing various activities.
— Pet Big Mac (@petbigmac) January 11, 2016
The idea of the project all along was for it to go viral, although I wasn't expecting this to happen until maybe 6 months in. But a couple of months into the experiment, the Big Mac's top bun cracked in half, killing both the burger and any hope I had that this would become an Internet phenomenon. So I wrote my blog to document what happened in the hope that the blog post itself would perhaps get noticed.
About a week later I got a message from a journalist at Metro. She wanted to interview me for a story about Pet Big Mac. Getting a story in Metro seemed like a reasonable payoff for what was essentially a failed attempt at going viral. So I answered the questions and assumed the role of a slightly mad gentleman who had grown fond of his Big Mac. Within a few hours, the story was up, and it was brilliant. It made me chuckle no end and I was satisfied that this hadn't been a waste of time.
But wait, there's more
I thought that would be the end of it. But no, things were just getting started. To my surprise, there was also a story on Delish, which it turns out had actually come the day before the Metro piece. The Delish bit had also been cross-posted to the Esquire website (and later to Yahoo!) and all the stories had been shared with the various social media accounts of the aforementioned outlets. This was beginning to get a bit nuts.
Next up, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Unilad had done a post on Pet Big Mac and put it up on their social channels. These were some pretty big media hits, the kind that I generally crave in my day job as press officer at a big charity. I was starting to feel a strange sense of pride. I say strange because none of this chatter was really benefitting me in any way. I'll get onto that shortly.
What came next was basically an barrage of humourous articles about one man and his Big Mac in outlets like HexJam and as far afield as Asia, Denmark (and Denmark again), Australia (and here), Thailand (plus here), Indonesia (and again), Hong Kong and China, where the story was also being widely shared on the messaging app We Chat.
It was all rather bonkers. But the highlight of the week-long saga was undoubtedly when Vice picked up the story and ran it in their food section, Munchies. This meant the story got repeatedly shared to the massive audiences on Vice's social channels.
The world now knew the story of my Big Mac and I. The final big media hit came from Food & Wine, who posted a story in their FWx section and then shared it on all their social accounts.
All in all, we're talking about social channels with millions of followers sharing about the life and death of a Big Mac. What a time to be alive.
Haters gonna hate
I read some of the comments people were posting about Pet Big Mac and I. It was a real mixed bag. Some people found the whole thing amusing, while others thought outlets like Vice and Metro were sinking to new depths by covering such a stupid story. A few people suggested I must be some kind of freak or weirdo.
None of this really bothered me because the whole thing was like some kind of out-of-body experience. It was happening to me, but not actually to me. It wasn't like people were coming at me directly through my Twitter account or even the Pet Big Mac accounts. Everyone was just talking about me and I was on the periphery, looking in from time to time to see what people were saying.
Fame without the fame
I'd achieved a level of famedom, my 15 minutes perhaps, but I wasn't getting anything out of it. Other than the email interview I did with the Metro journalist, it wasn't like any of these media outlets were reaching out and talking directly to me. I wasn't gaining any more Twitter followers and the Pet Big Mac Twitter and Facebook accounts were barely more popular than they had been at the start, by which I mean they now had around 20 followers each.
There was no real payoff for me here. There was a glimmer of hope when Pick Me Up, a gossip magazine, got in touch and wanted to pay my wife and I to do a story about us, but they were keen to do it from the point of view of my long-suffering partner. I imagine it would have been something along the lines of: "My life as the wife of a man who kept a Big Mac as a pet for two months." The price of public humiliation? £100. Meh. It just wasn't worth it, particularly as it sounded like it could take months for the story to actually make it to print.
I even contacted the McDonalds press office in the UK to see if they would give me a lifetime supply of Big Macs to replace the one that I'd kept for two months. No reply.
So that was it. The story came and went and it was quite a ride, but right now I'm pretty much back where I started. I think I could have perhaps capitalised on all the attention by engaging in some of the discussions or maybe even attempting to resurrect the project, but I felt like this would have been kind of a cheap way of trying to milk something that was probably never destined to produce much milk in the first place.
Weird character-based Internet projects can clearly captivate the hearts and minds of the general population. That's definitely my main takeaway from all this. Other than that, I'd say it's all pretty random.
The struggle continues.
#PetBigMac is in the bin.
The End pic.twitter.com/xRISmR8vHM
— Pet Big Mac (@petbigmac) January 16, 2016