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The ‘other problem’ with viral

July 19, 2008

Over at the Social Path, there’s a post on going viral. It’s a rant, one that I’ve made many times before when people in my world have asked about making something viral. As Griner says:

The issue is that saying “We should make a viral video!” is about like me saying, “I should write a best-selling book!”

I’ve often thought that having the goal of “going viral” on your creative brief is much like having the goal, “Win a Cannes Lion”. Both things are fundamentally out of the creative team’s control. What is controllable is making the best piece of marketing that can be made.

But that isn’t the point of this post. The point is, what does viral success mean for a brand? Someone sent me this link a couple of weeks ago.

This video has almost 3 million views. It’s clearly gone viral (perhaps because of details like wardrobe matches the furniture.)

But here’s the question: if an agency created this (and I’m not saying they did) how would that agency quantify success? Think about it: I watched this video, but I live a long way away from Montgomery (which I suspect is in Alabama — but I don’t know). So i’m not really in the target market. How many of the 3 million people that watched it are?

Now, a case can be made for sheer numbers. If 3 million people see it, there’s a good chance that some of them are from a drivable radius to the Flea Market. But that case is made on assumptions. And, the money and time used to make the video might have been better spent going right after the local people.

Then again, if 3 million people watched a client’s spot, the client would be thrilled. And even though the agency couldn’t tell them much about the three million (unless they went in and interviewed commenter’s to get a micro look), it would still be a success all around.

It should never be the goal though.

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