What goes around, comes around

Nick Wright
25 Apr 2007

So you want to make a viral video. You've heard the stories about YouTube and the analysts have convinced you that online video is going to be big this year. Just upload your funniest ad and wait for the views to rack up - is there any better way to get eyeballs‾

Except maybe it's not about eyeballs at all. Putting your ad message around popular content in the hope that some of the glory of the entertainment might rub off has been a time-honored tradition for the last 50 years. But what if your ad was the desired content itself‾ What if instead of being static "eyeballs", these viewers had to actively participate in your campaign for it to become viral‾ You are asking your consumers to co-opt your marketing and increase its effectiveness in the process.

Around 76 percent of consumers cite word-of-mouth as the most influential source for making purchasing decisions (online or off), according to Mediaedge:cia. Only 15 percent however, purchase based on advertising. The value of viral advertising is maximization - not the number of your customers - but the impact of your message. It's about increasing consumer loyalty and improving brand perception. With video, users want to feel in control of the message, so you have to let them play around with it, embed it in their blogs and maybe even create their own spoofs.

This is about opening up your brand to consumers; admitting that they may be better at recommending your brand than your ad agency is. It's your viewers - not you - who are telling others about your product. Help them do so by any means possible.

It will be interesting to see if mobile boosts viral video's marketing potential. Currently, the costs and manner of sharing videos are holding back the potential of mobiles to act as the ideal viral video platform. Mobile video sharing should happen at twice the speed and be far more effective. But for now, viewers are happier watching videos on their PC where they can do whatever they want for free.

Nick Wright is a freelance digital media consultant

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