I spent a greatly amused hour watching Mashable’s “Top 10 Most Innovative Viral Video Ads of 2009” today. The list includes slick agency produced ads, amateur films, bloopers, spoofs, a protest video and a wonderfully botched Windows 7 video from Microsoft. My favourites are the BooneOakley ad and Dave Carroll’s musical demolition of United Airlines, who callously broke his guitar (allegedly), but I also like the fact that the dancing baby’s dad is using the huge popularity of his video to raise donations for his college fund. Smart fella.
As Mashable point out, the obvious lesson is to know your target audience and produce something they will like. Samsung’s Trick Challenge, for example, appealed directly to the early adopter geek market they were targeting. It’s also interesting to note that some of these videos, such as the BooneOakley one, which includes the bloody murder of Billy the cartoon Marketing Director, would never be allowed on TV. Since viewing the video requires the user to play and watch it on YouTube, it’s permitted online. This gives online videos far greater scope for creativity than TV ads, which remain highly regulated – and creative companies really should take advantage of this opportunity.
There’s also a valuable lesson in knowing that it really doesn’t matter what you publish, so long as it’s in some way remarkable. What does turning a flight of stairs into a piano have to do with Volkswagon cars? Nothing, except that 9 million people now associate that brand with something fun and inspiring.
This highlights something I often mention in marketing seminars: it doesn’t matter what you publish, it’s how people feel about it that matters. The content either needs to be useful, interesting or fun – but any of these will do. Obviously, if you can tick one of these boxes and relate it to your business, then that’s even better, but it’s of secondary importance. If only Microsoft had stopped to consider that point before publishing their horror flick.