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Does fake viral video work?

Samsung has just released a new “viral” video to push the idea that its memory cards are sturdy and indestructible. In the ad world, this new effort has already raised a storm of controversy. The video, produced by Viral Factory and just over two minutes long, pretends to be a homemade shoot of a memory card going through a “ride of hell.”

I find it wildly entertaining, and feel that overall it does do an admirable job of making you remember the intended message. Take a look and see what you think:

As expected, professionals in the ad world are complaining. They don’t like the fact that it’s obviously not real. They note that there are several edits. There have been arguments that it’s pointless because we know the outcome ahead of time. They complain that the logo is always in view. Do these things invalidate a viral approach? What does make a great viral video?

Does it matter if it’s not ‘Real’?

Personally, I don’t see that it really matters a whole lot if your viral video is completely believable as being “real.” The main point of anything like this is that it’s memorable. If people like it, they’ll share it with their friends. If they don’t, no matter how real you’ve made it, they won’t. It’s as simple as that. On that basis, I think this succeeds, because it’s entertaining and ‘real enough’ to be shareable. This entire setup is clearly preposterous from the start. Anyone who believes that some geek really built this kind of set in their bedroom probably doesn’t have enough friends to be of viral use anyway. But most viral videos aren’t real, or at the very least, have questions hanging over their authenticity. We’re smart enough these days to know that this stuff isn’t real. We watch videos like this because of their entertainment value. Are Evian’s roller-skating babies real (see below)?

Does it matter that the logo is overused?

A lot has been made about the fact that the Samsung logo is constantly in view. I think this would be a valid complaint in a typical case, but here the logo has a reason for being there. It’s part of the product itself. If you shot a viral video of a Coke bottle making a journey across the country, the logo would be in view as well because that’s the product. So this is a pointless argument. If you’re considering a viral video effort, be careful about how the logo is used, but don’t be concerned if the logo is obviously a part of your product and would normally appear. Just don’t force it.

Does it matter that we know the outcome?

We know the outcome of movies, but we still go to watch them. We know the outcome of almost every television show, but we still watch. This argument holds no weight at all.

What makes viral video work?

As far as viral video advertising goes, I find Samsung’s approach more enjoyable than some of those on the Ad Age Top 10 list, like this lame Gymkhana Three music video for DC Shoes, which is just as obviously an ad and not really all that exciting. I can’t handle more than a few seconds of it. Yet it has achieved more than 2.7 million “real” views. Why? Likewise, Buick has an extremely lame effort that’s got no viral qualities at all, but has over a million views. It’s so bad you would think the ad industry is all over even attempting to call it “viral.”

My take on the whole “fake viral video” issue is that companies should just do it and see what happens. Try to make your video as real as possible, and make sure it’s entertaining. Don’t sweat the small details, they won’t matter one way or another. Nobody but your competitors and a few ad critics will take issue with those small points. If people like what they see, they’ll share it. If they do, you win. If they don’t, hopefully you had fun trying.

Another viral campaign that is still climbing rapidly in popularity after many weeks is Evian’s “Live Young” video featuring a group of lively babies skating to a hip hop beat. It’s delightful. Like Samsung’s video, it isn’t real and is also clearly commercial in nature. Yet we don’t care. Because it’s entertaining. It has over 800,000 views and growing.

Editor’s Update:

While the Gymkhana Three music video I mentioned in the article is extremely lame, there’s another Gymkhana viral video (curiously not in the Ad Age Top 10 though it has over 13 million views) which is highly entertaining. In fact, it’s so good, it deserves to be posted here:

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George Pytlik

George Pytlik has been involved in the advertising industry for over 30 years and designed his first website when the Internet was one year old. He was an internationally recognized speaker on advertising and branding and served on a number of communication committees at various times throughout his career, as well as writing a regular column for Marketing magazine.

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