Going Viral – The Hottest But Most Challenging Form of Advertising

    August 29, 2011

What makes content go viral? This is the question that many marketers and advertisers are currently wrestling with. They would love to create campaigns that promote their product or service in a way that engages consumers on a large scale, but the problem is, it’s not an easy process.

What do you think is the secret to viral success? Comment here.

According to James Percelay, the co-founder of marketing and advertising firm Thinkmodo, viral content (and videos in particular) is quickly gaining popularity in advertising to respond to the shift that consumers have taken in digital consumption. Thinkmodo is the two-man company that is responsible for the iPad Head Girl, Times Square TV Screen Hack, and Shaving Helmet videos, among others.

Take a look:

They have had wide success with their campaigns, which Percelay believes is a result of their approach.

“For us, it’s key to have fascinating, entertaining content, and that’s what makes something go viral,” he said. “We end our videos with a question mark so we can engage the viewer and make them… connect more with the brand.”

Their process is unique in that they create concepts after they talk to the company and understand what it hopes to achieve. These concepts attempt to draw consumers to the core of what the product or service does. The companies themselves don’t have very much input because Thinkmodo takes over all their publicity during the course of the campaign.

Although the company is still developing its metric side of the business, Percelay told us that their success has been proven in their clients’ increase in sales. For the Shaving Helmet campaign, for instance, HeadBlade‘s sales increased by 39 percent. In addition, the current campaign, the iPad Head Girl, which promotes a new Hearst magazine for men, has already exceeded 1 million views and is expected to get many more.

While Percelay admits that there is a “secret sauce” to getting the videos to go viral, he told us that their partnerships with mainstream media outlets assist in the process. He also advises marketers hoping to launch a viral campaign to consider SEO. As he explained, an idea that has already been tried cannot be used as a viral effort.

For this reason, Thinkmodo has been very selective in their clients and has actually turned down many companies. Percelay told us that if the concept isn’t present, a viral campaign will not work.

There have been some issues raised with their productions since many of their videos are fake scenarios. Some call this deceptive advertising, but Percelay believes it is a new art form. He explains that this form of engagement is similar to magic because, even though people know it’s not real, they’re intrigued and want to know how it is done.

For the companies that were worried that consumers would be disappointed by the hoax, Thinkmodo has released reveal videos to explain how they did it. These, however, have also worked in their favor because viewer counts have increased as a result.

Percelay calls their offering “free earned media” since it would be extremely expensive for a company to get the same kind of engagement and exposure in any other form. He doesn’t think that traditional TV ads will disappear, but he does think that they are losing their effectiveness as more consumers are transitioning online. He also believes that these viral tactics are where advertising is heading in the future.

What are your favorite examples of viral videos? Let us know in the comments.

For more ideas about getting your content to go viral, watch some of our previous interviews on the topic: