The Secrets of Viral Video (draft presentation)

As I mentioned previously, I’m presenting “The Secrets of Viral Video Marketing” at a Yahoo! event called “Big Screen, Little Screen.” It’s this Wednesday,  July 9 in Toronto, Canada.

Want to review the deck and provide any suggestions? Obviously it won’t be self explanatory, but I thought I’d give you loyal WVFF readers a sneak preview. Here’s the Powerpoint deck in Flash via

Any suggestions?

Oh- and thanks to David Bridges for designing the Nalts flavicon (that little icon on the left of the browser window before the WVFF URL). Thanks also to Jan for installing the little booger!

Why Media Buyers Are Stunting the Growth of Online Video

Balding white marketer desperately wants to meet smart, strategic media buyer. If you’re one, please recognize you’re not the target of this rant. But the rest of  you are just so friggin’ short sighted and clueless.

There are some amazing online-video series that could be incredible opportunities for smart brands wanting to engage with early adopters of a medium that is changing the way we relate to content and brands.

Brands can reach depth and relevancy with their target, even if it’s not driving total significant awareness and immediately creating ROI through driving intent, store visits, and trial.

I give you exhibit one. iChannel.  A mere 8000 people are subscribed to this series on YouTube, but the views of the weekly series are roughly three times that (I’m the inverse of that with 30,000 Nalts subscribers, but some recent videos ranging in the 8-15K views). So it’s a healthy and highly devoted and interactive audience. Episode 31 had 180K views alone.

And it’s deeply philosophical, well acted, intelligently scripted and short and addictive.  I had the pleasure of appearing in one last May.

These guys spend more time setting up one shot than I do on my entire post production. The audience is like a microcosm of those watching Lost. Or The Office. They’re engaged, passionate, and hold their breath waiting for the next episode.

So why would a media buyer pass on this?

  • It’s not a big media deal. No hot AOL ad reps are pushing it.
  • The audience isn’t big enough. No scale yet.
  • The conversion from the episode to a bloated brand microsite wouldn’t be great.
  • They can just advertise on YouTube’s invideo ads and get there.

Why should an electronic manufacturer dye to have sole sponsorship?

  • They could probably own it for the equivalent of pocket change they dug from the back of their marketing budget couch.
  • It would be ground breaking.
  • The audience is perfect, and the level of product engagement would be far richer than an ad we’re trained to ignore.
  • It sets the stage for a new model where advertisers contract directly with creators of content (who carry fixed audiences). No worthless intermediaries clogging the pipes between.

What’s the solution to grabbing these types of opportunities? Have these deals championed by someone outside the regular media-buying job. While I was at Johnson & Johnson, the big deals between media players (networks and magazines) were done by folks that weren’t inline marketers like me, but had influence over the way media budgets were set across the many brands. After all, J&J couldn’t get interesting deals if each brand fended for itself, and the interesting partnerships required someone that could step outside the short-sighted world I live in when charged with P&L of a brand.

Do Marketers Understand Online Video?

So it’s been a week since my last post. I’m rusty. Yet I’m down in Florida at the iMediaConnection Brand Summit, and the theme is “Turning Advertising Into Content.” I simply love that tagline, and quite possibly may steal it.

The event is packed with marketers from some of the largest names in the world — Coke, Best Buy, Bank of America, AOL, Cadillac, Martha Stewart, Target, Microsoft. Thank GOODNESS nobody is here from USAirways. The 6th best-rated video of the day on YouTube is my story of the horrible flight I took down here last night.

Highlight was meeting the guy behind the YouTube promotions for Intuit. We’ve all seen the Quicken tax ads (from the raps to the recent comedy contest), and it was fantastic hearing about how Intuit’s approach has evolved. Today is the one-year anniversary of the tax rap program, and obviously YouTube has grown a bit since.

To give you a sense of how much variance there is among marketers, I’ll contrast a few comments from marketers. On one hand, we have Intuit — the first brand I’ve even heard acknowledge (without any prompts from me) the value of promoting through creators who have established audiences. On the other hand, we have some eMarketing “administrators” that believe they’re exploring online video because they have video testimonials on their website.

