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Viral Is An Idea, Not A Production Asset

If you’ve worked on the advertising side in the last few years, you’ve undoubtedly heard someone put “viral” on the asset list. To presuppose that something will “go viral” is to embrace an oxymoron, but it’s important to remember that at the core of many passed along pieces is this: infectious fun.

If you’ve worked on the advertising side in the last few years, you’ve undoubtedly heard someone put “viral” on the asset list. To presuppose that something will “go viral” is to embrace an oxymoron, but it’s important to remember that at the core of many passed along pieces is this: infectious fun.

Go on, I can sense the eye rolling.

What I mean is this: if the central idea taps a shared or relatable experience (usually rooted in humor) and executed with enthusiasm, the chance for pass along is increased. Not rocket science, I know, but very often the people who request a “viral” miss this point. All the VMS firepower is for naught if the project didn’t first truly excite its creators.

This is why the majority of the viral videos are rainbows, kids biting things, cats playing music and spoofs.

Speaking of the latter, a group of creatives working under the name Apache Pictures recently found it had a hit on its hands with “Wiley Vs. Rhodes.” Inspired by the antics of Chuck Jones classic “Road Runner” series, the film was produced for the pure joy of it, posted to Vimeo and You Tube and shared with friends. This was as far as they thought it would go, but the film clearly struck a chord with fans of the original cartoon. It was posted to Yahoo’s front page, featured on Funny Or Die and passed around like crazy. From blog to blog In short order the video had nearly a million views. Finally, Apache knew it had plumed Meta gold when “Wiley Vs Rhodes” was spoofed and remixed.

Call it homage or the sincerest form of flattery: Adding to the conversation by producing remixes or building on a good idea is one way to get noticed. But bring on the added value or you will be ignored. BMW Films was a very successful initiative that was poorly copied by other marketers with lackluster results. Today BMW is once again stepping into the ring with Activate the Future (http://www.bmwactivatethefuture.com) four short films about the future of mobility featuring innovators, futurists and visionaries. It’s a smart follow-up that highlights the brand and rewards viewers. I, for one, am excited.

In the commercial realm, Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” has over 30 Million views. By taking the over the top, tongue-in-cheek approach, with great casting and copywriting, agency Wieden & Kennedy thrust a 71 year old brand into the pop culture spotlight. And while it was part of a bigger campaign with integrated media, “ The Man Your Man” film came out on top.  “We're not saying this body wash will make your man smell into a romantic millionaire jet fighter pilot, but we are insinuating it.” Even the online description of the spot pokes fun at traditional, persuasive advertising. For its effort, W&K has been showered (pun intended) with awards, tons of earned media and Creativity’s Agency of the Year.

So the next time a client wants a viral hit, focus on a great idea. Think about what your friends share and why. Then consider how the idea connects to the brand. It isn’t effective advertising if a brand is tossed in as an afterthought. Don’t promise a million views. Instead love what you create enough that you want to share it. Then cross your fingers that the masses, and key tastemakers, do too.

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