Featured Guests:

  • Erik Kohler – The “Voice” of UCF Football
  • Carolyn Massiah – Associate Chair, Department of Marketing & Associate Lecturer, Marketing
  • Yael Zemack-Rugar – Assistant Professor of Marketing
  • Nick Riggle – Philosopher, Author of On Being Awesome: A Unified Theory of How Not to Suck

Episode Transcription:


Paul Jarley:                         Today’s biggest viral sensation isn’t a cat playing a piano or the Annoying Orange. It’s an 18 year UCF college student staring at a camera. Seriously, can this really be a thing? This show is all about separating hype from fundamental change. I’m Paul Jarley, Dean of the College of Business here at UCF. I’ve got lots of questions. To get answers, I’m talking to people with interesting insights into the future of business. Have you ever wondered, is this really a thing? Onto our show.

Paul Jarley:                         So how can a college freshman staring blankly into space get more likes on social media than the UCF national championship football team? Erik Kohler is the stadium voice of UCF football.

Erik Kohler:                        Well, what’s funny is, I’m up there in the production box of the sights and sounds of the stadium, and we go through the camera shots like we’re doing like a fan of the game or marketing promotions and such. And we came across the crazy students section and everyone was going crazy and all of a sudden, the camera caught Anthony Allan, that just had this dead stare face. I think his nickname is Frozen Face. And the camera caught it and I could hear our camera guy says, hey, go back to that kid. And sure enough everybody started looking at video board, everybody just became enamored that he didn’t blink, it was just kind of like a blank face, or a frozen face, I should say, and then it took off like wildfire.

Paul Jarley:                         This didn’t stop at the first game. It continued last week.

Erik Kohler:                        We had it, where there was cutouts of his face, right. The fans were moving it and then the TV camera perfectly zoomed through all those faces that were fake, or the fat heads and there was real Anthony right in the middle, and that was hilarious.

Paul Jarley:                         Marissa, one of our UCF College of Business ambassadors was in the stands at the time.

Marissa:                               I think I definitely thought creepy at first. But because everybody started laughing, then it became more funny. His social media went a little bit viral, he got a ton of followers from that. So …

Paul Jarley:                         I was at the game last week, it was awesome, to understand what happened, I went to Nick Riggle. How are you doing my friend?

Nick Riggle:                        I’m great. I’m great.

Paul Jarley:                         Nick holds a PhD in philosophy from NYU. He was our guest speaker at Welcome to the Majors a couple of years ago, and he’s written a book called, On Being Awesome: A Unified Theory of How Not to Suck. Nick and I sat down to talk about social openings.

Nick Riggle:                        A social opening is an opportunity, it’s a kind of …. It happens when an individual expresses him or herself in a way that gets other people to express themselves, often by like breaking the norms or breaking out of your social roles or doing what’s unexpected or surprising.

Paul Jarley:                         Is our staring man, is that a social opening?

Nick Riggle:                        And so I think the staring guy actually does this, and I think it’s brilliant. But what’s special about this one is that it seems to me to be a social opening between the audience member and the cameraman, and maybe the producers as well. But it’s one that is so weird and fun that it resonates throughout the rest of the crowd. And so they’re kind of engaging at one remove.

Paul Jarley:                         A philosopher can explain to me the ethics of awesomeness. But to understand why this went viral, well now I need my marketing faculty.

Yael Zemack-Rugar:        A big piece of when things go viral in an internet world is about connecting.

Paul Jarley:                         Yael Zemack-Rugar is an assistant professor in our Marketing Department. She goes on to note that sporting events are particularly prone to situations that lead to viral social media.

Yael Zemack-Rugar:        Where does that happen more than sports? People define their entire being based on the sports teams that they love and hate. So if we’re gonna connect, if we’re gonna get this, this is us feel, it’s gonna be at a sporting event.

Carolyn Massiah:             There’s a community of college students who want to feel like they are unique and one.

Paul Jarley:                         That’s Carolyn Massiah from our UCF Marketing Department. She goes on to stress authenticity and the fact that people want to stand out from the crowd.

