Countless thousands of dollars get spent every year on viral advertising, in pursuit of the Holy Grail of one million-plus views on YouTube. But the truth about viral videos and games is that you can’t really plan and design them – you can only create them, release them in the vicinity of a suitable host, and hope it spreads.
A viral ad or video is viral only if it actually goes viral, so be skeptical when someone says they can create one for you.
However, if a video truly is infectious, the results can be spectacular – such as the Hilary Clinton “1984” spoof ad that helped derail her campaign for the US presidential nomination (you can see it here: http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/top10/article/0,30583,1686204_1686303_1690903,00.html ).
RayBan also has a whole series of viral videos that do very well, garnering millions of views. And I also recall “Whack-a-Flack” – a highly successful viral game created and released in 2001 to prove a point about viral advertising, and to advertise the services of an ad hoc game creation company.
But the most successful viral creations seem to happen by accident: Susan Boyle… the Evolution of Dance… the “Leave Britney Alone” rant. The problem for viral marketers is that you simply don’t know what, at any moment, is going to pique the curiosity of your target demographic. And I’m not even sure you can measure the effectiveness of an ad that goes viral – at least, not in dollars.
The thing about viral is that it is fun, but the stodgy, direct marketing side of me wonders if advertising is supposed to be fun.
Ah well, there is another form of ‘not-quite-free’ advertising that you can plan and carry out to good effect – if you have the nerve. I’ll tell you about it next time. Meanwhile, think about sudden attacks sprung from hiding.