The question fills me with pure, stomach churning fear. The measurement of your success or cataclysmic failure is there for all to see – plastered across research presentations, YouTube ‘hits’, downloads – all manor of rigid, unspinable data, far to readily available to humiliate you in the next digital strategy update.
It’s not total creative insecurity; it’s that I fundamentally disagree with the idea of targeting audiences with the sole purpose of having them do your marketing for you. It’s out of touch, arrogant and doomed to failure.
And anyway, ‘viral’ is an adjective, not a noun.
I don’t suppose Neil Cicierga who wrote and directed the Harry Potter Puppet Pals was given a brief, 3 weeks, and a couple of thousand quid to make his You Tube ‘viral’ – it doesn’t work like that.
He is a fan boy, who over 5 years (yes, he started at the age of 17) developed a comedy concept from basic flash animation into an 86 million ‘hits’, puppet musical sensation. Try costing that up, it will make your eyes bleed.
Despite the perfect storm of marketing strategy to the contrary, the social marketing ‘audience’ is more discerning than ever. Just ask Henry Jenkins. From a recent interview in iMediaConnection.com he says: ‘In general, I have declared war on the concept of “viral media.” As a model, it leads media producers to think in the wrong ways about the value of their content and its relationship to the audience.’
‘Taken at face value, it offers us a smallpox-soaked blanket approach to media distribution: Unknowingly infect your consumer and let them spread the germs to their friends and neighbors. In fact, in a world with many media choices, consumers are actively selecting what content is meaningful to them and circulating it consciously to people they think may be interested.’
Yes Uncle Henry, you can’t give a girl a video virus like you can give her herpes.
Despite this, companies such as The Viral Factory have made big business out of building a highly coordinated social media campaign. But this isn’t because they made a good ‘viral’ – the videos they make are brilliant, funny and have great creative concepts at their heart. It’s lovingly developed content, with time and budget spent – plus they know where to stick it so it’s found.
So no, I can’t make you a viral, but I can make something fucking ace with a great idea plus enough love or money or time. You know, just like it’s always been.