I Spent $10 to Share A Moss Video to 102,500 Strangers Online

The Surprising Joy in Advertising Random, Simple Things

Shirley Lee


Source. A screenshot of the video I shared

At a random point in 2019, I was mindlessly viewing Instagram stories on my feed, tapping to skip all ads, when a weird ad popped into view.

It was the photo of someone gently holding a perfectly smooth, plain white mantou (Chinese steamed bun).


I was intrigued. I tapped again and the second photo of the ad showed up — same camera angle, same hand, a similar mantou, at a completely different place. There were zero price tags, zero slogans for the pure, smooth mantou in the middle of the frame.

I immediately clicked to see the account that shared the photos on a sponsored story. 12 mantous of various shapes and sizes tenderly held by the same hand greeted me. The description of the account says, “I go out every day to buy ten mantous and give them to my little cousin as dinner.”

All of the posts are similar photos of mantous, but there are a few particularly funny ones — there is a “post-consumption mantou” and a “concrete mantou”. The owner of the account has also collaborated with a conceptual art meme account to write an art description card for a mantou. He calls smooth mantous “good little ones” and wrinkly mantous “cheeky little ones”.

You just can’t help but smile at that.

But enough about mantous — we are here to talk about showing people simple, cool, light-hearted stuff by spending just a little bit of money. I asked the owner of the account why they placed the mantou ad and how the ad campaign went:

“I wanna reach out to people to spread my things for mantous and go against common sense to advertise something so simple. The effect is nice; I…