“Let’s Go Viral, Please!”

“The film needs to be really successful.” When I hear this sentence from customers, I generally know what many of them have in mind: a viral Internet sensation. Spots that are clicked as much as possible, “liked” and shared, and that seem to spread by themselves on the Web. The nature of the film and the content that needs to be conveyed are often secondary in such a briefing. Usually that means that we’ve got to go right back to the beginning again and discuss the message of the film. Viral spots are not suitable for every topic and not for every client. This is the case when there are quite a few topics or when these are simply too complex. An explanatory video or editorial video usually couldn’t be further away from a viral, but it might still be the most appropriate way to transport the content.

“Like” Does Not Automatically Mean “Recommend Product”
The conversation turns to “Likes’’ as well as how to control and measure success. As an example, I often say that if I pass a funny commercial on to a girlfriend, it does not mean that I automatically recommend the advertised product. The impact of a video on sales does not depend on the “likes” or clicks, but solely on its classic advertising effect: Does the film create the feeling that you’re in need and that only the advertised product can satisfy this need? There’s also the comments that accompany a video on its journey through the Web which are completely out of the author’s control. And these can be both positive as well as negative. They even can distract the recipient from the advertising message completely. To actually measure the success of a viral video can therefore be immensely difficult.

Viral Spots and their Distribution Cost Money as well
Viral messages are scattered precisely to reach a critical mass as quickly as possible. And eventually they just spread by themselves – that’s the hope. This so called “seeding” is meticulously planned by specialized agencies and paid for by companies. And yet the distribution always comes with a small risk, as unlike an ad campaign, it cannot be controlled 100 percent. But I’ve also got to admit that there is the chance that a video that has never been produced for the Web, and has never been part of a viral marketing campaign, is turned into a viral spot by the users (keyword: “user generated content”).

Well Briefed is Half the Job Done
In the end, we usually come to the conclusion that the discussion about target audiences, content and conveyed messages should lead to the format – not the other way around. We get rid of the term “viral” as the goal of the briefing list and state: A high quality video, which appeals to the emotions of the people, always has the potential to turn into a viral spot. And it has the potential to embed messages in people’s minds for a long time to come – when short-term viral campaigns might long have finished.