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That’s Just Awful

We see lots of great advertisements and fabulous promotions on social media everyday. There seems to be an endless amount of creativity when it comes to getting a brand message across. It seems impossible to believe that these marketing wizards of language and image could possibly ever have an off day and create messages that are, how should I say it? Well I guess is the best way to describe them is awful (sometimes just dumb), but watch out they appear more often than you think.

Take for example this holiday advertisement from the North Carolina Education Lottery. The ad features a mythical creature( gift horse) that appears and helps you decide if a gift is good or bad. In the ad a couple argues over whether an ant farm will be a good gift for grandma. The man who believes it is an excellent gift turns to the gift horse to make a decision. A slight nicker from the horse shows a disapproval for the gift and then the ad suggests a lottery ticket is always a good gift.  I get that horses are popular in North Carolina but from horse to selling lottery tickets? While I am sure there will be a few who find some kind of humor in this ( maybe because the gift in question is as ridiculous as the ad or possibly from thinking about how many times the set had to be cleaned up) but  I am not sure how this concept actually made it to a finished commercial.


What Makes Viral

In my last few blogs I spoke about a couple of very successful viral videos, but that led me to wonder what was their secret for success. A recent Forbes article believes the answer may in new research conducted by Thales S. Teixeira, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School. Teixeira posits that because we now have all the information for new products available to us online, consumers no longer want a lot of information in ads. To improve the chance of creating viral videos companies must prioritize entertainment over facts and figures. The goal is not only to get people to watch the video but to want to seek out the videos and share them. Advertisers who get consumers to disseminate videos which cause them to go viral is one of several  cost-saving techniques Teixeira terms as “lean advertising”.

However, creating viral videos takes more than just entertaining consumers. According to Teixeira, going viral takes 4 steps. The steps are attracting viewers’ attention, retaining that attention, getting viewers to share the ad with others, and persuading viewers. His research data showed that the most affective way to get consumers attention was the element of surprise and the best way to retain it was evoking continuous moments of joy so the ads that captured the most attention were those that surprised the viewer and then went on to make them smile. And while emotion was the best way to get attention for the ad, egocentricity (the desire to derive personal gain from sharing)  drove  consumers to share the video. In other words advertisers should create videos that make the product and the consumer look good. Teixeira refers to the relationship of mutual benefit as “advertising symbiosis.

When it comes to persuasion in successful viral videos most companies face the challenge of entertaining without losing a connection with the brand. Teixeira’s research shows  “brand pulsing”, a technique that shows the brand repeatedly but not too intrusively throughout the video, solves the problem. The company Blendtec that I discussed in a previous blog Viral Blending Video is an exception because the product is a blender and in these viral videos they blend things in the actual product. One of the most important aspects of this article is the importance of emotion conveyed in the the quote below.

“When entertainment creates an emotional connection, it leaves a lasting effect on our minds,” Teixeira says. “Psychologists have shown that emotions are memory markers, and if you feel very strongly about something during the day, your brain will more likely retain the information related to that emotion longer.”

So marketers should remember if they create a strong enough emotion, the video and the brand may remain in the minds of the consumer.


More Viral

You Tube has given advertisers a channel to entertain consumers and the ability to benefit from the tremendous reach of social media. Evian took advantage of this channel in 2009 with it “Roller Babies Video, which went viral and according to the Guinness Book of World Records is the most viewed online ad with almost 250 million views. The video features babies doing skating stunts to hip-hop music in a city park. The company followed up this year with its “Live Young” campaign with a new video that features grown-ups in a dance off with infant versions of themselves via a reflection in a mirror. By April the new ad had racked up over 13 million views. The viral success of these videos is a departure from the other examples in that it did not translate to sales success. A recent article in Business Insider reported that when the video was released the company sales declined and in the year the video went viral with 50 million views the brand lost market share and sales declined by 25%. This is a good reminder that there is more at work here than just entertaining your audience.




Viral Blending Video

In my last blog I talked about a viral ad that promoted a product for a socially awkward subject known as Poo-Pourri, but not all of the top viral ads have to do with embarrassing products. Take blender company Blendtec’s YouTube web series Will it Blend?, for example. The ads began in 2006 and featured the then CEO Tom Dickson as he attempted to blend various items in order to showcase the power of the blender. The series became increasingly popular as they had i-Phone blends, holiday blends, and even a farewell to Tom Dickson as CEO Blendtec blend. By February of 2013 the show had accumulated over 217 million views and brought in 536 thousand subscribers. One of the more popular episodes is the co-chicken, which you can see below. In this episode Tom blends coke with a bone-in rotisserie chicken. The impact of these videos going viral is impressive. A 2007 Mashable article claimed Blendtec had increased it sales over five times into the millions and gained a priceless amount of brand recognition. Although the the star of the videos Tom Dickson has stepped down as CEO, the videos have continued. The success of this series really highlights the power of social media to ignite your brand.

Nothing Discreet Here

I got a good laugh the other day when I was sitting in my marketing communications class and the instructor was looking for a specific television ad and ran smack into a viral video ad for Poo Pourri.  While I had known about the before you go toilet spray for a long time ( my salon has had it in the bathroom for a few years now), the week before my ten year old niece had treated me to a reciting of the entire commercial and a request for a bottle for Christmas. The brand promises, “Spritz the bowl before you go and no one else will ever know”. I found it interesting that a product that addresses such an awkward subject had become such a hot topic. The ad features Scottish-born Bethany Woodruff making off color comments about you know the thing everyone does but no one really wants to talk about in her best high society English. It seems some marketers have found the secret recipe for taking these subjects online. The ad has helped to sell over 4 million bottles of the stuff and the video has been viewed 17.5 million times. I can only hope this means the end to some of those annoying commercials in the middle of my favorite television shows. If you have not seen the video yet your probably in the minority so have a look below.

Best of the Best #4

As part of the Dove brand’s Real Beauty campaign, the brand introduced the ads led by Ogilvy Brazil São Paulo known as Real Beauty Sketches. The ads generated controversy in the U.S., but  whether you liked the ads or not they manged to come away with 2 Gold Lions for Best Integrated Campaign Led by PR and Best Use of Social Media.

The film ad depicts women sitting behind a curtain who were asked to describe themselves to a police sketch artist. The artist then compares the self-described picture to another one drawn from a different person’s  perspective. The ads are intended to drive home the idea that you are more beautiful than you think. The ads draws on a real human emotion in that many women are very critical of themselves and insecure about their own beauty. In the U.S. many felt there was a lack of diversity in the film and disagreed with the terms used to signal positive attributes such as thin. However, the ads received over 55 million views in just two months. Some of the reasons this ad was heavily viewed can be attributed to its 484 major broadcast news and lifestyle segments, thousands of online articles that have generated likes, comments, and shares (go social media), and the 14 parodies of the ad that have been created, which includes one that reverses the concept and features men. Watch the guys in action below.


Best of the Best #3

The third ad in my Cannes Lion Award series is an outdoor campaign for IBM by ad agency Ogilvy & Mather in Paris France. The campaign won for going beyond the traditional static billboard by making the advertising boards functional . The campaigned consisted of three outdoor boards that functioned as a bench, a stair ramp, and a shelter from the elements. The ads are part of IBM’S “People for Smarter Cities”marketing platform and the ads serve as a metaphor for IBM’s effort to make cities smarter through technology. The ads also encouraged those passing by to visit to make their own suggestions for improving their city.

What a great way to make advertising functional and to promote engagement with the brand at the same time. After-all, can’t we all benefit from smarter cities!

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