I had to laugh a couple days ago when I read a screed by Neil Davidson, the founder of My Web Presenters, a video production company. He asked a question you may ask yourself quite a lot when you’re directed to watch a viral video ad.
The question is: Why is this happening?
In this case, Davidson, writing for Business2Community. com, was asking that question about the 3:44 ad introducing Samsung’s new Galaxy S5 mobile device.
The video is a wordless explanation of its features, and there are plenty of them. (One thing the video doesn’t even touch is that the smartphone can also be used to call people and talk to them. It is a phone, isn’t it?)
Neil Davidson is puzzled by the popularity of this video. “It has had over 22 million views, and yet it is one of the most boring videos I have had the misfortune to watch in quite some time. … Can you watch it to the end without getting bored?”
Actually, since the time Davidson wrote that, there have been 1.5 million more views on YouTube. The product demo hasn’t suddenly gotten more interesting. But the massive viewing does bring up a lot of interesting points.
One is that many people are totally absorbed with the whole smartphone business, and Samsung is either “their” brand or the brand they most detest. The comments on YouTube don’t say much about the quality of the video, but a lot of about explaining why it was watched.
By about a 10 to 1 margin, YouTube viewers like the Samsung 5, which is remarkable because it hasn’t been released yet. Mostly, I'd say, they simply like/love Samsung. There is awesomeness involved. The comment section notes some of the features, but most of the comments seem to be about loyalty to Samsung, or conversely, lampooning Samsung idiots who don’t prefer Apple. It is akin to arguments work shirt guys have about Ford or Chevy trucks.
Davidson says the video, at the time he was writing, inspired 1,036 Tweets, 251, 154 Facebook “likes,” 41,265 shares and 320,823 total Facebook interactions of some type.
Ridiculous. The ad does show the power of YouTube and other social networks to get the word out, and to some degree, the absolute power of Internet instructional/how-to videos to work as sales tools.
But I’d also bet this video has been, or will be, downloaded millions of times by sales people who will want a cheat sheet on the Samsung S5’s features. Also, by some impressive amount, by consumers after they’ve already bought the product, as a kind of guide to what wonder is in their hands.
In a lot of ways, I’d bet, products advertised on YouTube or the Internet more generally may not really act to sell anything as much as they are just part of the product initiation, part of the ritual, that makes you a member. It's almost as if, for some products, online ads fill a dead-air time in the sales funnel.
So 22 million views, or 23, or whatever, is almost like counting some percentage of its customer base, not people interested in buying the Samsung S5. Either that, or it’s people who are so inclined to buy it that the only thing the ad could have possibly done is create some gaffe that cooled them down.
Davidson thinks Samsung missed an opportunity: “There aren’t many other brands that could be excused for creating product videos as boring as the Samsung Galaxy S5 video and still achieve such substantial view counts,” he writes. “What this case study represents is how a big brand can achieve viral view counts with minimal effort. They have ready-made audiences with a vested interest in their product and brand; so some online videos are simply guaranteed to be viewed. Such a shame that Samsung have chosen to waste the opportunity – surely they have the budget to do better.”
I’d say the ad did what it was supposed to, purposefully and without glamour. But I’m still amazed it’s been watched 23.5 million times.