I am a professional economist and the son of a certified public accountant. That entitles me to tell the following joke:
Q: Why did the student decide to become an economist?
A: He really wanted to be an accountant, but he did not have the force of personality.
This joke came to mind when I heard about the dry jokes on You Tube by Steve the joke telling accountant. You can view the first joke, the second joke, a third joke, or an additional joke by Aaron the intern accountant. Thousands of people have viewed these videos on You Tube.
Why are such jokes of any interest? While the jokes are amateurish, the firm is not. This firm does really have highly paid professional accountants. These jokes have brought attention to GROCO, a local accounting firm in the San Francisco Bay Area.
If you fish around a bit, you can figure out that Steve the joke telling accountant is a bit of an inside joke. Steve’s videos parody a set of professional commercials for GROCO, such as this one or this second one or this third one or this last one. These professional commercials all star one of the parners at GROCO, Alan Olsen, who is not shy. (Actually, as commercials for accountants come and go….these are ok…)
Anyway, why do I care? First of all, I am not uninterested in the financial health of this firm. I happen to know some of these jokers, and one of them really well. Yes, they do my tax preparation every April, but, really more to the point, the GR in GROCO stands for Greenstein. My father is the founding partner of the firm. (In case you are curious, the first O is for Olsen, the partner who stars in the professional commercials).
To be sure, I do not believe my father has much to do with these videos. Indeed, he did not tell me about them. Another friend did, and wanted to know if that was my father in one of them.
That is a segue into the other reason I am interested. The question from my friend illustrates word-of-mouth advertising. This friend viewed the videos and just spread the word….. After his comment I checked them out. Indeed, it is a measure of the success of the videos that they got back to me (in Illinois) even though the firm is in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the word got to me from a friend rather than a relative (most of whom are also in the Bay Area).
Word of mouth advertising on the Internet is sometimes called “viral marketing” or “word of mouse.” Here is a link to an essay I wrote about such advertising when it first appeared on the Internet (second from the top). Of course, word of mouth is not new. Only the the cost of it has changed with the Internet. The Internet has made viral marketing very inexpensive. Indeed, the first big viral campaign on the Internet was HotMail, way back at the outset of the commercial Internet. There were many more experiments back then (remember the campaigns by ICQ? Evite?), but after a while it began to taper off.
We live in a different era now. You Tube has taken viral marketing to a new level, making it extremely inexpensive for anyone with a camcorder to make a video and start a campaign for an audience in a local regional area.
It is so inexpensive that even the bean counters think it is worthwhile to do. There you have it! Even accounts can go viral.
Enjoy the videos. Warning: It takes a very dry sense of humor to appreciate the jokes…