Behind the Scenes: “Child of the ’90s” Video for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer

by Column Five

Behind the Scenes: The “Child of the '90s” Video for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer

In January, Microsoft Internet Explorer released a video we created with them titled “Child of the ’90s.” We were happy to see it go live—and to see what happened next. Within five days of release, the spot racked up more than 7 million views. It was awarded the top prize in the film category for the Ads of the World January 2013. Since then, it has earned more than 47 million views.


We wanted to offer a behind-the-scenes peek at our strategy, approach, and collaboration with Microsoft on this successful project. 

Project Retrospective: The Webby-Nominated “Child of the ‘90s” Video for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer

On-set wardrobe and storyboards.

The Strategy

We attribute the video’s success to the content strategy framework we use at Column Five:

1) Distribution: Get content noticed by your audience.
2) Creative: Make content great for your audience.
3) Engagement: Make content impactful for your brand.

How We Put It into Practice

We start with distribution strategy, because any creative ultimately needs to be tailored to our audience. To determine our distribution strategy for online video, we ask two questions, both of which we usually want a definitive “yes” answer to:

1) Is the content newsworthy? (We consider “newsworthy” content to be informative, entertaining or both.)
2) Is the content shareworthy for our audience? (We consider content “shareworthy” if it will be regularly redistributed by viewers to their friends and followers.)

Many people believe “newsworthy” and “shareworthy” are interchangeable, but there is a difference. This video was a success because it spanned both of these spheres.

Project Retrospective: The Webby-Nominated “Child of the ‘90s” Video for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer

A snapshot of the many ’90s items featured in the video: pogs, yo-yo, Trapper Keeper, LA Gear, Hungry Hungry Hippos and more. For Gen Yers, these items were the touchstones of childhood.

Why It Worked

To ensure the video was both newsworthy and shareworthy, our creative team worked closely with our strategic communications team in developing the concept with Internet Explorer. This coordination yielded an important insight early on: No brand had truly capitalized on ’90s nostalgia yet. Who better to do it than Internet Explorer?

The idea of a brand like Internet Explorer being forward-thinking enough to make such a story-focused, Gen Y-centered commercial was pretty newsworthy. Focusing that story on ’90s nostalgia, which we knew was popular with Gen Y and not yet fully realized in video form, is what made it shareworthy.

Project Retrospective: The Webby-Nominated “Child of the ‘90s” Video for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer

The Reebok sneaker is primed for its close-up.

How It Helped the Brand

If all we cared about was getting content noticed, we would film cats roaming around the office all day and slap a logo at the end of the video. But this wouldn’t help Microsoft—and our goal is always to be impactful for the brand. With Internet Explorer, we wanted to change how Gen Y felt about the browser. We wanted the video to be a walk down memory lane, to feel conversational and familiar. We wanted the audience to think, “Maybe Internet Explorer can relate to me better than I thought; the new browser could exceed my expectations.”

We certainly wanted to drive viewers to the site to rediscover Internet Explorer. But even if they didn’t, by sharing the video, they were sharing the story—a story inextricably connected to Internet Explorer, a story that might not lead everyone to switch browsers that day, but that would linger and grow in a generation’s mind. That story has been told more than 47 million times to date, and that’s the impact we wanted more than anything: a reframing of IE’s relationship with Gen Y.


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