Monday, June 30, 2008

Interview with Sophie Merry, BandyToaster

Sophie Merry isn't dancing today. Following what sounds like a painful landing poor Sophie is on crutches.

However, sitting in Dublin's Lighthouse Cinema, participating in the Viral Marketing symposium during the Darklight Film Festival, she seems at times bemused by her video, which I imagine she's watched a few hundred times now, and genuinely appreciative of the warm applause she receives at the end of the showing.

Sophie, 26, is of course one of Ireland's best YouTube stars. With almost 3 million views on her Groovy Dancing Girl video and with over 3,854000 views on her YouTube channel, Sophie's experience is a viral marketer's dream, a fun idea that went truly viral.

Hers is a story I have been enthralled with since it's come to notice. From the talk she comes across as being very down-to-earth, not at all positioning herself as a "morketing expert" (despite her presence with such luminaries as Bebo's Philip McCartney and Strategem guru Fionn Kidney) and her accent is pure Dublin, not in any way affected or "put on". She speaks well - plainly and forthrightly with the authority of her experience.

Indeed it is this groundedness that makes her so endearing. She doesn't feign any special knowledge or expertise, rather using the truth of her story "I did it to have fun" to show just what a success it was. Her case-study is the hightlight of the talk.

In what Grannymar has now termed "doing a @Darragh" I sat down with her to find out more.

The background:

"I was doing animation in college and listening to Daft Punk on the iPod on a bus home when I thought of doing something. Basically it was filmed out in my friend Billy's garden. I watched the video and decided to speed it up.

Billy recommended I put it up on YouTube. That was February 2007. It took about a year to reach one million views and hit 2 million a month later. That's pretty much when I started to get contacted and it's gone from there."

Sophie, an animator with a Dublin based animation company (she describes them as "a bunch of legends") is now the face and body of French clothing line Etam. Featuring on a dedicated website, the site shows Sophie modelling the jeans and featured a well promoted competition for others to show off their own dancing skills, with the winner receiving a year's supply of jeans for herself and 10 friends.

On the viral aspect
"To be honest I didn't really know that much about You Tube - to me for years it was one of those places you went to watch a guy fall off a bike or a funny cat or something. Now though it's become such a depth of content and creativity it's almost preferable to TV.

I didn't set out to make a viral - I set out to do something I'd enjoy and I did it honestly. I do it because I love to do it. If people like it that's a plus. It was when the positive comments started appearing and sites like Dailymotion and BoreMe featured the video that I began to see it happening.

We've put up other videos and I've also seen the animations, the mash-ups and the tributes. I'm really glad people seem to like what I do."
On creating a viral video:
"Anything you depend on other people passing on to each other can fail. Trying to create something artificial specifically for people to pass on is a lot more difficult than doing something that there's a lot of fun in that people will respond well to. You have to give value to the viewer as well."

On friends, family and being recognised:
"Oh the folks are very proud. My friends think it's savage - they call me the Irish Crazy Frog. I'm not really recognised much though I was in Tripod recently and because it was a younger crowd I got noticed a lot.

I have a MySpace page for my fans where I post the videos online and people get in touch with me."

Finally, advice for fans or people with an idea:
"Do something with feeling, whatever that is, from the heart and without an aim. Enjoy it. You'll have fun."
Sophie's MySpace is here and YouTube channel is here. Thanks for the interview! It was a real pleasure :)


  1. Great interview Darragh!So cool Sophie landing a modelling contract via YouTube! Irish Crazy Frog, hehe.

  2. Thanks Marie :) She was very cool alright! A very good example of what's possible!

  3. Darragh,

    It felt a little there like Sophie had been on everything there for a while from rock the vote to the late late; this, as Marie has said, IS 'so cool' and has been a pleasure to read.
    As usual you have outdone yourself once again. Your technique, manner of writing and interviewing is genuine and once again[again] simply amazing.

    enjoyed it, loved it and read it again [again] Genius!

  4. Nice one Darragh. Have you guys heard of Jonah Peretti? He's the guy who has successfully contrived several viral memes including '' website and the time he tried to get NIKE to use his 'sweatshop' logo through their 'design your own logo' service..Anyway I say him talk in SF a couple of months ago and he had a lot of useful tips for anyone trying to go viral with something.

  5. @peter - thank you sir, much appreciated. As I keep on saying, if I can do it, anyone can :)

    @Niall - thanks for the visit and the comment sir! Just googled Jonah Peretti now, his stuff and advice is really excellent. I'll definitely be reading that more :)

  6. I'm afraid I'm a little new to this party - I've never seen that video before. Very damn cool!

  7. Another great interview Darragh!

    Move over Pat the Plank and make room for 'In Conversation with... by Darragh'!

    Then I will be able to say 'I knew him before he was famous'!

  8. Ha! I love the she's so hot but I'll play it cool fail at the end there! :D

  9. She's hot.... You should get in there Darragh. giggidy giggidy. :D

  10. That's deadly Shophie.
    Well done you!!!
    From Noelle in the office.

  11. Thanks for this great interview.

    I hope Sophie will keep on being successful for a very long time. Very inspiring person.

    Keep on with your great blog ;)