How we’re going to kill the viral video

First off, I need to get this off my chest. Stop saying “We’re going to make a viral video.” I hear creatives, students and clients say that all the time. You create an Internet video. If you do it right, and if you’re lucky, and if you seed it and do all the legwork, it might go viral. But don’t say you’re going to create a viral video. It’s like saying “We’re going to create a word-of-mouth phenomenon.”

We’re in an interesting time right now, because with the economic crunch and the shifting media landscape, clients are more and more willing to take chances with Internet videos (partly because it’s not that much of a financial risk–it’s really cheap). And they’re also willing to put material on the Internet that they wouldn’t be willing to run on TV. Stuff that’s edgier. This is probably due to the antiquated belief that the Internet audience is a completely separate animal, younger and edgier. But I think we’ll see that distinction disappear soon. If it’s not fit for a brand to air on TV, why would they air it online? They’re not a different brand with a different voice just because they’re online.

Which brings me to my main point. Every brand, regardless of whether they’re connecting with customers online or on TV, is trying to sell something, yes, but also trying to build relationships. Which is why it baffles me to see the number of “fake stunt” videos that marketers are doing and students are proposing in their books. It’s one thing to create cool content, whether it’s blantantly branded or not at all. Levi’s created this cool “Backflip Into Jeans” video.

No harm there. Do we need to know it’s from Levi’s? It’s a cool video either way. But then there are the popcorn + cell phone videos.

These were created by a bluetooth headset company to take advantage of the buzz in the media about the possible link between cancer and cellphone use. It’s a completely rigged stunt used to drum up fear. Or, as they used to say, it’s a lie. We’re going to get customers by lying to people. Brilliant. Here’s a more in-depth story at

The worst part of it all is that the company’s website got tons of hits and their sales went up (I’m not mentioning the company name because the last thing they deserve is more press). For students, there are two things to take away from this. The first is that this kind of stuff has been done before. The Blair Witch Project and Sega’s Beta-7 campaigns pioneered the fake background story years ago. Done=bad for book. But secondly, it’s crappy marketing. Not because it’s immoral (which should be reason enough), but because you’re duping customers. I didn’t know that headset company before the hype around these videos. Now I know them and I hate them. I can’t think of a worse way to start a relationship (well, maybe killing customers, but the cigarette companies already did that, so don’t put that idea in your book either).

3 thoughts on “How we’re going to kill the viral video

  1. I totally agree with you on the “we’re going to make a viral video” phrase. It’s probably one of the hardest things to do – creatively and execution-wise. It’s almost as if people think that putting up a video online = viral video, but we know that’s not the case. There is a lot involved, including luck. However, saying that we’re going to kill viral video may be a stretch. There are thousands of successful viral videos out there that do nothing less than entice the world to share it with friends and promote a brand whether it’s a farce or not. In fact, I think that’s one technique to make a video go viral – Arousing curiosity or interest. Frankly, I don’t know one person that actually believes that cell-phones can pop popcorn or that went to buy an headset bc of this video. I guess it’d be too much to assume that there aren’t people out there that believe this true. But regardless, it’s still a good idea to get an earpiece when it comes down to it- whether its road safety or brain cancer you fear. In regards to this popcorn video – i think fear should be ruled out of their campaign. I believe what makes people “pass it on”, especially in the cell phone video, is the creativity and the “how did they do that” factor – not fear


  2. Ok, so since there’s no place to put general Q’s/comments this will have to do. Was there a post on here at some point with advice on interviewing and good questions to ask during interviews? I vaguely remember a post but it may have been one of the many other adblogs….If there was no such post it would be great to hear what you guys think about how to kill in an interview.Here’s a short list of Q’s I’ve got so far…-What’s the creative dept like, working with partners or mix and match?-How often do you do new bus. pitches/what accounts do you go for?-Where do you see this agency in 5-10 years?-What’s it like working here(best asked to juniors)-What’s the best and worst work that’s come out of here in the last year?Thanks for the help, sorry for the lengthy post.


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