At iceandfire we recently had our first experiment with viral marketing, using a video that we produced based on our Outreach script Rendition Monologues.

The video, made in conjunction with Reprieve UK, used a two-minute section of the Rendition Monologues theatre script, where three characters describe their kidnapping by the Americans. We made it more “filmic” – with the actors talking down the barrel of the camera and using jump cuts and repetition instead of the talking over each other technique used in the live show. We wanted to give the audience the sense that this was a “video diary”, that they were being spoken to directly by the victims of extraordinary rendition.

“Viral marketing” uses existing online networks and the idea is to encourage your customers/audience to “pass on” your advertisement themselves (thus the term viral). Distributing a campaign virally has advantages – such as the fact that it is cost effective and easy to measure the results using website/email tracking software – but also poses some problems. Simon van Wyck, a regular columnist in the Australian advertising trade magazine B&T Weekly, suggests that the main aims of a viral campaign should be an increase in hits on the website and the widest possible distribution of the ad (1). He also says that the initiators of viral advertising concepts ought to aim to fuel discussion on blogs (such as this one – mission accomplished!)

The main problem with using the internet and email to spread a message virally is that there is so much material online that it is difficult for a campaign its message stand out amongst the plethora of viral ads that now compete for attention in cyberspace. Justin Kirby, i founder and CEO of UK company Digital Media Communications, says that there is no guarantee of success with viral marketing because it relies on the right material reaching the right audience: “… tactical use of viral marketing was, and still is, very hit-and-miss; it relies entirely on the creative material or ‘agent’ alone striking a chord with users.” (2) A viral ad cannot simply explain a product or concept, it must engage its audience.

Our campaign had mixed results, which I suppose is to be expected for our first attempt! Although I’m certain the video we created was engaging (judge for yourself here) I’m not sure that we used the technology to best effect or had the resources to publicise our campaign widely enough. It would have been great to have embedded the video in the email we sent out somehow, rather than sending people a link to click on. Sending the video as part of an “e-newsletter” might have also weakened the campaign, because it meant the subject heading (iceandfire Spring Newsletter) didn’t grab people’s attention.

The fact that the campaign was created in conjunction with Reprieve helped, because they have access to a bigger mailing list and more press contacts than us, but I think next time we will give the campaign more time to build. Due to the redevelopment of our website we were only able to send the email with the video link out 9 days before the London Rendition Monologues show we wanted to promote. Had we given ourselves 3 weeks, we could have made a sustained effort to follow-up with press and media and add the link to as many websites and blogs as new possible.

We did have an increase in website hits from the campaign, but what we haven’t managed to do is encourage the readers to “pass it on”, a key aim of viral campaigns. Only 5 recipients of the email passed it on to their contacts, This will be the challenge for next time.

Any ideas or suggestions? What would compel you to pass on a video about an issue such as extraordinary rendition? What are your experiences of online marketing and campaigning?

(1) van Wyck, S., 2006, Viral revolution matures. B&T Weekly, 26 May 2006, p.14.

(2) Kirby, J. 2006, Viral marketing. In J Kirby, P Marsden (eds) Connected Marketing. Oxford: Elsevier Ltd, p. 87 – 106

Seen one of our shows recently?Let us know what you thought
+ +

Share This

Share this post with your friends!