Thoughts on Viral Video Production

First off, we will do a quick recap of what made the everyday and embarrassing an Internet sensation.

South Park have it covered with this, “We just made something really popular on the Internet and now we want our money…”:

We have been producing Viral Video for some time now, in fact we were one of the first Irish Production companies actively seeking ways to explore the medium to communicate.  It is still amazing to think that almost every time we get a query about this, it almost always falls through, because the client doesn’t get how viral video works.

We find that a lot of our commercial work comes through traditional Advertising Agencies and PR companies, who are in the process of re-defining themselves to meet the relatively new and uncharted digital marketing frontier, as we all have to.

The only problem with this is that the thinking behind the campaign we’re supposed to make Viral is not in tune with how Viral Video works.  If you’re organising a photocall with some models and a Z-list celebrity for press, there is no way to really ‘make this viral’.  If we throw it on YouTube for these clients, only them and their mothers will look at it.  Similarly, creatives in Ad Agencies who have been writing fantastic and effective TV Ads for years continue to submit scripts to us for Production and Dissemination that would be ideal for a captive audience in front of a TV or stuck in a cinema, but that don’t lend themselves well to the Viral market.  Its a different equation, and it requires different thinking.  In fact, chances are that if you have well practiced and hardened skills in other areas of communication you will have a harder time communicating to the Viral brief, because you will have to throw out the rule book.

And then there’s the client.  They want something Viral, because they’ve just come back from some seminar with a nerd somewhere who’s told them that’s what all the cool kids are doing.  Again and again, when we start to discuss possible Viral ideas with these people directly they immediately fear for the well-being of their brand and its wholesome image, and start wanting to ease back into ‘edgy safe’ territory.

Thing is, if you look at what’s been passed around the most, it is normally anything but safe.  The whole paradigm of this stuff has raised the bar on risqué humour, to the point that Hollywood comedies are WAY more edgy then they used to be a decade ago, simply because the extreme edge of comedy has come closer to everyone, and the audience sensibilities and expectations of how far a joke will go has changed dramatically and unalterably.

SO, some points to remember are that the traditional channels of delivery of creative don’t get this, and trying to turn it into a marketing exercise is something of a gamble, as there’s no telling whether it will catch or not really (though there are a few tricks to kick starting a campaign).  We’re amazed constantly by people ringing us with their ideas, and simply asking for Production quotes, because we see from the outset that the script or idea is written for a different medium.

Remember that most of the stuff out there is pretty crass, and you’re competing for the attention span of an audience that is as jaded as the sexual appetite of a 60 year old Colonel.  Ask yourself would YOU pass this idea on, or tell friends about it down the pub?  If not, we’re not on the same page.

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