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Posted on 24 June 2005

Crazy, but true

Posted in IDEAS 

Whatever your feelings about the recent success of 25-year-old Swede Daniel Malmedahl’s Crazy Frog ringtone , you must at least be aware of it. You probably know that, combined with the theme tune from the Beverly Hills Cop movie, it also made number one in the singles charts ahead of the latest Coldplay offering. One of those oh-so-irritating but oh-so-catchy sounds that has commercial success written all over it, and yet this success story did not follow a conventional route.

I read with interest the article in the June 18 edition of FTmagazine based on journalist Will Sullivan’s interview with Malmedahl, entitled ‘My Ding-a-Ling’.(For those old enough to remember, that was the title of an equally irritating yet equally successful song of the ‘70s, which, like the censored privates of the Crazy Frog in TV commercials, was considered too risqué for some at the time.)

It seems that the young Swede owes much of his success to that great democratiser – the world wide web. Simply by publishing a recording of his own imitation of a motorbike on a friend’s website, Malmedahl attracted the attention of a graphic artist who then added the distinctive naked frog illustration, and the rest, as they say, is history.

An original idea such as this is unlikely to emerge from the creative studios of the world’s top media companies. The conglomerates that control our listening and viewing intake today are hardly in a position to take a chance on an untested youngster should he or she wish to approach them direct. So much ‘jumping through hoops’ would be required that the project would never get off the ground.

My own fears that this might be the case were confirmed recently when I tried to make contact with someone at decision-making level on behalf of a client, only to be told by the person who answered the phone that ‘we don’t give out names’. This attitude – a combination of arrogance and short-sightedness – seems to be typical of the general malaise in the corporate world, and just one more reason why such companies are unlikely to attract new ideas or survive.

The web has provided anyone and everyone with the means to promote themselves and their big idea quickly and economically. If a market exists out there for the product, then sooner or later it will take off, and chances are the originator will be in a position to name his or her price. Not quite the same as if the product were to be marketed through the traditional route of subsidiaries, middlemen and various hangers-on.

Which brings me back to the Crazy Frog. If there are any wannabe Malmedahls waiting in the wings with the next Big Thing – and I have no doubt there are plenty – then one would expect them to choose the same route as he did to spread the word. If anyone with an original or exciting idea chooses the traditional route, I can only think of one word to describe them. Crazy.