Sometimes when you see an opportunity, you’ve got to go for it.
Charleston native Jared Smith did just that, and it resulted in Internet fame. Along with 114.4 million viewers worldwide, the software development manager at BoomTown! was watching Super Bowl XLIX between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots.
A couple of unexpected events during the course of the game inspired Smith to throw together a meme that was retweeted over 20,000 times by Monday morning. The meme stated: “I would have run it with Lynch…but I died.”
Smith was referring to two events in particular. The first was a shocking Nationwide commercial that initiated a Twitter firestorm. In the commercial, a little boy explains how he was never able to do many things in life—ride a bike, learn to fly, get married—because of one slight technicality. He died. The ad struck a nerve with audiences and caused many to wonder what Nationwide was thinking.
Like many who watched the game, Smith was surprised at the harsh nature of the Nationwide commercial.“I was watching it and I saw this kid going around and then I realized where it was going,” Smith says, “It just kept a trail of bummers all night.”
The ad was part of Nationwide’s “Make Safe Happen” campaign launched in January. It was an attempt to raise awareness about how the primary cause of childhood death is preventable accidents. According to Nationwide research, only 37 percent of parents believe that they should put more effort in keeping their children safe. Specifically, the insurance company was marketing their new home safety app which incorporates checklists, reminders and alarms to ensure parents are on top of their game.“They got their $4.5 million worth,” Smith says, “By those metrics they were effective. We’re still talking about it. Here were are a week after the game and I am talking to you about the commercial. Obviously it had the desired effect.”
The second event was the final play of the Super Bowl in which the Seahawks threw a slant pass just yards from the end zone instead of handing the ball off to star Seattle running-back Marshawn Lynch. The play resulted in an interception and the Patriots walked away with a Super Bowl victory that many believed was completely avoidable.“It was a great play by the Patriots all the way around,” Smith points out, “I just didn’t think [Seattle’s] play call was great.”
The two events inspired Smith to post the tweet that exploded on Twitter.“It was completely by accident. I put 30 seconds of effort into it. It was just a fleeting thought that [went] out and made people laugh.”
While the game had its good moments ranging from an almost supernatural catch by Seattle receiver Jermaine Kearse to a couple of off-sync dancing sharks in Katy Perry’s half time performance, it was Smith’s meme that turned the bad into good.“It was the perfect fusion of the two things that went most wrong.”
The response he received across social media was overwhelmingly positive. Even big-name magazine writers took interest.“For a small [web developer] like me to make a Sports Illustrated writer laugh, it’s a pretty good feeling. It’s great to see the tables turn like that.”
Smith discovered that you don’t have to live in 1840’s San Franscisco to strike gold. In 2015, all it takes is an image and couple of clever, aptly timed words.