Make Me Viral, Make Me Rich

by keif on August 16, 2008

Imagine this scenario – a client walks in, and they rave about something they talk an article on times online about the top ten viral ad campaigns – and they want to be on that list! They want to be a video passed from iphone to mobile to laptop – to have their campaign uploaded on youtube, vimeo and the like.

We want to be seen no matter what!

As Jennifer Laycock laid the smackdown on the Not In Columbus campaign she pointed out that when you make a campaign (and embrace social media) you still need to have a marketing strategy – they had a print campaign, a collection of youtube videos (in a self-depreciating manner), and cool shirts! (but a cool shirt concept does not make a campaign!) Advergirl also points out the obvious (well, I thought it was bleeping obvious) – we get the joke, but where’s the punch-line? Why do we have youtube videos about “not in columbus” but not following it up with “but we have Cosi, The Jazz and Ribs Festival, Sport Teams, etc. etc. etc.” Not all in one video mind you… It’s a  clever concept that just was poorly executed.

The one thing they did right – they have more than one video.

Viral means multiple outlets.

I can make a video viral – so can you. It’s a matter of creating something funny, humorous, and *most likely* racy and against the society’s norms. Just as you wouldn’t create a single ad for a campaign, you wouldn’t create one “viral” aspect for a campaign – if you notice, the political campaigns for Obama/McCain are constantly evolving and changing – like your campaign should.

Unfortunately – you need to make your viral media stick out. Poking fun helps, as does self-depreciation. But when you create your one youtube video or your one online application/widget and it fails, it merely reinforces that you can’t “will” something viral.

How does being racy help?

This video for the Volkswagon Polo featuring a sucide bomber got passed around in 2005 – causing a little stir because of its insensitivity towards Muslims – culturally, a no-no, but on the internet it created a lot of attention (on both sides of the fence – people screaming for heads, and people laughing at the “mock” campaign that wasn’t ever endorsed by VW).

The Rathergood Kittens

The Rathergood Kittens

Rathergood is another example of something that got passed around because of its bizarreness – and it even lead to commercials – and we have simple flash videos like The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny that got passed around (and who can forget – or did you miss – All Your Base Are Belong to Us?).

The point is – these are all small “campaigns” – cheaply done, and simple in nature. They weren’t products of million-dollar campaigns – but just something quirky dreamed up.
Which leads me to another item that went viral – Cahan & Associates created corporate reports in new formats – doy scouts guides, children books – because they felt “Annual reports need to evolve: They need to become more interesting and more entertaining. Otherwise, they won’t be able to compete for people’s attention.” (This is another topic altogether)

Racy, Quirky, Entertaining… I can do that!

A scene from The Ultimate Showdown

A scene from The Ultimate Showdown

Now that you are willing to throw your corporate dignity out the window (and hand the reigns to someone else) – you can have a viral campaign. When you start interjecting your own ideas (and shooting down things as being “too much”) you risk losing out the focus – lots of discussion of you, your brand, your message – like Starbucks saw (alas, the link evades me) when they started letting people put quotes on their cups (and Starbucks refused to censor them).

What this did was create a lot of discussion from both sides of religious groups – atheists upset over religious quotes, and followers of religion upset over atheistic-themed/interpreted quotes on their cups (just check out the google link!). Lots of discussion – and starbuck willing to step to the side and say “it’s not our place to tell you what to believe” – instead they let their customers say what they want.

I’m afraid of what they may say!

No doubt a business is hesitant to go viral. They could end up looking like the joker from Batman: The Dark Knight’s awesomely successful campaign – there worried they could be the butt of a joke and out of control. This is where you start thinking about why you’re wanting to go viral – for sales, for discussion, or for attention.

Where’s the beef?

Where’s that elusive dollar $$$ bling-bling for your campaign? How does this pay off? I’m still looking into this one, as we see the Writer’s Guild of America went on strike (with concern for future digital media like the internet/video streaming/etc.) and South Park responded in kind – viral videos can theoreticall make you rich – and you know who’s gained the most from those videos we pass around? Star Wars kid sued. Numa Numa has a fan club. A number of e-celebs have been in music videos for Barenaked Ladies and/or Weezer.

The point here – you’re wanting discussion. I don’t think you’ll get ROI in terms of dollars and cents – at least not immediately. If it’s truly successful, you could end up with a hit film (I’m willing to admit – the viral campaigns for Cloverfield and The Dark Knight were cool – but didn’t make or break the films. Blair Witch? The campaign MADE the movie – “Dude, is this real? It’s not real. It couldn’t be real.” Five minutes later “Dude, is this real?” True story.)

The Elf Yourself is another quirky fun one – it doesn’t really relate to the brand, it was just something fun to do around the holidays (which helps drive traffic).

Viral campaigns are fun for the users – but it’s important to recognize that they can drive traffic and discussion and not necessarilly make you rich – but they can get you talked about.

  • elmira


  • elmira

    i dont know alot about your website, because first of all i recently deside to work with internet and secons is that my english is not so well please help me

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