The real Spiderman: part two of our interview with David Thorne

In part one of our interview with David Thorne, we found out the workings of his now famous spider email, following its viral explosion. In the final part of the interview, Thorne reveals more of the strange existence he lives in brand land and why it is such an important world – despite some of the people that work in it.

Despite the fact that you do not market your website at all, it has received attention all over the world. What advice do you have for others with similar sites? Is no marketing good marketing?

Part of the popularity of my site is the fact that it does not contain any advertising or products for sale and I do not make any money out of it. This would not be a good example for anybody in business to follow. While I do not market the site, I do spend a lot of time doing groundwork in social network sites. I have never promoted my site in these areas and generally rely on the connection inevitably being made by other users. The construct Tabitha Gnillort – an attractive pink haired emo girl – played the social network sites for months, gaining popularity before a user made the connection of her photo on the entry page of my site and hits went up from a few thousand a day to several thousand. The Tabitha construct gained quite a wide following, with fan pages and groups in several countries, partly because the sites I played in were male dominant. This is simply just a different form of marketing and in effect the pink haired girl became the face of the site and therefore the brand to some effect.

What’s your favourite feature on your website (mine is your frog analysis – very indepth)?

My favourite bit is the middle but the bit at the top is OK. Much of the content comes from attempting to distract myself and therefore the stories that have distracted me the most are my favourite. Playing with a very heated Dick provided me many hours of entertainment but I have enjoyed all of them or they would not exist – the stories are more for my amusement than anything else so I only post what makes me laugh. If I was honest, I would have to say the flight commander page because I wish I was an astronaut – but as that would make me sound like a geek, I wont.

Now that your spider has become so popular, do you intend to brand the life out it? Spider g-strings on the cards?

The internet audience tends to have an attention span of a few weeks at the most. The only way the spider meme will remain even vaguely popular is to shelf it and move onto the next page. It will be quietly emailed around the planet for several years due to becoming a meme but its current popularity will end any day. I have no desire to see the spider on g-strings, unless they are being worn by Brooke Satchwell, but I did add an online shop that sells t-shirts of the spider due to many requests. The amount I make from the sale of these t-shirts would not even buy me a beer so I encourage your readers to buy one out of pity. The product is terrible, so I class it as more of a donation than a wise purchase. The spider email served its purpose of driving traffic and creating an audience. I have made some incredible contacts and good friends recently which is worth more to me than I could possibly hope to gain from selling products with a poorly drawn spider on them.

I’ve heard on the grapevine that you’re a design director for a small Adelaide agency – which one and how long have you been there for?

I have been the design director at de Masi jones for almost six years. It is a small creative agency but boasts some exceptional clients such as Bridgestone, McDonalds and Dr Lewinn’s and has given me the opportunity to work on many interesting projects over the years. Working within a small team means that everyone is hands on and involved with all aspects of each project from initial client contact to delivery. The best aspect of working in a flexible environment such as de Masi jones is that every person there has an excellent sense of humour, loves what they do and are more like friends than co-workers – except Shannon. I have found that enjoying the company of the people you work with reflects in the outcome of projects and therefore benefits clients.

Do you think that brand design has improved over the past 10 years or is it just a recycling bin of old ideas?

Pirates steal, designers appropriate. Brand design has matured and in many ways become more of a science that an art over the last 10 years. I have found personally that there is much more psychology involved nowadays and that every decision in the direction of developing a brand must be quantifiable. The guidelines of good design still apply but advancements in printing techniques and media means that good branding has had to adapt while remaining true to these basic design principles. As the audience matures with the industry, the challenge to provide fresh solutions has never been stronger and in my opinion, some of the most unique branding has been over the last ten years.

Is the marketing/ad industry a load of bullocks?

While the industry is certainly not bollocks, a large percentage of those working in it are. Branding and marketing decisions are the most important decisions businesses make and they generally make them badly. Marketing is a required tool for every business but smart marketing is integral to growth. As with all industries, there are successes and failures but I have seen small businesses with good branding and marketing plans grow from local to international companies. Likewise I’ve seen established companies without those tools fail or at least take a blow. I believe that clever branding and a smart marketing plan are the two fundamental and key ingredients for a successful business.

What is the meaning of life?

I would really like to say something beautiful like ‘following your heart’ or use a quote from a desk calendar such as ‘dance like nobody is watching’ or possibly even something philosophical such as quoting the 17th century mathematician Blaise Pascal who wrote of being engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces… but instead I will simply cover the meaning of my life – hoping that each week I have enough money left for beer after I pay my bills until I eventually die alone, my neighbours alerted to the fact only by the smell emanating from my apartment if my 18 cats do not eat me first. It was an annoying question so you get an annoying answer.

After part one of the interview was posted, David emailed Marketing to add this follow up in relation to his experience with viral marketing.

“I thought you might like to know that after an associate read part one, he declared that ‘Yes, but you make it sound like you can (make things go viral) whenever you want – you will never get anything else to go viral’. I bet him my Christmas bonus that I could create another viral email within a week. I posted the ‘Matthew’s party page’ and uploaded it this past weekend. My website took more hits than the spider story generated! My server has crashed again, so I moved to another server and now that has exceeded its bandwidth as well.
The story hit number one spot in Digg, which generated too much traffic. I thought you might like to know that it IS pretty much possible to do it whenever you like.”