John Hegarty weighs in on virals.

John Hegarty speaks about viral ads in the Guardian.
The trouble with viral campaigns
- the net is a bordless world, but people live in countries. What is in danger of being lost in the viral world is the value of context.

Yet this is what the viral world is in danger of missing. Will we have to develop a different set of communication skills to cope with a lack of context? Almost certainly. If, however, as a medium it just relies on shock to get its "click through", we soon find, as that poor cat did, that it will fall out of sympathy. Brand building is not just about recognition and notoriety, it is about building empathy and respect. I'm not sure you can just shock somebody into that point of view.

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caffeinegoddess's picture

Definitely poorly planned and conceived viral marketing is in danger of missing out on contxt. But, good viral marketing doesn't miss it- it embraces it and uses it to its advantage. Of course, there is a mix of shock in even the best viral marketing, because you need to give the viewer a reason to want to watch/play/read it. There has to be a reason for them to want to participate. And if that requires shock, it's not a bad thing. But it must be more than that.

The Ford Ka cat ad which he mentions in the beginning was a poor concept- even if some ad agency came up with it- the fact that Ford marketing folk or the agency would have let it through the channels shows a misunderstanding of how to do viral campaigns. What does an evil automobile do for the brand? How does it connect to a consumer? Why the hell would it make you choose that car over another? Sure, it could be funny to some. But just being funny for the sake of being funny- that's just bad advertising/marketing. And that's something that we sometimes forget it seems.

Subservient Chicken by CP+B and the Barbarian Group was funny- but it played of a key brand element for Burger King- have it your way. The humor was tied into the branding statement...and actually falls out of the branding statement/tagline. Which makes it work for the brand, connect to the consumer, and gives a reason for choosing BK over other fast food establishments. And, that is the reason why it got so much high praise from the ad community- at least those who understand how advertising and marketing really works.

CopyWhore's picture

Do we really need another viral campaign? Especially now since CP+B and W+K have knocked it out of the park with Subservient Chicken and Beta 7, respectively?

Back in the day when Fallon did the BMW films, everyone wanted to do web films. And no matter what the brief was, everyone was looking for reasons to do web films. BMW pulled it off beautifully, mainly because they created great short films. The art of it all had little to do with the internet and everything to do with great direction, casting, and storytelling -- it just used the internet has as a distribution system, instead of playing the films in cinemas or on tv. (I tend to think it was unfair they dominated all the awards shows in the internet categories...since the films had nothing to do with the internet, other than that you could download them from there.)

In any case, it seems the same is now happening with viral campaigns that involve blogs and stand alone websites.

Everyone wants to do the next Beta 7 or Subservient Chicken.

Just stop. Why copy these guys? Come up with an interesting idea, and then try to apply it to as many media as possible. If it lends itself to blogs and websites and any other 'touch points', fine.

But there's nothing more irritating than the 'latest craze.' And, really, there's no idea inherent in viral. Viral is just a distribution system for an idea.

kamari's picture

While I agree with your conclusion I think you have a very narrow defintion of viral. Perhaps not, but it's sounds like it in this comment.