Early last winter, while browsing Manhattan’s Strand bookstore, roommates Carina Hsieh and Claudia Arisso came upon a keychain featuring a tiny account of the totemic, subway-friendly Strand tote bag. “Claudia said,’ I wish there was a’ Commuter Barbie’ who came with a Strand bag, ’” Hsieh recently recollected. “And I was like, “Oh my God–we have to do that.”

The two women had never written together before, but they swiftly lay a write for a “Commuter Barbie” sketch. Hsieh and Arisso, a container decorator, appointed an display of Barbie-sized supplementaries, including a beanie–made out of a black-dyed babe sock–and handed Commuter Barbie a minuscule pair of pink headphones( to facilitate “tune out the moves when you’re stuck in the middle seat” ). After recruiting a duo of young performers, and hiring a slogan novelist, Hsieh and Arisso worked their Brooklyn living room to shoot the video, for which they devoted around $1,600 of their own fund. “The production value was a really big concern for us, ” says Arisso, 24. “We wanted to make sure people kept watching after three seconds.” After a few weeks of revising, Hsieh and Arisso had a sharp-worded, spot-on three-minute commercial parody ready to go.

Now, they are only had to figure out how to get people to watch it.

Only a few years ago, the mixture would have been obvious: Hurl “Commuter Barbie” on YouTube, and watch it vanish viral. That’s the highway it had worked since “the halcyon daytimes of representation video, ” says Hsieh, 24, who’s likewise an journalist at Cosmopolitan.com. “You’d get a tie from a love, and it would already have three million views.”