Getting the most mileage from branded video

Picture this: I’m in a brainstorm meeting at an ad agency for a large national brand campaign when I hear the dreaded phrase “let’s make a viral video". This is a fairly regular occurrence for me in my role as a social media relationship manager at Santa Monica, California-based ad agency, RPA.

We find ourselves charged with this unique challenge since clients and creative executives have picked up on the success of campaigns such as Old Spice’s 'The Man Your Man Could Smell Like', Evian’s 'Roller Babies US' and countless others.

Many ad agencies and brand managers think that great content can naturally proliferate across the web like wildfire solely based on its content. This is a bit of a misconception.

While the entertainment value of a video can position that video on YouTube for successfully getting shared across social media, that is simply one of many factors. Other factors include how saturated the media is with other breaking news or content released in that 48-hour time period. Certain days may be dominated by world disasters, a huge scandal – or even a celebrity death. A slow news day is not something you can plan for, but a fortuitous circumstance that can work in your brand’s favour.

Certain types of content do, indeed, lend themselves to YouTube. Videos featuring adorable cats, energetic dogs, scantily clad men or women, babies with special skills, big celebrities, and certain elements of humour tend to attract more viewership and sharing. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has combed through YouTube looking for a few minutes of distraction.

My experience with campaigns at RPA has included both paid and earned media to promote views of videos on YouTube. Paid advertising has included video network ad buys, search, Google TrueView and homepage and banner advertising on both sites and social media such as Facebook, used to gain a critical mass of views on YouTube. These tools poise our YouTube videos to get as many views as possible.

On the PR side, we have worked with various vendors, PR companies and internal resources to help seed videos and to get editorial coverage and mentions of our videos on targeted niche sites that are chosen based on content and existing relationships. There are no guarantees with this strategy – you can pitch the story, but not everyone bites.

A few general strategies can help position videos for better success:

  • Timing: Time YouTube videos to precede general campaign or brand launches to maximise the exposure of the content. This allows you some extra lead time to give blogs and publications you are pitching a sense of exclusivity when they are the first to break a piece of entertaining content before it’s available to the world.
  • Dual-approach: Use a combination of both paid and earned tactics to get your message across.
  • Length of content: Try to keep your video under 20 minutes long.
  • Exclusive content: Give bloggers or editorial decision-makers special insight into the making of the video or details about characters/actors/props used in the content. These additional nuggets give the authors added motivation to use your content. When my agency launched an ad for the Super Bowl at the beginning of this year, we beat some Super Bowl advertisers to the punch by releasing the commercial six days prior to the big game. In the spot for Honda’s new CR-V, Matthew Broderick played himself in a grown-up version of his celebrated role of Ferris Bueller that he made famous 26 years ago. The full-length version of the video contained subtle references to the original film (the broadcast version was 60 seconds). The commercial included more than two-dozen Easter eggs or allusions to the film. Some of these references were given as exclusives to hand-chosen sites that we felt would be good platforms for editorial mentions. These types of strategies can help your video make it to the top of the charts on YouTube – and an unforgettable 80s icon doesn’t hurt either.

Using entertaining online video to benefit a brand campaign is not an exact science, but there are many things you can do to maximise your exposure and get people buzzing about your brand. Ad buys coupled with strategic, well-timed PR efforts that offer exclusive content can go a long way to help build your message and increase your views.

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