Opinion

Prince Harry’s ‘Todger’ and the power of co-opting audio

Steph Panecasio, editorial lead at Snack Drawer, writes that brands should forgo tenuous links and stretches when it comes to getting on a social media bandwagon.

The sound of Prince Harry describing his ‘todger’ has been inescapable on TikTok and elsewhere on the internet since its launch in mid January.

Taken from the audiobook recording of his memoir, Spare, the deadpan story of Harry’s frostbitten phallus spurred a wave of reactive content and, unsurprisingly, didn’t take long to hit viral levels of saturation.

For brands, viral audio like this is a double-edged sword. On one hand, the temptation to ride the wave is strong. On the other hand, the limitations of commercial use render it forbidden fruit… Unless you can find an implicit, referential way into the joke.

At Snack Drawer, our capacity to identify audio trends early often puts us in this position, and as a result we’ve developed a knack for deciding when, how and – crucially – if the juice of a sound is worth the squeeze.

Timing, implicitly, and not being “above” the joke

With approval margins and turnarounds, it goes without saying that brands need to stay agile on viral audio. Too soon alienates your audience, too late makes you seem passé (a crime in the world of Gen Z consumers).

There’s no guaranteed formula to identify the sweet spot, but we can rely on context clues. If the sound is all over your FYP, there are two possibilities: it’s gaining traction, or it’s on its last legs.

To find out, confirm how recently the sound has been consistently used. If it’s more than a few days ago, it’s not worth it. If it’s ongoing and timely, there’s scope to explore your editorial approach.

With off-limits audio, editorial direction needs to skew implicit, not explicit. Subtlety and specificity are key, so narrowing the scope of the joke is imperative; Harry’s memoir is hundreds of pages long, but only one moment really took off.

While recounting his “frostbitten todger” story, Prince Harry mentioned a friend’s advice to apply Elizabeth Arden hand cream for the pain – the very same cream his mother had used.

In recent weeks, the brand’s fledgling TikTok account subtly referenced the cream’s capacity to provide relief and conditioning in social copy. Publisher-side, Harper’s Bazaar ran History of the Hero: Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant, with tongue-in-cheek references to the product’s effectiveness anywhere on the body.

While neither piece of content went viral, they served a greater purpose: Reflecting the collective understanding and showing they weren’t “above” the conversation – all without using the sound.

It’s a question of understanding the niche, working in nuance and giving your audience credit where it’s due. Doing so can increase the faith your audience has in your understanding of them, benefitting the rest of your content by association. But it’s easier said than done.

Recently, Air New Zealand weighed in with a tweet that didn’t quite hit the mark. A number of factors contributed – the press, the phrasing, the timing – but the general consensus was that they had jumped on the wrong moment.

Their tweet focused on an entirely separate part of the book, referencing a time Meghan Markle had used the airline to transport her father to the UK. Unfortunately for Air New Zealand, despite the direct mention of their brand, all the attention and jokes were diverted elsewhere – largely, down the Duke’s trousers – and as a result, it didn’t resonate.

So to avoid a mishap, next time a royally saturated sound arises and it comes time to decide your brand’s approach, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are we on the crest of the viral wave, or at risk of being dumped?
  • Have we isolated the most culturally relevant element?
  • Is there an obvious, unforced link to our brand or mission?
  • Will the audience implicitly understand our reference?

If you can’t tick all the boxes, reframe or reject. If you can, there’s potential.

A word to the wise: More often than not, hinting around viral audio like this won’t make immediate sense for your brand or align with your wider strategy. We actively encourage brands to forgo those tenuous links and stretches – if it can’t be done exactly right, it shouldn’t be done at all.

But do keep a lookout, because mega sounds like Harry’s unfortunate todger don’t come along often, and when they do align, the last thing you want to do is freeze under pressure.

Steph Panecasio is the editorial lead at Snack Drawer. 

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