Hard To Reach: Even When Video Goes Viral, It Doesn't Necessarily Catch On
You think that’s beautiful? In a media world cutting itself into finer and finer customized – and not always commercialized – shards, that’s just plain ugly for an advertiser interested in building brand awareness. And, seriously, name an advertiser who isn’t interested in that.
At the end of the day, even viral hits aren’t all that spectacular. In fact, the second most-shared video of the year – Geico’s famed “Hump Day” commercial – was shared 4 million times, and viewed 19 million times. And that’s probably in large part due to repeated airings on TV, which fed its online virality. (Note: the sharing stats come from Unruly Media and the views stats come from YouTube.)
By the time you get to the 20th most shared video, a five-minute PSA for Code.org, featuring Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, will.i.am and the Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh, the numbers drop like a stone. That video was shared about 754,000 times and viewed slightly over 11 million times. When you think about how many videos had viral aspirations this year, that’s a complete and utter downer. It’s slightly less than the non-DVRed audience on Thursday night this week for the CBS sitcom “The Millers.”
And, yes, the comparison to TV is apt. Because, well, TV -- who watches it anymore the way it was originally intended? Appointment viewing seems limited for many of us to live sports events, and YouTube is a veritable TV network for today’s kids, but what really took me by surprise in 2013 is how a confluence of technologies has completely upended viewing of video content, and done so cross-generationally. That’s the scariest part for those trying to get a message out to whatever is left of the mass market.
When I got my first iPad, two years ago, I never imagined it would quickly become our second TV, but the explosion of streaming apps from the cable companies – and the death of the TV we used to have in our kitchen – made it so, particularly for our nine-year-old daughter. But it was when we got Netflix that I fully realized the TV model – including big-budget commercials – was broken beyond what I’d previously believed. Our daughter suddenly shifted from watching cable on the iPad to preferring Netflix’s on-demand kid content.
And then my husband – not a Luddite, but certainly a media traditionalist – went rogue from his long-held viewing habits. Like someone on, yes, crystal meth, he got hooked on “Breaking Bad.” Night after night, after the kids had gone to bed, I would find him sitting in the living room, earphones on his head, binge-viewing on the iPad. He’d barely ever picked the thing up before. Now that his “Breaking Bad” fever has broken, we’re watching “House of Cards.”’ And one of my main near-term objectives is to get Amazon Prime’s Instant Video up and running on the flat screen so I can finally show our teenager,“This Is Spinal Tap.” All of this viewing is commercial-free of course.
Which brings me back to viral videos. The stats I detailed above may be a little rough, but they still should demonstrate how looking to viral videos to promote your product is no replacement for the old-fashioned paid media that used to guarantee reach and frequency. The problem is that, increasingly, that model doesn’t exist anymore.