Why virals can give brands more bang

Mark%20ChouekeFor the past thousand years, Radio 4’s Today programme has relied upon the best marketing there is. A single sentence that assumed the quality of a universal truth. The Today programme sets the day’s news agenda.

Does the news programme need any further marketing? One would think not. But the Today programme team has created a “viral” and distributed it on the internet “as an experiment to see how far the three-minute ad could travel”. The film reveals an amusing, self-deprecating and more accessible side to the programme team.

It has provoked debate about virals, led predictably, by the Today programme itself. The debate originated on the BBC website and has carried on across other digital media as well as radio.

Thousands of bloggers and tweeters have had their say on the film, denying it is a true viral and calling it “disturbing”, “hugely embarrassing” and, worst of all perhaps, “to viral video what Vanilla Ice was to rap”. Others argue it has worked well as a viral simply because people are now talking about it across the full range of media.

Some interesting questions regarding the definition of a viral have arisen among the navel-gazing. “Can it be classed as viral if it is trailed on the radio, TV or on outdoor posters first?” asks one marketer. If the answer is no, if that makes it an integrated campaign as opposed to a campaign that literally grows through word of mouth, then that strips the likes of Cadbury, the current king of the viral, T-Mobile and others of their viral credentials.

The Cadbury Gorilla spot was launched on TV but produced hundreds of spoofs across YouTube and elsewhere. The newer Eyebrows ad certainly isn’t as instantly endearing as the soft-rock-loving primate with his own drum kit (I’m still a fan), but it already boasts more than 3 million views on YouTube. A Lily Allen spoof of the same ad broadcast on Channel 4’s The Sunday Night Project has enjoyed an audience of more than 1.3 million people online, all of them with the Cadbury brand front of mind as they laughed through one minute and 12 seconds of silliness. If these get passed on, are they not viral?Virals may have originated as internet films that were passed on with no other activity attached. Now though, integrated with other media such as PR, they create a brilliant opportunity for a genuine two-way dialogue with millions of consumers. Take Britvic’s Save Tango campaign. Dreamt up within the walls of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, it aimed to reverse the decline in sales of the fizzy drink by encouraging Britons to break free of the shackles supposedly imposed on them by “health-obsessed do-gooders”. The campaign kicked off with three ten-second teasers on YouTube, one of which aired on TV twice during I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. Apart from the TV clips, the heart of the activity was word of mouth created through social networking sites and online films. These starred Dom Joly leading protesters – standing up against the threat of Tango disappearing from supermarket shelves – across London Bridge and through the capital. The campaign was funny and engaged people. Almost 50% of the target audience of 17- to 24-year-olds recognised the campaign according to Nielsen. Britvic says the campaign has delivered an 8% increase in value sales of the 330ml can in impulse buys and a 20% increase in distribution to impulse outlets. This week the soft drinks giant rebranded its Tango cans with the word “Thanks” – thanking the public for saving the brand – thus continuing the conversation. Used well, and with credibility, the viral is the best conversation opener marketers have in their toolbox.

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