Monday, March 05, 2007

Viral Video: Don't Call It Boob Tube Any More

Viral Video: Don't Call It Boob Tube Any More

by Mark Walsh, Monday, Mar 5, 2007 6:00 AM ET


VIRAL VIDEO ISN'T JUST FOR breast-obsessed young men anymore. That's one conclusion of a new study done by ad tracking firm Competitrack based on reviewing 3,000 viral campaigns by more than 800 advertisers.

The report cites recent viral efforts including Dove's celebrated Campaign For Real Beauty, featuring unconventional models, and Unilever's series of animated mystery "Webisodes" for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.

"What's most amazing to us is to see insurance companies, banks, and makers of dish soap actively getting into viral advertising," said Bob Moss, president of Competitrack.

The company is launching a new viral video tracking service in April that will include daily alerts on breaking campaigns and access to archived video ads for between $5,000 and $10,000 annually.

Moss noted that the viral study included only sponsored ads, not the mash-ups or video spoofs of brands or products that proliferate on YouTube and other sites.

The study divides viral ads into videos, microsites, games, social networks and multi-media categories. It estimates that 60% of viral ads created by advertisers are videos, with many being popular TV commercials uploaded to the Web by viewers.

But Competitrack estimates that hundreds of videos are produced specifically as online virals.

"These tend to be longer, more narrowly targeted, and very often, more outrageous than any commercial you are likely to see on TV." (About 8% carry the label: ("Warning! May not be suitable for office viewing.")

The most creative viral campaigns, Moss said, are usually microsites--small Web sites focused on a specific brand, that invite user-generated videos, blog participation and other types of interaction. They account for about a quarter of viral ads.

The study points to high-profile microsites such as Gillette's, which takes the form of a faux political action site against men with unshaven faces. It says the ad "is also an example of a campaign where the brand or product advertised is either very discreetly revealed or not revealed at all."

Of course, trying to disguise their ads as the work of online hipsters has also backfired for some marketers. That includes Sony's online promotion of its PlayStation Portable game console featuring a blog and online video made to look like the creation of actual fans. The campaign was later exposed by bloggers as a marketing ploy, making Sony the object of ridicule.

Nevertheless, Moss believes that through experimentation, marketers will find the right balance between inventiveness and outright deception to create effective viral campaigns.

"People will seek out viral video because it has some intrinsic value--either it's entertaining or compelling or something consumers identify with," he said.

buzz this