Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article by Raymund Flandez called “Lights, Camera, Sales: How to Use Video to Expand Your Business in a YouTube World.” It’s positioned on the front page as “Small Business: How to Use Video to Grow.”
I’ve got some issues with the piece, and not just because Flandez didn’t interview The Viral Video Genius. The article lists some nice case studies — from Blendec’s popular “Will it Blend” series (which drove sales up 500% to $40 million) to a clever “Free Range Root Beer” campaign by All Natural Main Root. I hadn’t heard of this series, yet the late-night breakin by root-beer activists is clever and only mildly over acted. But…
But there are a few things in the WSJ article that make my BS alarmgo off. Buckle up, readers, this is an must-read WillVideoForFood post.
- The WSJ reports that Moe’s Southwest Grill did a video contest where it received 40 submissions and got 211K visitors. That’s not bad vital signs for a video contest, although I’d guess the cost per lead was exponentially more than it would cost to run a decent paid-search campaign– given the fixed costs of promoting and running the contest. Hopefully the video entries were viewed in other places beyond the contest site (a vital element to the performance of a campaign unless it’s a strict “lead generation” or transactional direct-response play).
- When I read that Moe’s “email marketing database also grew to 200,000,” I can’t help but wonder if it was 195,000 before the contest. Something tells me just a few thousand of the 211K visitors signed up for e-mails (maybe 5 percent) from Moe’s Grill. I can’t recall if providing your e-mail was a prerequisite to voting, but that’s the only way the conversion was higher (and are those good email leads or sock accounts for someone who wanted to jack up votes for their friends’ video?). The contest site, like many of its kind, appears RIP right now (this is why we outsource contests, marketers): http://www.moes.com/burritosforlife. Here’s a link to a rap entry to the Moe’s contest.
- The Kelsey Group surveyed 501 adults in February and reports that 59% had viewed a video ad on the Internet. Technical foul! That question leaves way too much room for interpretation— was it a preroll ad or an entertaining promotional video like those highlighted in the WSJ article?
There’s a big difference between vaguely recalling a Toyota video preroll ad that tortured me as I an anticipated an SNL clip, versus buying a painting on eBay because the artist posted videos of herself creating the piece (Valentina Trevino).
- Finally, the WSJ reports that the Kelsey Group claims 59% of adults answered “yes” to viewing a “video ad,” 43 percent “checked out a website.” A professor once told me that statistics are like hookers — you can get them to do or say anything you want. That number simply means that almost half of folks who once saw an ad once checked out a website… at some point in their lonely life. People- rest assured that this is the most misleading statistic of online video, and sets brands up for horrific disappointment. Your online video “ads” will not get many people to check out your website. Sorry. If you get more than a few percent you should be delighted. If your campaign hinges on a view-to-visit ratio (especially if you’re selling something with small margins), then your ROI will simply depend on keeping your production costs down to barely nothing or getting the video miraculously viewed 10 million times.
- Yes, there’s “lights, camera, sales.” But there’s a lotsitting between “the lights and camera” and “sales.” For every Blendtec there are countless failed online-video campaigns that were over-baked and lost in the shuffle.
Ahh. I feel better now that I’ve done the standard “arrogant blogger throws mud at WSJ writer who didn’t interview him” drill. Now it’s time for some basic reminders, and this should be required reading for anyone that got googly eyed from reading the WSJ article:
KEY VIRAL VIDEO REMINDERS
- You gotta throw a lot of spaghetti on the wall and watch what sticks. It’s still hard to say what people like about online videos (although funny, short, visceral and “big finish” are important ingredients). I’ve done more than 500 online videos and still can’t predict what will sail or sink. For every “Vals Art Diary” there are thousands of overproduced (and sometimes even clever) marketing videos that are buried in the bowls of YouTube. For every “Farting in Public” (which just cracked 4 million views) there’s a “Prisoner of Best Buy” (a video I shot this morning, but is doomed to never be seen beyond 20K times because I actually like it). So what’s that mean? Experiment.
- To get a decent ROI, you need to keep your costs down. Otherwise you’re going to have a tough time capturing measurable value that offsets a $50-$500K pilot. You can dip your toe in the water for just thousands simply by partnering with known “weblebrities” who often promote products and services for a small fee, and already have an established audience. A few grand with a weblebrity gets you a video, their halo effect, and nearly guaranteed views of 10-100K. That same amount will get you an afternoon of a large agency fees.
- If you decide you want to produce your own content, be prepared to market the heck out of it. The viral video is just the germ- you still need to help spread the virus on airplanes, door knobs and at Chuck-E-Cheese. And don’t trust that “interactive guy” at the ad agency or PR firm to promote your baby. Find someone that has driven lots of views, and put that experience to work.
- When you measure return, consider the total video views beyond your site. Only a few percent will veer off the YouTube highway to visit your promotional rest stop unless there’s food and bathrooms. To bridge the gap, lure viewers with additional entertainment or value, or at least a unique URL. Those viewing MrComplicated (see background on CNN Money) were obviously far more likely to visit MrComplicated.com than Clear-Point.com (the sponsor’s site).
- Be sure to decide the objective of the campaign and remember that objective when it’s time to assess performance. I’ve seen too many companies begin with a goal to get e-mail addresses, for instance, and then get giddy about total views and the homepage feature on Eefoof (yes, Marquis, it’s finally dead- I checked). Similarly, some brands plunge into online video simply for the public relations value, and then lament low views. Who cares about visits to your stupid brochureware site if you got the views and press (even if it’s consumer-generated media) you were after? People don’t need to lick a Coke billboard to be compelled to buy colored sugar water with red wrappers instead of blue. Dang I’m full of metaphors today. Is anyone writing this stuff down?
For those of you with short attention span, I’ve summarized this post in this visual of a video virus magnified 2 billion times:
Sidebar: Flandez interviews David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” in this interesting video that features an obnoxious preroll. I hadn’t heard of Scott, but was pleased to discover his books and blog.