Originally published by Taylor Lorenz in The Atlantic on January 31, 2019:
Last week, a staffer at Need to Impeach, an organization that advocates for the impeachment of Donald Trump, received an outrageous proposal via email. Jerry Media, the viral marketing agency famous for promoting the ill-fated Fyre Festival, was now working in an unofficial capacity with the anonymous creator of the World Record Egg, and the company was hoping to broker a deal between the nonprofit and the egg.
Over the past few weeks, the egg has become an internet phenomenon. On January 13, the account’s first post became the most-liked Instagram photo of all time; by the time Jerry Media approached Need to Impeach, the account had more than 9.4 million followers. Since then, the account has posted a series of photos of the same egg with a progressively larger crack, suggesting something inside. In a slide deck, Jerry Media proposed that the egg crack to reveal the words Impeach Trump as Trump popped out and did the chicken dance. The agency even created a short animated video demonstrating the stunt.
Need to Impeach ultimately passed on the opportunity. “It was interesting,” said Aleigha Cavalier, a spokesperson for Tom Steyer, the founder of Need to Impeach. “But I probably get 20 to 25 crazy ideas a week, [and] this didn’t move further than that.” Mick Purzycki, the CEO of Jerry Media, confirmed the details of the proposal, but stressed that the goal of the stunt wasn’t monetary. “We liked it for noncommercial reasons,” he said.
Still, interest from companies and digital-media planners hasn’t slowed. Because in 2019, every viral moment is a branding opportunity. “Being the first brand to crack out of the egg is worth at least $10 million,” said Nik Sharma, the head of the digital agency VaynerMedia’s direct-to-consumer business. He added that he would even advise clients “to spend on the egg instead of the Super Bowl.”
Kyle Bunch, the managing director of partnerships at R/GA, an advertising agency, also compared the egg to a Super Bowl ad. “If you have something really good to put in that expensive placement, then it could be worth it,” he said. Charlie Joslin, a social strategist at GSD&M, an agency in Austin, said one of the company’s clients has already inquired about partnering with the egg. “It’s an appealing opportunity for a lot of brands,” he said.
In the weeks since the egg went viral, countless people have tried to get a piece of the action. Last week, Instagram star Supreme Patty was incorrectly named the owner of the account after a member of his crew drunkenly bragged to a TMZ reporter. And Ishan Goel, a marketer, also claimed to have partnered with the egg and played a role in its viral success. In fact, he never partnered or worked with the egg in any sort of official capacity, and the egg has since blocked him on Instagram. The egg confirmed via Instagram direct message that it has not partnered with Goel or Patty.
Meanwhile, many companies, seeking to capitalize on the ambiguity, have hijacked the egg’s name to boost their own promotions. “Want to collaborate with @World_Record_Egg but don’t know who to contact? We’ve got you covered,” an Instagram ad by the content-creator platform Inzpire.me reads, before linking users to a network of egg-related accounts, none of which is the World Record Egg. Thousands of social-media stars and meme accounts have changed their name to World_Record_Egg on Instagram to capture search traffic related to the term. Some people even built clone pages, such as @world_record_eggcooked, which have themselves racked up thousands of followers. Currently, the No. 11 adventure game on the Apple App Store Top Charts is an egg-themed flappy-bird clone. It’s one of more than 500 “world-record egg” apps.
The account has already sold merchandise, including a T-shirt, donating 10 percent of the proceeds from a three-day sale to three charities: YoungMinds, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Campaign Against Living Miserably.
Other nonprofits say they hope the account will consider them worthy of promotion. Keri Goff, the creative director at DoSomething.org, said that while the account hasn’t approached the organization yet, DoSomething.org would be thrilled to partner with it. “It would be an incredible brand play for anyone attached to the big reveal,” she said. “Our target demographic is Gen Z, and they’re really attached to these big social-media moments, so it would be incredible.”
Some in the political space are also evaluating the egg’s reveal as a potential opportunity. “I could also see the hatching coinciding with a big event to drown it out on social media,” said Justin Jenkins, a political campaign strategist based in Washington, D.C., “Maybe the State of the Union? Lots of opportunities here if you’re creative enough to use it.”
Goff told me she could even see someone leveraging the egg to announce a 2020 presidential run. “I think it would be such an interesting and wild approach, and [a] completely new approach to presidential announcements,” she said.
Whatever brand (or candidate) ends up making the deal, it’ll likely be huge, according to James Whatley, an advertising strategist based in the United Kingdom.
“If you’ve got that kind of money for a media buy,” he said, “you’re either buying a shit ton of Facebook ads, a Super Bowl ad, or, in this case, the most popular egg in the world.”