Rethinking Viral Video

For many years, brands have gone to great lengths to ensure that their videos “go viral.” They try to create funny, endearing or heart-wrenching ads that are compelling enough for people to share across their social channels.  Some take it a step further by creating ads that are somewhat controversial to spark more conversations across Facebook and Twitter. 

While we always applaud great creative efforts, we believe these brands need to resthink their overall approach to video. The key to creating a successful video strategy in 2014 and beyond isn’t just about going viral; it’s about understanding what motivates consumers to watch and share branded videos.

That understanding of consumers’ motivation begins and ends with video data, trends and insights. The successes of other brands can help paint a picture of what will inspire consumers to click play, what surprises them, what creates emotion in them, when and where they are most likely to watch content, and what content they will share.

And there are plenty of successful examples to pull those insights from. After all, watching online video is a mainstream activity done by millions of people every day now and branded video is just as popular as non-branded content. Look no further than two of this summer’s biggest hits, Nike’s “Risk Everything” or Always’ “#LikeaGirl,” for proof.

We have seen video advertising outgrow the boundaries of the traditional advertising planning process. However, agencies and brands still try to force-fit the development of their online video strategies into this old-fashioned model even though it is broken. The result? Boring or clichéd video ads that reflect the dated formula of years past.

And that observation begs the following question: what is the best way to create a modern, successful branded online video ads, featuring content that people truly want to watch and share? Below are three ways that brands and agencies can change the old formula and modernize the planning process:

You Can’t Just Put TV Ads on YouTube

The same way that they wouldn’t expect a radio ad to translate to TV, brands can’t expect the same ad that plays well on television to translate online. They are different animals, and brands that succeed online think of them that way, crafting content that is native to an online environment.

This proliferation and democratization of online video content has flipped traditional creative on its head. Creative is no longer chained to the 30-second spot. Some of the most successful video ads are several minutes long and involve immersive storytelling. Online video gives brands the freedom to create any content that might engage an audience who can choose from plenty of other content options.

Build a Story For Your Brand

It’s difficult to tell a great story in a 30-second TV ad. Without time restrictions, though, video allows brands to really build a rich story and a personality online. And because video is something that consumers choose to watch, it’s an opportunity for brands to create an emotional connection with consumers. Brands must take advantage of this connection to reach their full online potential.

Viral Isn’t Always Better

For years, what every brand wanted was video to go viral. A viral hit certainly provides wide reach and awareness. But a viral video isn’t guaranteed to move the meter on the metrics that a brand cares most about. A video with 200,000 views (which is small in comparison to Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches,” for instance, with well over 100 million views) can be successful if the right 200,000 people are viewing it. A brand’s unique challenges should dictate creative and the metrics by which success is measured in video, the same as it does with more traditional forms of advertising.

2 comments about "Rethinking Viral Video ".
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  1. Raoul Marinescu from Pluto TV, September 25, 2014 at 1:05 p.m.

    Regarding "You Can’t Just Put TV Ads on YouTube", I think you're confusing ads and content. While TV ads do indeed play very well online (as pre-roll), they perform poorly as pure-content. But than again, ads aren't meant to be consumed as pure-content. They are simply suppose to capture a viewers attention for possible purchase consideration down the road. Content on the other hand (long form or not) is suppose to immerse the viewer into the experience and that's where brands have the freedom to tell their story, how they differ from competitors and so on. But to say that ads and content are the same, is not fair as both have a place online and offline.

  2. Theo Gulland from Userfarm, September 29, 2014 at 7:30 a.m.

    Indeed there is often a massive anti-climax when it comes to creating viral content. People often laugh at their own content but they simply do not recognise that it’s not funny or endearing outside of their marketing bubble.

    One thing that may be worth mentioning here is using crowdsourcing for viral content production. Crowdsourcing can often bring a vast array of original content. A lot of the ideas that are generated inside a marketing team are not real. They are too fabricated. Often you need external help to ‘catch the big fish’. Crowdsourcing should never take over internal teams but it often helps brands/ agencies tap into new creative outlets.

    At Userfarm we have 55k videomakers helping us come up with creative briefs for viral content. We are consistently blown away with their originality and quality of work. So it may be work looking into!

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