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Of Agencies, Old Spice & Expectations

In Trends on August 5, 2010 at 1:09 am

A client recently asked us to “create something really viral.” We declined. If there was a formula for creating viral video, we would certainly offer it to our clients. There isn’t. Ask Nationwide Insurance or Jack In the Box or any of a hundred other companies who have made obvious attempts to create the next viral video. You can’t orchestrate viral.

Neither should you judge content by the extent to which it “goes viral”. A marketing colleague was reviewing TV spots with me last month and disagreed that this year’s version of a certain campaign was better than last year’s. He said, “Creatively, you’re right. But the number of copycat videos on YouTube from last year’s version is staggering. Very viral.” I hope YouTube spoofs have not become the measure of an ad campaign.

But if there ever was a best practice for creating viral buzz, Portland-based Wieden + Kennedy found it with the Old Spice Guy web video campaign. That project, which included dozens of creatives hunkered down in a studio round the clock producing and posting videos at the rate of one every seven minutes, has become the touchstone of successful social media campaigns. To read all the behind-the-scenes details about how they pulled it off, go here.

The other brilliant element to that campaign was its price tag. While it certainly cost a bundle to set up the video-making “war room”, hire the right talent, etc. those costs are minuscule compared to national TV campaigns, pro sports sponsorships, and other avenues traditionally used to peddle mens’ hygiene products. And that from a company who has plenty to spend. Proctor & Gamble consistently competes with General Motors for the largest ad budget in the nation.

While REACH (or your current ad agency) probably won’t have the desire or the resources to illuminate the next Old Spice Guy, there is something about those viral videos that REACH can offer – value. Videos (or images or forwarded emails or any other content) that go viral do so because they have some intrinsic value – something about them that is beautiful or funny or poignant. Agencies love to create that stuff. We dream of clients who will ask us to “create something really beautiful”. A lot of times the company brand or message gets in the way, but occasionally we get to work on a project that carries the marketing message AND some intrinsic value. Those are the sweet spots. That’s what we love to do, whether it goes viral or not.

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