I’m not sure what Glaceau was thinking when they produced this “want it to go viral” video. Actually, I think I do. Glaceau wanted to make a viral video, or a video that they thought would go viral on YouTube for their Smart Water product. Like so many advertisers out there they miss the fact that when you try to make something go viral, it never happens. The thing about viral video is that it happens organically.
There is nothing really wrong with the video itself. You have the very talented Jennifer Aniston delivering her lines with great comic timing. The production is really good, and the post work is outstanding. The problem is that the folks at Glaceau, don’t get that you can’t plan for something to go viral. This might actually work for them if they place it anywhere but on the internet, because it feels more like a traditional 30 second spot for TV, than a viral video produced for the web.
Now that you have watched the video, let me share some realities I have found out about the viral video experience.
First off, It’s harder to draw views via YouTube or Vimeo than via traditional TV. YouTube claims that for every minute in the day, there are over 35 hours of new videos uploaded to the site. Most people know YouTube or other video-sharing sites such as Vimeo as a popular video-sharing channel, but don’t realize just how competitive this media environment really is. If your video is only another TV commercial or a behind-the-scenes trailer, don’t expect it will become an online sensation overnight just because it is on YouTube. Web-audiences are more jaded than you think. As there are more and more marketers like you fighting for their attention on the Web, it will only get harder and harder to make them click a ‘like’ button, leave a comment, or share your video with friends. Being quirky is not good enough. A viral video that can draw immediate attention usually has a controversial or outrageous X-factor. But the problem is, can your brand afford to do so, and can you pull it off in a way that doesn’t seem fake or staged.
Second, Not all brands can afford to be outrageous. I want to get straight to this second point. A lot of marketers/advertisers understand that in order to create a lot of online buzz, you need to instill a “wow” factor in your video. But the reality is, if you are managing a brand that can’t afford to be too outrageous, and the approval process in your company is filled with a bureaucratic approval system; you shouldn’t bother requesting your ad agency to produce a viral video for you. Those kinds of hurdles mean your video is going to get finessed and worked over by a committee of people all trying to leave a mark on it. Once that happens, the magical power of it being viral will diminish. In most cases, it’s better to be extremely outrageous or extremely boring so that you are either loved or hated. The worst scenario is to be stuck in between and becoming forgettable.
Face it, you are not funny. “OMG…this video is so funny, let me share it with the world”. It might be true that funny gets more attention at times, but don’t think humor is the only way to grab attention in Web video. The good news is, if your brand doesn’t have the “funny” gene in its DNA, you shouldn’t push it. In fact, the reality is that not all Web videos are meant to be funny, quirky, or even outrageous. If you are marketing a high-involved product/service/category, you should be able to find numerous interesting angles to produce a video that sells your product in a believable and sincere way. The Bottom line is, “It’s not about what you want people to know, it’s about what people want to know”. You are better off doing some research to see what your target audiences are already discussing before producing the video that will be perceived as fake. Your video might not have the explosive effect like some viral video does, but if you can capture some angles to provide useful information that your target audiences want to learn about, producing a less entertaining video will still work. If the content is not time sensitive, your video might even have staying power that builds long-term brand equity.
Next, you don’t have all the time in the world. Don’t be fooled if someone tells you something like “It doesn’t really matter how long a Web video is. Air time on sites like YouTube is free anyway. We can make it as long as we want”. It is true that airtime on the internet is virtually free, but the attention you borrow from your audience is priceless. Without considering media cost and assuming you have a great spot to show, drawing audience attention for a three-minute clip can still be a challenge. In fact, most TV commercials are broken down into 15 or 30 seconds for a reason. It is based on the attention span of TV viewers during commercial breaks.This length is a tested and proven fact. Advertising agencies have more than 5 decades of data to back this up. I usually recommend clients to make the video short and concise, keeping it between 20 and 30 seconds or usually within one minute. The shorter it is, the more it will be viewed and shared.
Finally, you can’t stay anonymous. Many agencies might try to persuade you that only an un-branded viral video works, or you should wait and see the results first before deciding to claim credit for your video if nothing goes wrong. However, first you should never think you could really stay anonymous in today’s connected online world. There are thousands of people who will find ways to uncover your identity. You should always come up with an exit plan when and how to make the connection between your Web video and other marketing efforts. Traditional or online PR are a couple of options, and more and more a blended solution is your best bet. Either way a thorough plan for growth and the introduction of your brand is crucial. If your video is interesting enough, showing your brand in the video in the last second is even better. Small brand or big brand, don’t be a coward. Step forward and tell them “I have done it” if your video is good.
None of the above inconvenient truths shouldn’t stop you from producing your next big Web production – be it a viral video, Web video, or rich branded online entertainment. At the end of the day people are spending more time watching videos online, so there is a growing opportunity for marketers in this space. But there is an art and also a science to produce and distribute successful online video content.
Actually after writing this out, I think the embedded video above does a pretty good job as a web video. Who knows, since it stars Jennifer Aniston, it’ll probably go viral.