Sneezing at viral: Strong opinions from an odd quarter

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Watch out for droppings etc

Viral campaigns are a mysterious thing. A lot of brands think they need to ‘do’ viral and then task an above the line agency to come up with something to put across the web they can show to their mates. Like the infamous Halifax version of the classic B&Q ‘shop gimp theatre’ adverts with the recently retired Howard, they have as much power to annoy as sell. Howard and Co filled me with suicidal despair, but they sure were effective by every measure.

PC World’s Dan Tynan is certainly upset with some recent efforts. Now this is a tech publication, not a marcomms rag so his critique is very much a personal, audience based one. His ‘rules’ about not ‘faking it’ and ‘pretending to be cool’ when you are not are partly sound, but miss much of the point. A lot of the big brand lameness he alleges makes the mistake of using a TV ad type format in a more interactive medium, or at least seem awkward to those in the know. Some overuse problematic, spammy email mechanics.

However, it is worth noting that his definition of the lame is not based on any kind of ROI analysis. Some of the targets are easy, ironically challenged American ones. In fact, one could argue that his slating just will get them more hits.

The truth is, a lot of big brand virals have a lot of help in spreading, as the famously controversial (and essential) TechCrunch expose by Dan Ackerman Greenberg revealed. With so much content going up on the web each day, it would be amazing if this was not the case.

In my view the only point Dan misses is that not every viral campaign needs big, City bonus-esque numbers to be a success. For example, if you are working with a professional camera firm there are only a few thousand buyers in each market – reaching 200k views on YouTube would be an expensive and diffuse goal. I can think of many circumstances where a successful viral efforts (which need not be expensive) would have an audience of hundreds. In fact, if the concept is to have any use outside of big, global campaigns and as a word to beguile clients with, marketers will have to start thinking small.

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