Viral. It's a big shiny word. Everybody wants to be viral. Everything needs to be viral. If it isn't shared, it didn't happen. DID IT GO VIRAL? Make it viral. Please make us a viral video. IT WENT VIRAL. But you can't "make" it viral, can you? You can never really truly predict what will capture people's imaginations in a way that defies expectations, and sparks conversations. Who knew that people would give a shit that Charlie bit his brother's finger, or a baby giggled, or a Panda sneezed, or a kitten did something? And then advertisers around the world try desperately to make it go viral. And sure, they can pay to make sure as many people on Facebook see the car ad with the unexpected plot twist featuring George Clooney and a laughing panda, but will people press that elusive share button?
It is ironic therefore, that Marwan Younis, a seasoned advertising man himself, experienced his greatest personal success not when creating content for one of the many global brands he has lent his imagination to (and won countless prestigious awards for), but, early one morning when he took to his phone camera and started venting about some stupid remark by some Egyptian at the Oscars. Marwan Younis went viral. He made it viral. He made himself viral. And as with all the greatest pieces of viral content ever, he didn't set out, in some contrived way, to be viral. It was sincere and so it was brilliant. "I had just woken up and I was grumpy as fuck when I saw the video," Younis says, of course referring to the now infamous (and itself viral) video of the Egyptian journalist who asked Leonardo DiCaprio, "Watz apout your first Oscar?"
"I kept saying the word begad out loud to myself before even shooting the video - so I decided to pick up the phone and send it as a message just to express how frustrated I was. I said what everyone was thinking at the time. The notifications went absolutely crazy. I never knew it would have that effect. 700K in two days. And now it has nearly a million views." Within days people were stopping him on the street, parroting the unwitting catchphrase of his unwitting viral video; "BEGAD!?"
Of course it could have just ended there; another viral moment to be forgotten, relegated to nostalgia - like remember when everyone was doing the Harlem Shake?
Except, this time, virality had hit upon someone with serious smarts and creativity. Could this be another Bassem Youssef in the making? A second video was put out a couple of weeks later, making fun of one of those absurd Arabic music-verging-on-porn videos that crop up on our screens and feeds and we think WTF, but rarely say it out loud to anyone beyond the confines of our couches. Marwan unleashed his version of WTF - "begad" - upon the masses once again, and immediately, there were thousands of shares, likes, and comments. "I wanted to test the waters to see what it is that people were reacting to in the first video. Was it just the word 'begad'?" And while there is little doubt that word acted as a sort of anchor to his stream of consciousness, it was the nuances of his insights, and the seemingly begrudging way he went about expressing them that caught the public's imagination. "Followers starting sending me videos they found online asking me if I would comment on them. I would start getting tagged over and over again in certain videos," explains Younis.
In the weeks since, he has released countless more videos, and has turned not only into the social media star of the moment but a bona fide media darling, appearing in magazines and prime time TV shows. At a recent live recording of hit show Saturday Night Live Arabia (to which he and his media maven wife Daliah Galal had been invited front row), the celebrity presenter of the day stopped mid-filming when she spotted him in the audience and much love-festing ensued. Big brands have come knocking, eager to align themselves with his internet prowess, and it feels like his 15 minutes are on the cusp of turning into something even bigger. "It has made me open my eyes to other opportunities out there. Making these videos make me happy. When I see people's reactions it makes me happy, and I have creative background and selling skills to marry both mediums."
And so, with the media world at his feet, here are a few of our favourite things you probably didn't know, but really should, about the man of the moment...
He is the Creative Director of FP7, making him one of the most powerful people in the Egyptian advertising industry. His award-winning work as included the UN Women Speak UP campaign, the Coca-Cola campaign featuring Nancy Ajram and Cheb Khaled, Sprite's 3ash Ya Sprite, Coca-Cola's Share a Coke, and the Red Bull Sound Clash featuring Sharmoofers and Cairokee.
He's a husband and a father of two. Despite being accosted by a legion of fan-girling followers wherever he goes now, Marwan is very happily married to media maven and PR guru Daliah Galal. They have an awesome four-year-old, and another little human on the way. This hasn't stopped women asking to have his babies/"order food together"/telling him they dreamt he killed himself and this made them want to kill themselves too (ahhh, the loveliness of internet stardom).
Marwan with his four-year-old son Gabby.
He has a twin brother, Amr. Amr is actually MO4 Network's own Creative Director and the two have possibly the most awesome mum in the universe. Despite her super high-profile role as Head of Design for the National Authority of Tunnels, she has joined her sons in a series of Snaps-gone-wild-gone-viral-on-FB skits, and each time she turns out to be the real star of the show.
Marwan and his twin brother Amr as children.
He is a super talented musician, and can play the drums, keyboard, and sax. He can sing and composes Electronic music. His uncle taught him the drums and he taught himself the keyboard when he was only six. "I wanted to play Mozart," he says, after his dad played the Amadeus video for him. Over and over. He plays drums in a band called Carousel where the lead singer and guitarist is his rocker wife Daliah. In fact, that's how they met. But before all that he would spend his weekend playing gigs in El Gouna with a band called Supersize, back when Gouna was underground and cool.
Marwan performing with his wife Daliah Galal.
So what of the future? More 'begad' videos? A 'begad' video featuring a piano-playing cat and George Clooney? Begad, the TV show? Begad, the movie? Marwan Younis, starring in The Late Night Show with Marwan Younis, Arabia? What is for sure is that there's more to come. BEGAD. (Yeah, you knew that was coming).
You can go check him out on Facebook here or follow him on Instagram @marvunis.