02 September, 2011

Advertising for free: the Top Ten Virtual Videos

Melbourne Herald Sun, Friday September 2, 2011.

In the advertising business the two most frequent sentences you hear are: “I need a big advertising campaign” followed by, “But we don’t have much money to spend”.

You try to explain that any advertising costs lots of money, but then the client wonders what’s your worth if you can’t fix a little matter like that.

Which is why I’m fascinated by viral advertising. After all if you hit the right buttons, you can win millions of viewers. They do much more than notice your commercial on TV - they have had it recommended, selected the web site, found the ad and then elected to watch it - usually a couple of minutes long.

A Boston company called Visible Data specialises in measuring and recording the top choices in video sites like Youtube and puts out regular hit parades. Now they have published the Top Ten Viral Videos of All Time, together with US trade publication Advertising Age.

So far there are only two ads which have achieved over 100,000,000 views. You have probably been sent the links by your friends already.

Blendtec makes a high powered kitchen blender which its inventor, Tom Dickson, demonstrates by blending - unusual things. These productions, cheaply filmed, are called Will It Blend and the objects have included mobile phones, Nike sneakers, broomsticks, SLR cameras - so far 107 videos with the latest featuring a Justin Bieber doll and CD.

Do they work? To date they have been viewed 170 million times and Dickson claimed: “Will it Blend has had an amazing impact to our commercial and our retail products.”

Another one you’ll have seen is the break-dancing babies spot by Evian Water. This was an expensive technical production with its mixture of live babies and digital animation, but the company has received 158 million free peeks.

I’ve already written about Old Spice and their handsome hunk who tells the ladies that while their partner may never look like him, he can smell like him. Now into its third campaign, the ads have generated over 180 million views, not counting the free air time they received on news shows. All three campaigns made the top 10.

Other top views are VW Passat’s The Force at 60,000,000; DC Shoes with nine minutes of manic driving by Ken Block, watched by 60 million petrolheads.

The incredible motion-sensing powers of the Xbox 360 have fascinated 54 million viewers, while a Doritos commercial set in a church funeral was actually made by the Mosaic Church of Los Angeles and scored 47 million.

You can also spend a squillion on your commercial, like the 2004 Pepsi Gladiators - We Will Rock You which starred Britney Spears, Pink, and Beyonce Knowles as the warrior amazons and Enrique Iglesias as the Roman emperor.

That would have had the budget of a small movie, complete with a Colosseum stage set and very skimpy armour for the girls. Seven years later it’s still on the web, having clocked up 53 million hits.

The point is that it’s not the amount of money you spend on the commercial - it’s the cleverness of the idea behind it. What these winners have is wit, originality and charm. So a tabletop with the client using his food processor can be more watchable than a team of magastars on a million-dollar set.

Australians haven’t been left behind in all this. While we currently don’t have the huge successes generated by CUB’s Big Ad five years ago, there is still some local content.

An “investigation” made by two guys and a cameraman, showed how easy it is to get into Sydney clubs, for free, if you look like a DJ. It’s three minutes long and the sponsor Sprite only gets a look-in at the opening and closing titles. But it did clock up a million.


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