A PR practitioner’s opinion upon watching “Ghen co Vy”

“Wash your hand, rub, rub, rub, rub

Do not touch your eyes, nose, mouth

Limit joining any crowd…”

The catchy melody of the Vietnamese “hand-washing” song continue to jingle across the globe during the peak of COVID-19 outbreak. When it was released, no one expected V-pop’s first global hit would be a public service announcement (PSA) song.

What can commercial MVs learn from “Ghen Co Vy”?

The ”Ghen Co Vy” phenomenon is the dream of any video producer, least to mention PSA products, which is always deemed to be dogmatic, boring, and is “listened by force.”

In some aspect, PSA music is quite similar with commercial MV: using music to deliver a message, and the audience rarely watch this voluntarily. So what can commercial MVs learn from “Ghen Co Vy” to attract viewers and spread globally?

The music has to be good!

Ghen Co Vy is not the only Covid-19-themed song when there are more than 65 songs related to this topic on Spotify. There are also other musical products from Vietnam, but only Ghen Co Vy hit the jackpot.

What’s the secret? It seems that everyone already has the answer: good music!

Catchy rhythm, modern music, memorable chorus that keeps on repeating in viewers’ mind are the factors that help “Ghen Co Vy” becomes famous. The song attracts many people to sing and dance covers, unlike other PSA music products that usually got forgotten.

Composer Khac Hung who wrote the song shared that he does not differentiate between PSA and music. To him, music is purely music, and to win people’s heart, it has to be good music.

New lyrics on a hit melody

“Ghen Co Vy” lyrics was rewritten based on the melody of “Ghen” — a Vietnamese pop hit introduced in 2017 that has 115 million views.

When he received the request from Institute of Occupational Health and the Environment (Ministry of Health), composer Khac Hung decided to modify the lyrics of an old hit rather than writing a new song. Not only did this save times while the outbreak took a new turn hourly, this solution also utilized the popular melody that was loved by many fans of “Ghen.” “Ghen Co Vy” is performed by Min and Erik, who also sing the original “Ghen.” It was uploaded on Min Official Youtube channel which has more than 1.29 million subscribers.

With many familiar factors, the Coronavirus prevention song from Vietnam knew how to “stand on the shoulders of giants” as soon as it was released.

The title of the song is also a smart and funny combination between the original title and the way Vietnamese call the Coronavirus (coV). This clever wordplay helped to announce the theme of the song and attract fans of the original music product.

“Ghen Co Vy” is a very successful adaptation of the original song. Using adapted version of music in commercials in not an unfamiliar thing to do, but to succeed in doing so is a rare thing in sight. Its success depends on the compatibility between the product and the song, as well as the talent, cultural know-how and humorous of the composer. Past experience shows that if the original author rewrites the song himself then the new version would perform better.

Diversifying formats, crossing language barriers, catching the latest trend

Alongside the catchy tune, “Ghen Co Vy” has a comical and appealing animated video presentation. It also has an additional “wow” factor, which is Quang Dang’s handwashing dance. The funny and easy-to-follow choreography overcomes language barriers and helps “Ghen Co Vy” to approach global audience. The dance acted as a visual guide to prevent Coronavirus transmission and eventually became viral in the online world.

Following the trend of #anysongchallenge that once stirred up Tik Tok community, #ghencovychallenge initiated by Quang Dang attracted worldwide youth to join. By replicating 6 hand-washing movements to prevent Coronavirus, the online community continued to spark the trend #handwashingmove, #coronahanddance, #VuDieuRuaTay across the globe from Asia to Europe, sending the determination to fight the pandemic and positivity from Vietnam.

Praised by Western media

“Ghen Co Vy” won the heart of the local people and attract attention from Vietnam media as soon as it was released. But it wasn’t until MC John Oliver excitedly dance to Quang Dang’s hand-washing choreography on HBO did the song and dance become viral. Then Billboard, Quartz, Slate, Vox (U.S.A), BBC (England), BFMTV (France), SBS (Australia), Al Jazeera (Qater), etc. also covered the news on “Vietnam’s Coronavirus prevention song.”

Being introduced on Western media not only allow “Ghen Co Vy” to gain international fans, but it also scored an extra point among local audience. Praises from foreign media is the proof for the song’s modernity and universality. And of course, with a little bit of help from Vietnamese patriotism, the number of views skyrocketed during the pandemic.

The commercial “Song Nhu Y (meaning: to live as you wish)” by Generali Vietnam during lunar new year 2020 was also the same. Even though it was aired at the end of 2019 and was highly appreciated, but only when the commercial became the only Vietnamese representative in APAC Youtube Ads Leaderboard in Jan 2020 did it attract more views from netizens. At that time, the audience seemed to have a different look on commercial music videos. The aforementioned leaderboard is announced monthly by Google in APAC to showcase the most creative and high quality ads. Its ranking is determined by an algorithm that factors in organic views, watch time, and audience retention rate.

Utilize the golden time to shine

After the song was introduced on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver with an English subtitle, singer Min immediately comment on her Youtube to call for people to turn on the subtitle sections with support in 22 languages: English, Afrikaans, Egyptian, Chinese, Dutch, Pilipino, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Jewish, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish. The production crew also promised to release an English version in the early future.

The “Ghen Co Vy” crew also took many interviews from national and international news outlet to disclose interesting piece of information to boost the viral effect. Singer Min and Erik were among the firsts to adopt the #ghencovychallenge, inspiring their fan community to join in the hand-washing dance challenge.

And the rest is history. The blog article was originally published on EloQ’s blog.

Nhung Do is currently a copywriter at EloQ Communications. She has more than 10 years of experience in writing, teaching, and content creating. Her first book is “Fox fire in the sky — 100 tales about Finland”, which presents her best cultural experience in the hometown of Santa Claus.

EloQ Communications is a leading PR and marketing agency based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and handling project across ASEAN.