The ‘iWheel’ Goes Viral

The ‘iWheel’ Goes Viral

It all started with 36 cardboard boxes, a few rolls of packing tape and one big idea. For more than a year, systems administrator Mike Campadore had been stashing away iMac boxes whenever the university ordered new computers, noting that the slightly angled shape of the boxes could create a giant wheel if he collected enough of them. He thought it might make a fun toy for his daughter. The result, however, was something no one expected – a viral photo and video that would reach millions around the world.

It all started inconspicuously enough when, on a sunny Friday afternoon in July, Campadore asked IT coworker Rich Bass to help him complete the wheel and the two rolled it out on the quad for a spin. A photo shared by the university marketing department on Facebook quickly found its way to Reddit, Imgur, Tumblr and Twitter, where it went viral, viewed more than 3 million times within hours.

Soon Photoshop hobbyists began inserting what became known as the “iWheel” into a variety of scenarios, from running with the bulls to scenes from movies like Ben-Hur and Interstellar.

Online commenters asked to see the iWheel in action and the university marketing department seized the opportunity, creating a video that was viewed more than 250,000 times on YouTube and shared on high-profile websites like CBS News, USA Today and Mashable. Local news station KATU sent a reporter to interview Campadore and Bass, and ABC’s Good Morning America even requested footage, though the proposed segment never made it to air.

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While interest in the U.S. began to wane the following week, the iWheel craze was just picking up steam in countries like Japan, Russia, Germany and even Saudi Arabia. Major Japanese network Fuji Television even featured it on the evening news. By the end of its 15 minutes of fame the iWheel had been seen nearly 4 million times that can be verified, and hundreds of thousands or perhaps even millions of times more that cannot, making it the most wide-reaching – though at first unintentional – marketing effort in the history of the university.

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