Viral Importance

Ok, lets talk viral videos.

To me, a great viral video is simplistic and direct – the content should be orginal, to the point of being infectious… I should want to tag it, email it, stick it on Twitter, tell everyone about it, whatever.
Equally, what I also love about viral videos, is the fact that amazing marketing campaigns can be runnning, but often, you won’t realise it. They sneak up on you like stealth bombers… a perfect example would be the following:


It looks brilliantly authentic; the real McCoy, so to speak. The fact that it’s also backed up by a second angle that’s been filmed on a mobile phone makes it look like this guy really has gone nuts:


It’s flawless, but fake. I admit now, it had me completely fooled, until I did a bit of digging around – it actually seems  that it was created by Timur Bekmambetov as a promotion for the film Wanted. I realise this might be old news to some people, but somehow this video completely bypassed me, (despite getting thousands of downloads), and I feel it perfectly illustrates my point.

There seems to be a fine line between reality and fantasy with viral videos; I’m under the impression that they’re a modern version of the Victorian sensation theatre, where a mixture of illusion, grandeur, entertainment and promotion captured the audience. Viral can easily captivate a user and often influence them strongly, leaving them shaking their heads in wonder at what they’ve just seen and going off to tell their friends about it; branding at it’s best.

Unruly Media are an agency specialising in this area and have helpfully set up the Viral Video Chart, where the most powerful videos doing the rounds on the internet are recorded and reported. It’s a great site for seeing what’s popular, what’s working and what’s not, but it doesn’t separate the wheat from the chaff for me, as it includes a mix of both marketing videos, shameless self-promotion, music and content submitted by the general public at large. This is both a curse and blessing; I’m of the opinion that decent marketing virals should not stand out obviously as marketing campaigns – they need to be subtle and select in order to reach the user and be spread around the net.

Great examples for me include GuitarMasterPro, where an amazing guitar player has recieved over 50m impressionson YouTube alone, accompanied by the message that he learnt to play through their website.


Quicksilver’s viral apparently did more for the brand than the rest of their advertising combined, with a supposed 10m impression in the first few months alone.


The infamous Cadbury’s Gorilla. Need I say more?


One of the most successful campaigns of 2008, the Awareness Test from TFL, got nearly 4m views just in the first few months alone.


Viral video marketing can be infectious amongst users if done properly. It can raise brand awareness and promote products whilst being relatively cheap and with an almost minimal amount of work once it’s online. My last example of this is from Nike, who usually pull off great advertisements anyway. They certainly didn’t disappoint a few years ago, with their amateurish-looking Touch of Gold, which to date has recieved over 25.5m impressions on YouTube, let alone the other sites it’s spread to. That said, however, viral videos can also go badly. Examples of poor campaigns include Malibu, where they celebrated the release of a new product with this:


Shocking. Unsurprisingly, it recieved only a few thousand hits.

My final example of a terrible viral video(s) come from the genuis marketing guys a Chevrolet a couple of years ago. The idea was good: A micro-site would allow users to create their own advertisement for the Chevy Tahoe, allowing them to take stock footage and insert their own captions. Guess what happened when environmentalists got hold of the concept?


What amuses me the most is that these ads went live without anyone reviewing them. Although they had massive amounts of views, it’s done some serious damage. Even funnier, is the fact that Chevy’s amazingly professional marketing team left the videos running on the website until the PR team told them to pull them down. Happily for the rest of us though, they were leaked into other areas of the internet and still remain there now.


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