Viral viagra

Viral marketing is fast becoming the preferred method for advertisers to get their brands into the public consciousness and keep them there, but the formula for web-based success remains elusive.

A viral marketing campaign starring Kylie Minogue was named as one of the best ads of its kind this week by online content distributor GoViral, after generating more than 350 million hits on YouTube. The ad, titled Proof, was created in 2001. Its life span, however, seems never ending. Is it the brand itself – British underwear maker Agent Provocateur – the celebrity power of Kylie Minogue, or something else entirely that has ensured this kind of marketing success?

It’s no secret that the advertising and marketing industry has been one of the worst hit in the global financial crisis. But, if reports ring true, the recession is over. Ad spend is recovering, and in Australia the news is especially positive, with figures cited in the Financial Review this week that the sector will grow by 2 per cent in 2010. The question now, though, is what makes a valuable investment in a sector that has no guarantees?

In 2005, beer brand Carlton Draught released its Big Ad, created by George Patterson and Partners of Melbourne. The campaign was released on the internet two weeks prior to being shown on television and, just 24 hours after its online launch, the ad had been downloaded 162,000 times. Two weeks later it had been seen by over one million viewers in 132 countries.

The company, Fosters, decided to use a viral campaign over television because they felt it would be a better way to get their message across to an increasingly fragmented audience that is getting tired of being bombarded with information from all angles via traditional media. Viral campaigns allow the viewer to personally engage with the brand how they want, when they want and where they want.

YouTube has certainly played a major role in boosting the use of virals in marketing strategies. Smartphones such as Apple’s iPhone have added to the success, as has the rapid uptake of the mobile internet. The way we consumer media, and that’s advertising too, has evolved.

A viral isn’t a sure path to success though. It’s an effect and needs to spread freely and energetically among an audience and not be forced upon them – which is, in essence, the utopia that marketers seek.

A traditional television ad will be about getting a brand air time during a particular show when a particular demographic and audience is watching. A viral, on the other hand, is intended for entertainment at anytime for any audience.

But while there is no research to prove why consumers engage with the brands they do, not every company can create a successful viral campaign and if an advertiser gets it wrong, it can be very embarrassing.

Toyota has recently had to defend a viral attempt whereby it launched a campaign that allowed friends to scare their friends, by convincing them they were being stalked. The YourOtherYou campaign has come under heavy fire in the press, the most asked question being: 'what does this have to do with Toyota?' Consumers failed to see a connection, furthermore, there was nothing genuine about it, therefore nothing in it for any party involved.

But a viral campaign doesn’t necessarily have to have anything to do with the actual brand. It must, however, convey a brand message. Take, for example Cadbury’s Gorilla viral, with the tagline "A glass and a half of full joy". Viewers didn’t know what brand was being advertised until the very end. Some consumers still don’t know what it has to do with chocolate, but that didn't stop the campaign from winning the prestigious film grand prix award at the 2008 Cannes International Advertising Festival.

Not to mention that the drum-bashing gorilla playing Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight also managed to lift Cadbury’s profits by more than 5 per cent in just six months.

What ensured the success of Cadbury’s Gorilla was not just willingness of consumers to share things that tickle their fancy in a Web 2.0 world, but their ability to do so easily. The industry has been talking about 'Web 2.0' for years, but virals certainly know how to harness it better than most, enticing consumer to share via social networks, online forums, blogs, YouTube, link sharing, trackbacks and recommendations. Consumers do this willingly, unconditionally and without being asked what they actually think about the product being spruiked.

One of the very first brands to experience success with virals in the world of Web 2.0 was little known kitchen blender brand Blendtec.

Three years ago, Blendtec was a little known name. The company didn’t even have a marketing department, let alone a strategy. But it did have some little boys with big powerful toys and somehow that resonated with more than 35 million people, turning the company into a $US100 million global business.

The Will it Blend campaign was, actually, an accident. Gimmicks work on the chance of being different, of being memorable. In a world where advertising desperately needs the attention of potential consumers, that’s where true value lies.

Viral marketing aims to find simple ways to get – and not simply sustain – the attention of potential buyers while making them want to chat about a brand.

A viral spread is a random and unpredictable thing which can happen immediately, or take years to get going. We don’t know what makes these campaigns so successful (and we suspect it’s Kylie’s, er, assets that made Proof so popular) but it is very likely that this is the future of advertising, as more emphasis is put on digital and the sharing of content.

Marketers can’t just rest on their brand laurels anymore – it is value and experience that consumers are looking for. If you can make a consumer laugh at your work then that’s good. If you can get them to laugh so hard they tell their friends about it, then these campaigns have the potential to live forever.