Published online 9 July 2008 | Nature 454, 149 (2008) | doi:10.1038/454149a

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Boyz 2 pipettemen

Lab equipment gets the X factor.

Could these five men persuade you to buy their automated pipette?Could these five men persuade you to buy their automated pipette?COMPARENETWORKS; EPPENDORF

In a dreary, lonely lab a young female postdoc puts down her pipette to massage her aching latexed hands. Sounds like the perfect set-up for a hot new music video. Well at least it does to Tyler Kay, creative director at Compare Networks Production Group (CNPG) in San Francisco, California.

A recent release from CNPG features a group of five winsome young men singing the praises of a new automated pipetting system called epMotion, made by international biotech company Eppendorf. As the lab heroine is whisked to a beach under the Golden Gate Bridge, the band members gyrate around her and her glasses are shed along with her inhibitions, just before the chorus. “Girl you need epMotion” (whispered: “yeah girl it's time to automate.”)

“I had to listen to a whole lot of boy-band songs. I started to gain an appreciation for it.”


Stefanie Noehren, online project manager at Eppendorf in Hamburg, says the company was looking for a 'viral marketing' campaign that would spread the word about the epMotion product rapidly through the Internet. And CNPG, the video production company of online biotech marketers Biocompare, was the obvious choice. In January, it created a minor internet sensation with The PCR Song by the mock group, Scientists for Better PCR — PCR (the polymerase chain reaction) is a lab technique used to amplify DNA. This advertisement from Bio-Rad Laboratories, based in Hercules, California, was styled after megastar group recordings of the 1980s like Band Aid's chart topping Do They Know It's Christmas. In The PCR Song, crooners mawkishly sing their way through lyrics like: “PCR, when you need to find out who the daddy is (who's your daddy?)” In the finale, one singer lovingly smooches a thermal cycler.

“That thing took a life of its own,” says Kay. It attracted more than 700,000 web-page views and spawned several homage videos from fans, singing or lip-synching the words. At Eppendorf, says Noehren, marketers decided in March to try out the music video format, this time aping one of the prototypical manufactured male pop groups known colloquially as boy-bands — standard-bearers include 'N Sync, Take That, 98° and the Backstreet Boys.

Kay, a self-taught film-maker with Biocompare since near its inception, wrote the song with a list of product features and intense background research. “I had to listen to a whole lot of boy-band songs,” says Kay. “I started to gain an appreciation for it. Those guys really know how to crank out the hits on a few chords.” The result is It's Called epMotion, a saccharine-sweet parody of songs like 98°'s Because of You. Next they needed a band to sing it.

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In the true tradition of boy-band manufacture, the members represent a variety of races and styles: the tough-looking Asian, the Latin lover, the bad-boy surfer, the African American with a winning smile and an odd-looking skinny one with a surprisingly deep voice. The result is a slick, if inexpensively produced video. The cost to Eppendorf for the video was just US$50,000, says Noehren.

But does it sell the product? Amy Wagers at Harvard's Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, Massachusetts, says “It didn't tell me much about the product, if that's what they were going for, but it's working in that now I've gotten two of these videos via e-mail.” YouTube shows nearly 22,500 views and counting. More may have found the video through other sites, and Noehren says a comparable number has clicked through to the website since the video was launched in early June. “We are quite satisfied,” she says. 

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