#TheDress Data Reveals the Flow of Viral Content’s Global Reach


This dress is so revealing!

The viral content sensation of the moment, the great “what color is this dress?” debate, may have finally run its course (please – save your applause for the end), but there’s much that we can learn about the way messages spread around the digital world by tracking its flow.


By Thursday evening, sites covering a range of demographics, from Reader’s Digest all the way to MTV.com, published surveys. Many used Playbuzz’s publishing tools to create their own polls, and many more embedded polls made available by Playbuzz’s thriving UGC community. For publications seeking to engage with their audiences and demonstrate that they too were in the loop, this proved to be a powerful solution.

Soon celebrities started weighing in.

Brands got in on the conversation too, with Adobe providing color analysis, Oreo touting cookie packaging in different color combinations, Crocs professing color agnosticism and many others referencing their logo colors as being the only important ones.

Global Explosion in the Wee Hours of Thursday

But this viral conundrum didn’t stop with Buzzfeed’s largely American audience. As the US went to bed having voted for #WhiteAndGold or #BlackAndBlue, the Eastern Hemisphere started to get infected too.

Madrid-based news publication El País ran a Playbuzz-powered survey accompanying its coverage, as did Germany’s most popular paper, Bild. So did popular websites from Ireland, England and Israel.

Bild’s survey alone generated 964,000 views and a 6.7% share rate. All in all, the Playbuzz global publisher ecosystem raked in some 1.9 million views and over 209,000 votes. Viewers from 126 countries – including Malta, Nepal, Ghana, Oman and the Bahamas – were captivated by the “controversy.”


Additional Rounds of Content Aftershock

With the whole world engaged in a raging debate by Friday, it was time for some new, loosely related content to start making the rounds. Humanity had apparently lost confidence in its own ability to see straight.



A Brazilian tabloid news website and a Spanish news agency ran quizzes about optical illusions.

Elsewhere, around the English-speaking world, Pulptastic challenged its audience to take an embedded color-blindness test, The Shookers posted a “magic eye” stereogram quiz and Tagroom asked us to identify a stack of nuanced color tones by name.

The waves of viral aftershocks might continue for weeks. This is no ordinary dress.

Apparently #TheDress Belongs to None of Us

Whose dress is it, anyway? Tumblr‘s? BuzzFeed‘s? Tailor Swift‘s? Roman Originals‘? Caitlin McNeil‘s?

By now, it should be imminently clear that #thedress belongs to no one. And to everyone. In the age of virtually endless reposting, syndicating, repackaging, curating, embedding and peer-to-peer sharing, content proprietorship becomes meaningless.

The content is what provokes these powerful reactions – not the discovery channel or last touchpoint. When a message strikes a chord, it becomes too big for any person, company or territory to own – especially if it’s published on a platform built for syndication and shares. With the right creative, anyone’s message can become larger than life.


About the author

Shachar Orren

Shachar Orren is the Chief Storyteller at Playbuzz. Serving as Playbuzz’s evangelist, she is in charge of empowering the company's partners to achieve storytelling greatness, heading up both the content and brand marketing efforts. Before becoming Playbuzz’s sixth employee, Shachar worked for over nine years as a journalist and senior editor in Israel's leading publications, and holds a BA from Tel Aviv University.

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