Why Advertisers Should Fight To Go Viral on YouTube

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The Huffington Post just released a post questioning the point of advertisers deliberately attempting to make videos go viral. In the article titled, “Why Your Viral Video Strategy Is a Waste of Time,” contributor Seraj Bharwani posits:

“Going viral has everything to do with the rate of market adoption of a video, or a collection of videos, that are thematically related as part of a brand campaign. If you define virality as ten times acceleration in viewership between the first week and the fourth week of a campaign, then hardly six percent of all branded video campaigns ever achieve the “going viral” status in a given year. That’s not too surprising given the rising noise levels every year. Videos have to work a lot harder these days to rise above the noise than they did just a few years ago.”

The post comes as a part of Advertising Week, yet another promotional stunt dedicated to a self-indulgent glamour profession in the vein of Fashion Week. What Bharwani suggests is that YouTube is a waste of business’ time when it comes to creating a viral campaign because the ads — if they can break through the clutter of competition — are “one note” and “short lived” in the minds of consumers.

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But that is where Bharwani is wrong! If your ad is great — really great — it will live forever. Think that Apple ad from 1984 that mocked Big Brother. Or “Mean” Joe Greene sharing a kid’s Coke. Or … Got Milk?

YouTube isn’t as established as TV, so it’s only natural that it hasn’t built up the same legacy of advertising that sticks out in our collective. A few have come close though — check out this ad for TNT that dares someone to “press the button”:

Two years later and this video still has traction. Or how about this brand new video from KLM Airlines (damn, the Europeans get it right) showing a lost and found puppy that has over 10 million views:

Sure these are one-offs (probably — obviously the KLM one is too new to tell), but that just means that there is potential for an enduring campaign with the legs of a “Got Milk” on YouTube — advertisers just haven’t cracked the code yet.

Once they are more able to specialize advertising to unique creators (a focus of the latest YouTube branding initiative), then the campaign will come and brand loyalty will result.

On the other hand, it isn’t necessarily about building a whole series of branded ads — if you get it right, you just need one. Take it away, WestJet:

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