Viral Videos Series: Users Seeking Out Ads

by Tony Tie August 23rd, 2010 

The dominating goal for many online video strategies are to make the ads go viral. To make the ad compelling enough for viewers to want to share it with one another. The problem: marketers and agency creatives have yet to figure out a method that works well.

This post briefly examines the challenges online video marketers face.

Commercials are expensive

Typically a TV commercial will cost anywhere from 50-500k to produce. This excludes high-end brands such as Pepsi or Nike, whose budgets can range in the millions.

Quality videos are very expensive to produce. Companies are willing to spend that amount of money in order to maintain a polished imagine and high brand equity.

Because such TV commercials are shown in an exclusive and prestigious space that reaches many viewers, the price tag is justified.

The internet is a different story. Online video ads are not as frequent, they are skip-able, and are shorter (15 seconds or less).

Marketers no longer have the luxury of interrupting or giving a break to internet users as effectively as they did with TV viewers.

The same ads that use to reach millions through TV no longer effectively reach the same audience who have gone online. This causes many companies to question the videos ROI.

This is why viral marketing has become the dominating strategy for online video marketers: instead of bringing the ad content to users, users seek out the ad, blog about, and pass it around.

This brings up another concern: Content.

Different kind of audience

The mantra of the internet is that content is king. Viral video marketing is no exception to that rule.

Production value, lighting, great actors, and a good soundtrack means nothing if the video content is not compelling enough for someone to share it.

Audiences have lower expectations of production value on the internet than they do with media such as TV or movies.

Because of the expectation difference, all videos are fair game on the internet. A high end Kleenex ad has an equal chance of being passed around as a silly cat video. Unfortunately for marketers, the silly cat video are winning the viral race.


Kleenex Commercial


Silly Cat Video

Marketers and creatives are challenged to produce video ads that provide the same entertainment value as a silly cat video.

What typically would be perceived as an award winning commercial, often doesnt fair well online. Thus agencies must experiment and approach online video content differently.  High quality videos are costly and companies dont want to produce an amateur-like video because it may jeopardize their brand image and equity.

Where from here?

Some see this shift as a positive change, as an end to annoying ads and a rise to more entertainment-oriented videos.

Butthe ad industry is going through growing pains. Marketers and agencies continue to experiment on how they approach video advertising. And while costly, those willing to take risks will be better equipped to deal with evolving internet trends.

For next time: viral narrative techniques marketers and agencies have used so far.

Tony Tie

Tony Tie worked in the world of advertising and video production for a few years. He worked on many TV commercial campaigns before switching to the online industry. He currently works with many large international brands and agencies to strengthen their on-line presence. He is also the founder to THiNK Video - an explainer video company. Follow him on Twitter @tonytie

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4 Responses to “Viral Videos Series: Users Seeking Out Ads”

  1. Bob Nunn says:

    There's a lot to what you say Tony particularly around questioning production costs but a silly cat video that goes viral is one in a million at best and the chances that a client's video will go viral is about the same if you just try to 'take more risks' by out-entertaining a cat. Rather you have to look more closely at the role video is playing for you in your marketing mix. If it's to demonstrate your product you may not get a home run but if done well it will convert visitors to buyers and you'll get a nice-looking single.

    You may even get lucky and find 'organic entertainment' within the company like Blendtec did.

    I wrote a post about this on my personal blog about this a year ago called Why You're Not Susan Boyle if you want more examples: http://thebrandmechanic.com/2009/12/14/42/

    • Tony Tie says:

      Great points. I'd say 'viral campaigns' are distinctly different than other online videos. Viral videos don't usually speak to a particular product and its new features. This is because this may alienate the average viewer, thus decreasing the chances of the video going viral. As such virals speaks to brand as a whole – something broader than a specific product. However "other types" of online videos do have a purpose of converting viewers into buyers. They focus on informing the viewer about the features and benefits of a product to an audience who is ready to buy. Whereas a viral is to simply get the attention of the viewer (any viewer really), to simply build brand equity, not to promote a specific product.

  2. I agree with Bob, the chances of a video going viral are very slim. You need to approach things professionally for the simple reason that what the professionals do, works.
    .-= Andy @ FirstFound recently posted: One In 20 UK Workers In Trouble Over Email Misconduct =-.

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