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TikTok-ready moves: The Vietnamese viral anti-virus video that got the world dancing

Five months after headlines about the new coronavirus first began to appear, it’s now practically impossible to avoid mentions of the pandemic, whether online or offline. News stories focus on the public healthcare sector and its hardworking staff as well as the ongoing efforts to develop a cure.  Meanwhile, across the globe, local government-initiated campaigns inform citizens about the vital steps they need to take to stay safe and help curb the spread of the virus.

Information about precautionary measures to minimise the spread of Covid-19. From left to right starting from the top: UK, India (Hindi version), Vietnam, Spain, Brazil and South Korea.

Alongside facemasks, the importance of hand sanitisation has taken centre stage in the messaging of precautionary measures. Informative posters remind the public of the simple directive: keep germs in check by washing your hands regularly and thoroughly. Going by the global shortage of hand sanitizers and soaps, it seems the message has hit home. Here in Vietnam, one music artist decided to use his creativity to promote the importance of clean hands. Little did he know that his song and hand-rubbing choreography would become a worldwide phenomenon.

Arts and politics join forces

On February 23rd, renowned Vietnamese musician Khắc Hưng and choreographer Quang Đăng released “Ghen Cô Vy” (Jealousy Ms Vy), a cover of the popular song “Ghen” (Jealousy). The lyrics of the new version carries an important message in the name of coronavirus prevention: don’t touch your eyes and mouth, limit going to crowded places and keep clean. The accompanying dance was performed by Quang Đăng in this Instagram video, in which he shows how to scrub in between the fingers and fingernails. Supported by the Vietnamese National Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health, the video resonated with the Vietnamese public who enjoyed the innovative campaign format. Thanks to the nation’s youth engaging and creating their own content linked to “Ghen Cô Vy”, it wasn’t long before the video went viral and the hand-washing moves turned into an official dance challenge. 

View this post on Instagram

#ghencovychallenge #handwashingmove #coronahanddance #VuDieuRuaTay ? Because more international friends are coming to this post so I will change this to English for everyone: COVID-2019 disease is spreading, affecting people and social activities. Regular handwashing is considered a simple and effective method to protect the community from diseases (according to the World Health Organization). According to research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 78% of people say they wash their hands often but only 25% actually wash their hands after going to the toilet, 20% wash their hands before cooking. To spread the habit of washing your hands to prevent this disease, I invite you to take part in the #ghencovychallenge challenge with me. Game rules: You perform the dance of the song Ghen Co Vy with 6 hand washing movements as recommended by the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health, based on the music song COVID-19 prevention – Jealousy, cooperation between Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health, musician Khac Hung, singer Min and singer Erik. Take this challenge or share the following epidemic prevention habits: 1. Wash your hands often with soap or an antiseptic solution. 2. Do not put hands on eyes, nose and mouth. 3. Regularly clean personal hygiene, hygiene of utensils, houses and surroundings. 4. Wear a mask to go to public places, on vehicles or when you are sick. 5. Self-awareness to improve health for themselves, the family and the community. 6. People with symptoms of COVID-19 have high fever, cough, shortness of breath, etc. or close contact with infected person / person suspected of COVID-19 and limit contact with other people and contact local health facilities. After completing the challenge, SHARE + TAG immediately 2 friends want to join this challenge. ✌ ? for news reporters and press who want to use my video, please feel free to do so. ? for people want to dance my choreography, please feel free to do so, it's all yours ? join hands to spread this extremely useful message! ? #handwashdance #handwashingdance

A post shared by Quang Đăng (@im.quangdang) on

Infotainment and TikTok-ready moves

Just over a week later, the music video achieved international exposure when it was picked up by a US talk show.  Amused and impressed by the unusual format of the campaign, HBO television host John Oliver decided to feature the video on his “Last Week Tonight Show” as an example of pandemic infotainment. 

On TikTok, the handwashing choreography gained enormous traction as users across the world posted videos under the now established hashtags #vudieuruatay (“handwashing dance”) and #ghencovychallenge. To date, the hashtags have generated 164.2 million and 32.7 million views respectively – figures undeniably worth making a song and dance about! 

The #ghencovychallenge on TikTok.

The handwashing video has resulted in more than 9,000 online conversations on open platforms (including Twitter, blogs and forums) since launch, with the peak fuelled by its featuring on the talk show. In response to the global appetite for the tune, “Ghen Cô Vy” now has an English version, meaning even more people can sing (and dance) along to it.

Behind the virality

What can we learn from the success of the hand-washing song and dance? Here are some of the key takeaways.

  • Disrupt information flow with a new and refreshing format

We’ve all been getting used to hearing about the safety measures required from us to help stop the pandemic. But the constant hammering home about what we need to do may mean warnings eventually fall on deaf ears. Rather than lecturing people, the music video disrupts the constant stream of do’s and don’ts with its engaging and interactive format.

  • Make the most of receptive audiences

With a third of the world’s population under lockdown, people are spending more time online than ever. This has made them receptive to engaging content, especially when it offers them a creative way to connect with peers. Helping users to beat the quarantine blues, the popularity of hashtag challenges is reflected in the engagement rates of live videos on TikTok and Instagram. In addition to #ghencovychallenge, popular hashtag challenges include #handstandchallenge, #30DaySongChallenge and #ArtChallenge.

  • Use humour as a communication tool (but be mindful!)

With so many memes doing the rounds of social media, it’s clear that humour helps keep people going in these difficult times. Quang Đăng’s tongue-in-cheek swagger is hard to resist and his hand-washing moves turn this mundane activity into something fun.  Research shows that consumers appreciate brands that don’t take themselves too seriously, but it’s important to use any comedic elements gently. Here’s a great example by online retailer Asos. 

Keen to bust a move and enter Quang Đăng’s handwashing challenge? Don’t forget to tag us!

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