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Drama: The Miracle Grow of Viral Advertising

Mar 18, 2017
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Getting Viral advertising right is incredibly challenging. Most attempts either fall into the Too Cheesy to Succeed category (i.e. billboards designed to increase train fatalities, as reported on by Unbounce), or the Too Awesome to Miss category (i.e. Matt Lauer and Ellen DeGeneres pranking each other). But, the risk of creating something cheesy is worth the risk; a viral ad can reach millions of viewers and extend the reach of your marketing budget far beyond a simple pay-per-click (PPC) campaign.

The Ongoing Conflict Model

A little conflict goes the distance in a viral marketing campaign. To this day, YouTube is full of Mac vs. PC ads with the two lovable characters playing out skits in front of the camera; highlighting PC’s shortfalls and Mac’s simple, yet powerful focus on providing easy access to the things that average users need most in a personal computer. It’s quirky, funny and never shies away from launching shells across the bow of Microsoft.

For more than 4 years, television sets across the world displayed these ads during commercial breaks. They were adored because the message wasn’t that PC users were stupid; instead it focused on the Achilles’ heel of the Windows ecosystem: viruses, lack of support for new hardware, clunky interfaces and shortfalls in the default programs included with the operating system.

Focus on long-term, serial ads that have the potential to go viral. Develop a bond with the viewers and treat their attention as if you’re competing for a spot on a network television station’s primetime lineup. To successfully create a viral ad series, you need to do the following:

  1. A simple formula that ties your advertisements together. Think about State Farm’s “Hall of Claims” commercials that highlight the craziest insurance claims they’ve had to approve.
  2. If you’re selling a product, find an incredible way to use your product while showcasing its capabilities. BlendTec figured this out with their “Will It Blend” series on YouTube.
  3. Keep it short and simple. Longer advertisements lose audience attention as they require more of an investment from the viewer. A memorable, immediate return on a viewer’s investment of time is key.
  4. Convey a powerful message. WestJet knocked this out of the part with a holiday ad-campaign centered around making their passenger’s dreams come true.
  5. Include a memorable tagline or phrase. Folger’s “The best part of waking up, is Folger’s in your cup!” is a great example. Come on, you know you heard the jingle in your head as you read it.

Skit First, Not the Brand

You can achieve the five objectives above and still miss the boat on creating an ad-campaign that performs well. If you jam branding and company message down the throats of a viewer, more than likely that viewer is going to switch the channel, click on another video or decide against sharing your video on

their social media channels. Place your primary focus on entertainment by being subtler in the first half of your ad. Instead of plastering a logo all over your ad, place things that make your skit unique to your brand; mention the ad in the last few seconds of your viral ad, only after the viewer has laughed or felt entertained.

Here are a couple examples:

  • Deluth Trading TV Ads: Unique voice; sketch art in grey tones; visually horrifying images of the problems they solve all create a brand voice that is immediately recognizable at the outset of every ad. They only mention their brand in the last few seconds, along with a call-to-action.
  • Geico’s Gecko: From the moment the ad starts the Gecko, uniquely engrained in the consciousness of viewers as a spokesperson for Geico, recalls the insurance company into the viewer’s consciousness. The primary focus is a visually clever and engaging skit, centered around the Gecko’s relatively small stature compared to the world around him. In the process, insurance is discussed, but again the company logo only comes out at the end of the commercial; after the viewer’s attention has been captured and they’ve been gently eased into thinking about Geico.

Include Messaging and Context That’s Relevant to the Target Audience

Target Audience

Beyond the importance of using a spokesperson or character to unify your advertising together and remind the viewer of your brand without hitting them in the face with it, it’s important that the skit centers around a core message, or a contextual situation that’s hyper-relevant to your target audience. A local company, or a national brand focusing on market-share in a specific market would be wise to include major landmarks from the community where their clients live.

This reminds viewers of the ad that the company they’re being pitched understands and values the same things they do. If you can create an ad that has well-balanced conflict, without being cheesy, you’ll find that the viral potential of an ad is greatly improved. For newer brands and ad-managers, it will likely be a process of trial and error. But, hopefully this article gets you pointed in the right direction!

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