Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Big is beautiful when it comes to viral media too
Last week I published a post
titled "Big is Beautiful for Social Media." What I did not say in that post was that the same principle - the advantage of being big - applies to viral video as well. If you want to hit critical mass with a video (generally considered to be 1 million views or more) you need both great creative and wide dissemination.
I also posted on this topic back in 2007 (click here
to read), but since then we have uncovered a lot more evidence that mass marketing is necessary for viral success.
In a paper titled "Viral Marketing for the Real World
," written by Duncan Watts in conjunction with Jonah Peretti and Michael Frumin, Watts finds that both the propagation rate (the degree to which people are willing to pass an ad on to others) and the scale of initial seeding determine the size of the viral audience.
In Millward Brown terms, the propagation rate represents the creative power of the ad, that is, how engaging people find it and how willing they are to pass it on. And it turns out that the viral power of an ad is eminently predictable.
Millward Brown recently completed a study to assess the creative attributes that drive online viral viewing of TV advertising. The analysis is based on 102 video ads from the U.K. and the U.S. that were shown both on TV and online. The results, which we will be previewing at MAP2010 and eventually hope to publish in the International Journal of Advertising
, demonstrate that the same advertising pre-test measures that predict an ad's ability to generate offline TV advertising awareness (enjoyment, involvement, and branding) can also be used, with modifications, to predict its ability to generate viral viewings. Until the paper is accepted to be published, I can share only this topline observation: Using existing measures from the Link pretest, we can explain well over half the variation we see in viral performance on YouTube. The analysis also confirms the hypothesis that viral ads should have LEGS (that is, be L
augh out loud funny, E
ripping or S
exy). Ads that have these properties tend to perform better than the general relationship would predict. (Click here
for more on this topic.)
However, this finding should also be kept in context. Many other factors can influence a campaign‘s success at "going viral," not the least of which is how well the viral campaign is supported by other media.
Some campaigns may be supported by paid media. The video ad itself may have appeared on TV, in cinemas, or in paid online video slots. Of the UK's Campaign's
"Top 10 Virals of the Decade
," several are TV ads: John West Salmon "Bear," Honda "Cog" and Budweiser "Whassup."
One other ad in the Top 10, Dove "Evolution," relied not on TV but PR for its success. As reported by Jack Neff in AdAge
(Chicago: Oct 30, 2006. Vol. 77, Iss. 44; pg. 1, 2 pgs), Unilever credits the success to a major PR blitz from Edelman New York. This helps explain the vast difference in views between "Evolution" and the follow-up ad titled "Daughters." The former received over 10 million views and the latter only 500,000. The difference was not due to the response to the creative. When tested, people were equally likely to say that they would pass the ad on to others (34% for "Evolution" and 39% for "Daughters"). What was different was how many people were exposed to the two campaigns by PR and news coverage.
My overall conclusion is that in the burgeoning world of social media, there is no free lunch for marketers. Word of mouth applies to both mass media campaigns and viral campaigns, though a key difference exists: When viewers can share links to ads, they can ensure that their friends have the opportunity to see the ad they are talking about rather than leave it to chance.
So what do you think? What exceptions are there to this finding?
This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 03, 2010
and is filed under Creative, Media.
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