Most viral marketing on YouTube tends towards pomo chic or the cynical, like an extension of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” hosted by a Mission hipster. But Matt Harding’s “Dancing Man” videos – underwritten by the gum company, Stride – are a reminder that simple is not always stupid, that beauty and innocence are not always naïve. Now, after dancing his way across the world and becoming one of the most-viewed YouTube stars, Harding is committing his efforts to charity, raising money for laptops for children in Rwanda. According to Reuters, Harding, “met United Nations officials this month and talked to the sponsor of his video, Stride, about raising money to buy and donate laptops to the poor in Rwanda where he danced with locals and plans to go to teach them
Harding, originally from Connecticut, quit his job as a video game developer in Bristol, Australia, to travel Asia. Like many travelers, he started a website (wherethehellismatt.com) to document his travels for his family and friends. While in Hanoi, a traveling companion recorded Matt doing the dance, which he used to do at work “during an awkward pause or just to annoy people.”
The original video of Harding dancing became a pre-YouTube sensation. Harding was soon contacted by Cadbury's Stride chewing gum, who sponsored another trip. The resulting video, posted in 2006, has been seen by more than ten million YouTube viewers.
The new video (below) on his account, which has been viewed by 19 million YouTube viewers since it was posted June 20th, according to the Reuters article, shows Matt rocking The Dork in 42 countries. The accompanying song, "Praan", written by Harding’s friend, is #8 on Amazon’s most downloaded list this month. Those are amazing numbers.
Where the Hell is Matt? (2008)
The 2008 video is especially good: heartwarming and life-affirming (even to this cynic), Matt and others dancing in the world’s most beautiful places. If you’re one of us with wanderlust, it’s probably better for your career aspirations if you don’t watch the video.
It’s also an example of almost perfectly executed viral marketing. Stride, who underwrote the travels, is non-intrusive, totally absent from the videos. There’s a small “Matt’s Place” on their site, but they are elegantly underplaying their affiliation. The company has a cool marketing department, though, recently lending support for efforts to stop world’s-worst-filmmaker Uwe Boll from making any more films. We have to agree with Stride here – after the classic “House of the Dead”, it’s been all downhill for Boll.
Harding’s just one of those guys-you-know who does-that-thing, your friend who does that funny thing when taking tourist pictures. That he has been able to translate this into something that has brought joy to so many people (read blog responses about his videos making people cry), and is now contributing to children in a country still recovering from genocide is incredible. This joke actually did start the whole world laughing.