Keeping Your Company/Product a Secret Could be the Secret to Creating a Viral Video

Ellyn Davidson 04/16/14 - 8:57 pm

Everybody in advertising has heard this one: “Can you make a video about our product? And by the way, we want it to go viral!” Alas, the surest way to fail at making a viral video is to try to make a viral video.

That said, I have seen a trend in some recent blockbuster vids that’s worth noting: the spots all give their products the softest of sells. In fact, the name of the company is usually not mentioned until the video’s last seconds. You could call it a surprise ending.  

For a brilliant example of this approach, check out World’s Toughest Job, which immediately went viral upon its release on Monday.

In the four-minute video, a diverse group of gobsmacked job applicants interview for an “insane, unpaid, 24/7 job. The punchline? This is a job that billions of women do every day.

The job is being a mom.

After the applicants (and the viewers) dissolve into tears, we see a caption: “This Mother’s Day, you might want to make her a card.”

Only then, over quietly touching piano plinks, comes the sell: “Visit”  

P&G employed the same subtlety in its 2012 Thank You Mom and 2014 Pick Them Back UP Olympic spots. Those tearjerkers briefly featured moms at work in their laundry rooms and babies toddling around in diapers, but not until the very end of the videos did you learn who was behind them.

And when that P&G logo did appear? It was next to a humble expression of gratitude: “Thank you, Mom.”

P&G’s 2012 spot won an Emmy. It was also a boon to the companys bottom line, according to an Ogilvy case study. It was the strongest Olympic sponsor ad measured and its performance was 40 percent stronger than P&G’s ads during the Vancouver Olympics.

It’s too early to gauge the impact that World’s Toughest Job will have on its company—American Greetings. But it’s impossible to imagine, after more than seven million views, that won’t see an uptick in sales.

This kind of spot makes a big impression on those of us in advertising and marketing as well. It shows us one truth about videos: The ones that sell to a viral degree are the ones that don’t sell. This was also famously illustrated a few weeks ago with First Kiss. That video’s product—Wren clothing—was so subtly presented that at first, none of the entranced viewers even recognized that it was an ad.

I love this notion of selling a product or company by focusing on characters; on story. In the spot, that company may look like an afterthought. But for consumers, sensitive storytelling and humility are likely to make a more profound impact than a hard sell.

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