By Matthew Heimer
AARP, a national advocacy group for the 50-plus population, would like you to know that it can go toe-to-toe with the tweens in the viral video department. The group announced today that its “Call Me Maybe” lip-sync response video, posted online a couple of weeks ago, is now one of the most-watched clips on AARP’s YouTube channel, with around 20,000 views. (By day’s end, that number was closer to 25,000.)
For those unfamiliar with the genre, “Call Me Maybe” lip-dubs feature people singing along to the maddeningly catchy single by Canadian pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen. Since the first such video was launched (by Jepsen’s fellow Canuck entertainer Justin Bieber) in February, more than 13,000 parodies have been uploaded to YouTube. Recent contributors to the filmography include the U.S. Olympic swim team and American infantrymen in Afghanistan; some cultural wags already consider the phenomenon to be a little passé.
The AARP’s version, featuring multigenerational families frolicking by swimming pools, in the backseats of convertibles, and on the beach, is one of the tamer and more G-rated examples of the idiom. The video, AARP says, is designed to encourage grandchildren to call their loved ones on Grandparents Day, Sept. 9. (E-mailing or tweeting Grandma and Grandpa is not explicitly mentioned in the video, but not discouraged either.)
In popularity terms, the “Call Me Maybe” video is leaps and bounds ahead of most of the content on AARP’s YouTube channel — including much more serious and service-oriented work, like a recent, nationally promoted set of videos about the difficulties of being a caregiver for an elderly or disabled relative. (The latter three-video series has a total of about 2,300 views.)
Tammy Gordon, director of social communications for AARP, says that compared with many other videos on the site, “Call Me Maybe” was relatively inexpensive to produce, having been cast with amateurs. (AARP and a production company, Alphabird, started by recruiting social-media-savvy grandkids, then got them to enlist their elders.) But for this video, Gordon says, AARP launched its first major effort at a “social sharing” marketing effort on behalf of a video, using Facebook and Twitter and other social media to spread the word. Gordon says the group is hoping to put some of the same tools to work for some of the site’s more serious content.
The lip dub’s success is a reminder that the gap between AARP’s membership and the music-video generation isn’t necessarily a gulf: After all, AARP’s youngest members would have been college age when MTV debuted, in 1981. Gordon says AARP’s video channels in general fare best with baby boomer women and folks of Generation X — groups that are either on the young end of AARP’s constituents (membership eligibility begins at age 50) or not far from joining them.
But to put this all in perspective: The “Call Me Maybe” tribute has only about 1% as many page views as the most popular recent post on AARP — a live performance of “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones.