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What Is Viral?

by Briana Campbell (@MsMatchGirl) I was reading Ad Age this morning and came across the article Why It’s Time to Rethink Viral Marketing by Craig Daitch. Mr Daitch makes some interesting points about viral marketing, tracing its digital routes back to 2004’s Subservient Chicken (conceived by some old friends of mine over at Barbarian Group) Read more

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by Briana Campbell (@MsMatchGirl)

I was reading Ad Age this morning and came across the article Why It’s Time to Rethink Viral Marketing by Craig Daitch. Mr Daitch makes some interesting points about viral marketing, tracing its digital routes back to 2004’s Subservient Chicken (conceived by some old friends of mine over at Barbarian Group) – when going viral meant that people had to go through the process of composing an email, or, at the very least, pasting and copying a link into AIM or onto their MySpace profile – through today’s Old Spice Man. He talks a lot about SEO and makes the point that it is better for marketers to think about “embracing sustainability when it comes to your viral campaigns.” While, I agree with many of his points, it was the comments field that really got me thinking.

This one specifically:

By Jeffrey | Mahopac, NY December 20, 2010 03:56:15 pm:

Totally agree. The really insight is that the internet has actually made, in some ways, our collective memory more powerful, not shorter. The nonsense insight passed around many agencies is that the net is this fast paced medium with a short attention span. The truth is that time moves slower on the that. The foot-print, for example, of a great 60 second spot can live on as long as interest remains(far long than its TV run. The net is a medium that the user has an unprecedented control over, and it can actually make memory last longer!

With companies slowly getting the hang of digital and social media marketing, it’s important to remember that return on investment is not instantaneous. It’s not magic. A million hits in just a few days is not the norm. A strong campaign will engage those you are trying to reach now – and for a long time to come.

Several months ago, Pixar ran a great viral campaign promoting Toy Story 3.  The brilliance of the campaign was that no one knew that it was happening until it had been under way for several weeks. They quietly created a YouTube channel filled with classic toy commercials from the 1980s. Watching it, I saw lots of toys I owned, lots I wanted and several commercials I remembered seeing as I ate my Kix while watching Superfriends on Saturday mornings.  To date the channel has more than a million hits. The beauty lies in the fact that among all the videos for classic games, toys and cereals (that the parents of the kids who will be begging to see Toy Story 3 grew up on) was one little made up commercial for a character being introduced into the film. If you watch the commercial, you’ll swear you or a friend had one as a child.

This is a long-term campaign, though.  A million hits. Since April. Is it going to catch up or surpass Subservient Chicken (at 450 million hits in 6 plus years)? Who knows. The campaign is perfectly branded within the story and legacy of the Toy Story movies. Will Toy Story 3 be out of theaters sooner than later? Of course. But the little faux-commercial, nestled with all those true gems of a 1980s childhood will live on the internet, sparking thoughts of DVD rentals and digital downloads for years upon years to come.

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