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Seven words that make your heart sink.

The seven words that made Patricia McDonald‘s heart sink in the February post of the month (Planning for participation) were…

Then people can upload their own versions.

I completely second that emotion.

But I’d also add the seven words that make every digital agency wince. The seven words usually spoken by the ad agency in an all-agency, all-discipline meeting with a client.

And we’ve written a few viral scripts.

No you haven’t.

You’ve typed onto your agency’s script template and changed the word at the top from “television” to “viral”.

In other words you’ve written up a few film content ideas.

None of which have a cat in hell’s chance of actually going viral.

People who write TV scripts for a living – i.e. content that is created to work, and which does work, with an above the line media spend behind it – need to understand that the same kind of content without a media spend behind it can’t just be re-badged as a “viral” with any realistic expectation of success.

“Wanting it to be so”, in other words abandoning hope in favour of blind faith and expectation, just doesn’t cut it when it comes to creating content with viral intent.

Especially when that viral intent is a means to an overt and obviously commercial end. Very few people are going to collaborate with you if what you’re effectively asking and expecting them to do is to distribute for free something that looks, feels and behaves like a piece of advertising,

Smartwater wants it to be so.

Their agency has written a “viral” script on a television template.

In classic agency fashion they’ve “magpied” various memetastic ingredients and bunged them all together in the hope of achieving sufficient viral load for this thing to take off.

It is dreadful.

The only award this is going to win is “worst use of a celebrity”; namely the hapless and more than slightly bemused Jennifer Aniston.

(I think the bemused demeanour is genuine rather than acted).

See for yourself.

The fact that she’s in it, the fact that they’re calling it a “sex tape” and that the fact that it’s getting hundreds of embeds on dismayed blogs like this one have propelled it to just over 800,000 views at the time of writing.

Maybe the brand is happy with that.

But it pales into insignificance against the 26,000,000 views enjoyed so far by the Double Rainbow clip that is referenced in the ad-not-viral.

Truly, spectacularly viral is something that happens once in a blue moon to genuinely original content.

And half the time – Double Rainbow being a case in point – it’s impossible to post-rationalise and bottle up why it happened.

I keep hoping that the quest for viral will usher in a brave new world of experimental, 100% original agency-generated content (AGC).

But I’m still not sure that trad agency cultures, trad agency working practices, lots of trad agency creatives, or trad agency/client relationships are set up to deliver genuine originality.

This Smart Water film is no exception to that rule.

7 Responses to “Viral is an objective, not a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

  1. blackwatertown says:

    Nice idea, but lame outcome.
    Admittedly JA does look good in it, but the idea of selling water like this is crazy anyway.

    • philadams1 says:

      Maybe I’m reading too much into it but, to me, the expression on JA’s face throughout is that is of someone who is questioning their, or their agent’s, judgement in having accepted this gig.

  2. patsmc says:

    Great points-”we’ve written a viral” or “can we make a viral video?” are words that make me cringe as well. This presentation on on-line video from Mike Arauz and Bud Caddell may be of interest too-as it aptly puts it “Pass along is made of people”.

    http://www.slideshare.net/mikearauz/web-video-thunderdome-sxsw-2010

    • philadams1 says:

      Thanks for dropping by and thanks for the link. Almost every slide in there is quotable.

      The additional degree of difficulty associated with getting “branded” content to go viral is an issue that is all too easy to overlook and therefore not factor into the creative development process.

  3. markgorman says:

    I disagree Phil. Look at its Youtube counter now.

    5 million plus.

    I’ve been sent it twice.

    You’ve blogged it. I’ve blogged it.

    It’s funny.

    Jennifer Aniston looks hot.

    It’s called Sax tape (not Sex tape) because it ends with Gerry Rafferty (RIP).

    Admit it. You’re just jealous that you didn’t do it ;-)

    I’ll wager that in a few months this will have hit 20 million on YT.

    • philadams1 says:

      6 million plus now Mark. It’s getting plenty of views for sure. But I still hate everything about it. I’m genuinely a million miles away from being jealous.

      For most clients, “viral” is a low cost alternative to a costly TV media campaign. Smart Water will have paid a fortune for JA to appear in this, and the production won’t have been cheap. And, in American terms, 6 million is a niche audience compared to what a conventional TV campaign would deliver.

      And another thing. Based on the majority of comments I’d say that a lot of those 6 million views are negative views.

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