Carolyn Massiah:             I think if it resonates with the target market, if it resonates with a certain segment, if it’s like that could be me too, I think it’ll go viral. He gets to be unique in a crowd, just by being himself.

Paul Jarley:                         But how long can this continue? Nick Riggle has one take. One of the questions, I had was how long can a social opening last? Do you have any sense of that?

Nick Riggle:                        So I think it’ll last in that context, as long as people are still enthusiastic about it, as long as it’s still reverberating throughout the crowd like that, and the producer and the audience and Anthony are having fun doing it. One thing I was thinking was it might be kind of like the high five, where the high five started out as part of the community building function of a baseball team, of the LA Dodgers in the 70s. And it might be kind of fun to see the stare happen outside of the stadium.

Paul Jarley:                         It is by the way. Anthony’s taken his show on the road. He’s visited his trigonometry class. But seriously people, if this is a thing, somebody’s got to make money at it. We’re a business school after all. Back to Yael.

Yael Zemack-Rugar:        You can do ads, you can merchandise or you can sponsor; this doesn’t seem to apply here.

Paul Jarley:                         Well he has the big heads of himself, out there staring.

Yael Zemack-Rugar:        Yeah, well maybe there’s hope.

Paul Jarley:                         I don’t know if he’s selling those or not, yeah.

Yael Zemack-Rugar:        And then, the other dimension is if he accrues enough followers on his social media to become an opinion leader, then people will start paying him for that.

Paul Jarley:                         So he got more likes on his Instagram than the UCF National Championship team did.

Yael Zemack-Rugar:        Okay so if he can leverage that to actual influence, that is ongoing …

Paul Jarley:                         Then he could be a thing.

Yael Zemack-Rugar:        Have there been other 18 years old with no discernible skill that have been able to do this. The answer is yes.

Paul Jarley:                         Our friends at Rock ‘Em Apparel have an angle on this. They’ve made five special pairs of socks with Anthony’s face on it. Not sure they’re really gonna do a run of 5,000. They’re kind of hedging their bets. But Carolyn Massiah has an ingenious idea for Anthony. Think Halloween people.

Carolyn Massiah:             You know what, I would maybe put a bank on someone on the UCF campus having his face as their Halloween costume.

Paul Jarley:                         Oh now there’s a whole new element… [crosstalk 00:06:17]

Carolyn Massiah:             Yeah, but after, I think it’ll trickle off.

Paul Jarley:                         So Carolyn Massiah has called the question here: Is this kid really a thing? Our student ambassador notes, the football team sure seems to think so. You mentioned that you tutor some of the football team.

Marissa:                               Yes.

Paul Jarley:                         What do the players think?

Marissa:                               I mean, there all saw the kid. I know that when I went on his Instagram, cause his picture went viral, I saw there were several comments from football players, saying you’re our guy, man. You’re so cool, yada, yada. Things like that. And all the football players definitely saw him on the screen.

Paul Jarley:                         From Erik.

Erik Kohler:                        I think if you have socks, you’ve made it, yeah.

Paul Jarley:                         From Nick.

Nick Riggle:                        Ah it’s a good question.

Paul Jarley:                         Eh, he’s a philosopher. From Yael.

Yael Zemack-Rugar:        Yeah, he’s an engineering student. He has a good day job.

Paul Jarley:                         Hopefully. It’s my podcast so I get to go last. Anthony offered a social opening, the cameraman was game, he was authentic, it was awesome. Right time, right place, bam, viral. I don’t see this becoming the high five, but Halloween night on campus, well that just might involve a lot of staring. Keep studying Anthony, you have a great story to tell your kids someday. But your future belongs to engineering. Or if that doesn’t work out, you can always walk down the hall to the College of Business.

Paul Jarley:                         In the meantime, go Knights. Stare on.

Paul Jarley:                         What’s your take? Check us out online and share your thoughts at business.ucf.edu/podcast. You can also find extended interviews with our guests and notes from the show. Special thanks to my producer, Josh Miranda, and the whole team at the office of Outreach and Engagement here at the UCF College of Business. And thank you for listening. Until next time, charge on.