Entrepreneurs cash in on Turkish Internet sensation

Entrepreneurs cash in on Turkish Internet sensation

Faruk Başoğlu, a garment shop owner in Balıkesir, says they are manufacturing t-shirts that depict incidents Turks have found funny. (Photo: AA)

June 11, 2012, Monday/ 15:31:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

What's next for a YouTube video once it ascends to instant fame, attracting more than one million predominately Turkish viewers in a matter of days?

For some Turkish entrepreneurs, the next step is cashing in on the “immortal video sensation” with T-shirts, bumper stickers and even a game for smart phones. The Internet video, which has become the latest fad on the Turkish net and in bazaars over the past week, features a dispute between a hot-tempered teenager and a patience-worn garbage man, who attempts to ward off the juvenile by repeatedly barking, “oğlum bak git,” or “get lost, kid.”

In the video, the juvenile appears to taunt street cleaner Selçuk Kahraman, shouting, “Come on, hit me, hit me,” as he brandishes his belt. The juvenile later told the media that Kahraman had slapped his little brother after he found the two exchanging abuse on the street. In the video -- allegedly post-slapping -- the big brother taunts Kahraman repeatedly, until the street cleaner unexpectedly cracks his broom down on the boy's head, sending him running.

The slapstick incident was far from comical for the boy, who received 12 stitches, but proved media gold this week for clothing sellers who quickly rushed T-shirts featuring the suddenly iconic phrase “oğlum bak git” to market as the viewer count on YouTube reached one million. One million views might not seem a serious number to viewers in America or Western Europe where YouTube videos receive national attention only after reaching tens of millions of views. T-shirt sellers nonetheless told media outlets on Monday that sales had been brisk for the Internet wonder and that they planned to market more products with the phrase over the coming weeks.

“We decided to create a T-shirt related to this event, but at first we had some worries over whether or not it was going to take off,” said Faruk Başoğlu, owner of a 12-year-old T-shirt company that specializes in humorous T-shirts. Başoğlu's T-shirt features a caricature of Kahraman standing aside the street cleaner's “immortal words” rendered in bright orange. Speaking to the Anatolia news agency on Monday, Başoğlu says of the T-shirt, “We've had it on the market for 10 days, and there's a big demand from all corners of the country. Companies that sell these kinds of T-shirts on the Internet are seeking us out.”

A cabal of other opportunists have followed Başoğlu's lead, creating their own less-elaborate designs to commemorate the event. Silhouettes of the belt- and broom-wielding quarrelers have found themselves on bumper stickers, mugs, ashtrays and key chains. In short, says Başoğlu, “we've seen a level of interest we never expected.”

As unexpected as the commercial potential has been the variety of products the video has spawned. In one picture of a shop window that was circulated by media outlets last week, one merchant declares, “The broom the trash collector hit the child with has arrived! TL 15.” That was taken a step further by one website over the weekend, which sells brooms in a dozen colors with “oğlum bak git” printed on the handle.

Meanwhile, software group Apphic Limited released an app for Android smart phones where pixilated juveniles and trash collectors whack away and users are invited to share the “iconic phrase” over Facebook and Twitter. “Just give your phone a shake and you can hear the phenomenon on your phone!” the app promises, trumpeting the curt warning at every shake of the phone.

The candy-maker website Çıkolata Sepeti provides a more fleeting way to remember the video, selling a chocolate bar with the ubiquitous words engraved into an otherwise normal-looking bar.

Despite the lightning circulation of the video and ensuing products, not everybody has been swept away by the fad. “Well, I haven't seen the video yet, though I've heard that it broke the records,” Kahraman remarked to Anatolia when told of the video's popularity.

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