Viral Video isn’t about Advertising – it’s about Entertainment

I watched “Celebrity Apprentice” tonight – it’s a guilty pleasure.

The only reason I’m writing about it is the challenge: They were asked to make a “viral video” promoting an O’Cedar’s spray mop. If you’ve ever had to do this for your job, it had to have pissed you off too.

It seems everyone thinks the way to make a viral video is to make a commerical like you see on TV, then put it up on YouTube. From that, possibly through magic or devine intervention, people will share it around.

Ironically, I found this image for "Viral Marketing" - and outside of me calling it out for stupidity, there is nothing viral about it.

“Sheila! I just watched this commercial for a floor mop on YouTube! You have to see this!”

Only Penn Jillette seemed to understand how viral content works: You make something people WANT to share. You don’t make something you want people to share.

How many of the things you shared, “educated you on the product?” Probably none. Because that’s boring. What you likely did share were people inuring themselves, pets doing weird things, dirty jokes… things that made you laugh.

That’s not where they went on Celebrity Apprentice, though. Both groups pushed on making what were the same kinds of ads you push past with the fast forward button, thankful that you have a DVR.

I dont’ blame them entirely, though – and not just because it’s reality TV, and you can’t trust anything you see or hear on reality TV. I blame the executives of the company for not have a clear idea of what they were asking for. I’ve had those meetings with clients who said, “there’s this video that’s very popular, and I WANT THAT.” Great! Yeay!

And then, “It should tell people all about our product, and showcase all of its features, it shouldn’t  be the butt of the joke, and it should tell them why they must give us their money… but otherwise, go crazy!”

It doesn’t work that way. A viral video that promotes only carries the name of the company or the product – and  then you go crazy. What makes something viral isn’t the sell, it’s the fun.

How much milage do you think the Nintendo Wii got out of the video below?

The answer is Nintendo got a LOT of exposure out of this. I can also guarantee you the executives of Nintendo would have never approved of that video if they paid an agency to make something viral, and this is what they were presented with. That disconnect exemplifies why a company cannot make it’s own viral content if they insist on taking themselves seriously.

I remember the executive of one company explaining everything they wanted in their viral program with the exact same language about showcasing a project.

“Then I’m afraid it won’t go viral,” I told him.

“Well then what can we do to MAKE it go viral?” he asked.

“There’s only one option,” I said. “We go door-to-door with shotguns and MAKE people watch it.”

Seriously – just spending some time coming up with something people will actually want to watch takes much less work.

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