Building a successful viral requires more than clever creative

Seb is Marketing Week’s agency specialist.

With internet TV looming on the horizon, 2012 is going to be another pivotal year for online video. And with spend on the nascent channel set to rise by 47% next year, according to a survey by Adap.tv and Digday, are brands getting better at working content into successful integrated strategies.

According to Sarah Wood, COO at social video advertising agency, Unruly Media, “yes”. Commenting on the most socially shared video ads in 2011, Wood says that advertisers are increasingly taking advantage of online video to build more sustainable communications around integrated campaigns. 

“More brands are realising the potential of social video to build a high-impact, long-term emotional connection with their audience”, adds Wood.

The list, which was conducted in partnership with Mashable, cited ads from Volkswagen, DC Shoes, T-Mobile and Kia, among the most shared globally throughout 2011. 

Online video isn’t just about the “big idea”, but also the “long idea”. Ideas so rich in potential, that they unfold over years, rather than months.

The problem is that once brands taste the lofty heights of a viral hit, they keep trying to re-create lightning in a bottle. But let’s face – we all know Chuck Testa the taxidermist isn’t going to be nearly as funny as Chuck Testa the librarian. Nope.

It’s also worth noting that YouTube and most other online video platforms record a view even if only a second of content plays.

You can’t measure a viral’s success by the number of views or where it ranks in a Google search. So why make this the key focus? Instead the focus should be on establishing a compelling narrative that’s going to keep viewers coming back to the branded content.

Building a successful video viral requires more than clever creative, patience for one. Whereas a TV spot delivers a mass of consumers simultaneously, a viral takes time to gather momentum as it propagates across the social sphere.

More importantly marketers and by extension their agencies need to understand that videos can’t be viral they have to go viral. It’s so difficult to replicate the quirkiness of a viral hit, yet brands blindly invest millions in finding the next Old Spice Guy; While it’s true that you can’t win the lottery if you don’t have a ticket, just having one doesn’t mean you have any conceivable chance of winning.

Brands could do more to work directly with YouTube channel partners or the platform’s content producers, the aptly named “web stars.”
 
It may mean sacrificing a degree of control for most brands, but these content producers have strong audience they engage with regularly and more importantly understand what resonates with their fans.

These ventures shouldn’t be seen as media buys but content partnerships, where the balance between marketing message and authenticity is maintained. It’s a system that bloggers have used for the last few years, the guest blog.

“To produce a viral you do need that gambling mentality, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to stack the deck in your favour”, adds Hambleton. “This means engaging a creative agency with experience producing great content and a seeding company that understands the web – don’t be afraid to take advice and support from the creative teams at Youtube and other media platforms either.”

The agency recently launched a series of virals to promote Sony Playstation’s VideoStore service, where users can buy or rent films in high definition.
 
Shot in one take, with no post-production, the three videos were filmed using cameras controlled by the Playstation move controller and Eye Toy technology.

The assumption that viral content is only good for the short-term has to continue to be challenged.

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