Meet Watch Awards Production Judge Fred Seibert

Adventure Time exec producer says viral hits are easy when you're strange

What’s the key to having a viral hit? Make sure that it’s funny, topical, sexy—and a little off-kilter, media mogul Fred Seibert explains.

"I think that weird mostly works because it is novel," Seibert said. "It is a new twist on every day life that through contrast draws attention to itself."

The founder and executive producer of independent animation studio Frederator Studios has worn many hats in the entertainment industry. Before his current job, he was the first creative director for MTV. He revamped Nickelodeon with the Nick-At-Night programing block and launched Hanna-Barbera hits like The Powerpuff Girls and Courage the Cowardly Dog. He also owned Next New Networks, which was bought by YouTube.

Now, he’s working with Sony Pictures Animation on movie development deals, publishing digital novels with Frederator Books and still working on cartoon series, including a little ditty called Adventure Time. (You may have heard of it.) He’ll also be lending his eye for innovation to the first Adweek Watch Awards, which will honor the best in online video.

One of his biggest viral hits — Cat Man Do: Simon's Cat — has more than 48 million views on YouTube. He chalks the success of the 2008 video to the internet's obession with cats. 



"With Simon's Cat, the first thing is: If it has a cat on it and it’s on the Internet, people really like it," he explained. "The second thing is that what Simon has captured is all the nuances of a relationship between a cat and his owner, and he has done it all with pantomime, no dialogue. He has captured the essence of that close, universal bond between cats and their owners — no matter where they live. It’s simple, funny, and it makes people happy."

Seibert stressed that there are topics you should avoid if you want your video to get millions of views—among them, atrocities, war and extraordinary weather (though we might debate the last one.)

At the end of the day, whether it’s sock puppets or live action, going viral hinges on great characters and story, Seibert explained. "Key to any great filmmaking," he said.

Adweek Watch Awards submissions will be accepted through the extended deadline of April 28.