Why viral is a ‘dirty word’ for marketing videos

Businesses should focus on marketing their online videos strategically rather than trying to create the next viral internet sensation, according to video content chiefs at ad agency Ogilvy.

Speaking at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, Jeremy Sanchez, of Ogilvy-owned enterprise search consultancy Global Strategies, and Robert Davis, executive director of Advance Video Practice at Ogilvy USA, argued that trying to make videos go viral is a “fantasy” that leads to “disappointment and disillusion”.

“Few videos ever go viral, and fewer actually need to,” they said.

Only four per cent of YouTube videos get more than 100,000 views, making it an extremely inefficient way to connect with customers. Instead of being obsessed with notching up a huge number of views, it is better to concentrate on getting the viewer to engage with the content – even if this means fewer people watch it.

In their presentation titled Viral is A Dirty Word, the pair explained that marketers should focus on optimising their video production strategy to “pull the levers that matter most”. To achieve this, Sanchez and Davis have come up with what they refer to as the five-step “anti-viral” programme, which involves: planning; creativity; optimisation; promotion; and measurement.

Although this is unlikely to result in a YouTube hit like Charlie Bit My Finger, the eyeballs that the online video attracts are likely to engage with – and ultimately buy – the client’s product or service.

Businesses should not be taken in by the "myth" that you can make a video go viral, because marketing content cannot be treated in the same way as user-generated content, Mr Sanchez said.

"The idea that I can make a video, and just because it’s good and because I put it on YouTube and tweeted about it, a million people are going to view it the next day. It doesn’t work that way," he said, adding that if Charlie Bit My Finger and other user-generated YouTube hits started with a logo, they would not have had millions of views.