The world is changing quickly, and Brad Berens (iMedia Communication) did a charismatic opening that allowed participants to vote on remote devices. I was encouraged to see that both agencies and vendors expect their television and print budgets to migrate online rapidly in 2008. Jeff Rayport (Fonder of Marketspace, LLC and former Harvard professor) gave a fascinating keynote that set the bar high.

Tomorrow I’ll be on a panel titled “The Golden Rule of Consumer-Generated Advertising: Know Thy Ad Creator.” If they videotape it I’ll post it. I usually take a camera with me on the panel, but I’ve yet to post a video… it’s not very entertaining to see me rambling about marketing. Maybe tomorrow I’ll fart audibly. That should make a good video.

Mrs. South Carolina Meets Chris Crocker in AOL News Ad

A video creator I get hundreds of positive and negative comments per video. As a result, I tend to leave only positive, constructive feedback on other people’s videos.

So I have to save my criticism for online advertising like this AOL News spoof on Chris Crocker, Mrs. America and tasers.

Let’s start positive:

  • Shows AOL as progressive, because they’re spoofing something recent and viral.
  • Nice way to be relevant to a web savvy target, and provide a wink to those who understand these references.
  • Nice concept- combining three former viral video subjects in the “where are they now” theme.

Needs improving:

  • The execution is somewhat slow, despite the rapid edits. I suppose it’s because so little happens in the video… no real plot progression. This is a great reminder for me to keep my sponsored videos ultra short.
  • I’ve always had a pet peeve for political columnists that try too hard to connect two unrelated but recent events. The scenario bringing these three together was a bit forced. Having Mrs. Teen South Carolina walk into a convenience store asking if she’s in Iraq (and then Chris Crocker use his “leave Mrs. Teen South Carolina alone” bit was a little too easy.
  • This smells like a spot that cost a lot (high production value, paid actors, and dolly shots). Was the production quality a bit better than it needed to be? I would have loved to see the three characters in public (even if it meant having to use actors pretending to be pedestrians).

Is Soapbox a Zune? MSN Launches YouTube Competitor

soapbox.jpgIt’s been in talks since September 2006, but MSN finally launched a public beta of SoapBox (source: DigitalTrends). Although MSN has about 10% of the search market (compared to Google and Yahoo’s combined share of more than 80%), it does have the advantage of being backed by the world’s largest software company. While the world probably doesn’t need another user-generated video site, Microsoft might make Soapbox fly with sheer marketing might.

There actually are some features that make Soapbox unique:

  1. Soapbox allows users simultaneously to watch videos and browse for new ones on the same screen. Something nice for those of us with vADHD. The result, however, is less of a community feel and more of a broadcast feel (like Yahoo! Video or AOL Uncut).
  2. You can upload more formats than most sites: AVI, ASF, WMV, MOV, MPEG1/2/4, 3GPP, or DV file formats. And get this. While it’s uploading you can continue to surf the site (that’s extremely rare).
  3. You can view them on Window’s Media Player (that still around?) or Flash. No Quicktime.
  4. The interface is ‘perty (albiet not user centric). The player controls are very smooth. Videos appear to stream rapidly, but we also know that not many people are using it yet.

And now for some complaints.

  1. When you select a video, the URL doesn’t change. That makes it difficult to link to specific videos. Only a savvy user will realize that you have to select “share” and copy the URL manually. So, for example, I can share this video of William laughing. But almost thought the feature was missing.
  2. In a similar flaw, the URL doesn’t change based on the section of the site you’re in. So I can’t send you directly to the comedy category.
  3. Sniff, sniff. I don’t smell any advertising revenue sharing. Hisssss.
  4. No Quicktime viewing. Windows Media? Isn’t that obsolete?
  5. Can’t download videos.
  6. The comments are buried. Half the fun of YouTube is the dialogue around the comments. But Soapbox takes more of a broadcast model like Yahoo Video or AOL Uncut (where people almost never comment). We’ll probably see very little community build around Soapbox.

Submit Your Video to Many Video Sites at Once

laptops.jpgI’ve been long begging for a technology that allows amatuer videographers to populate multiple video sites with ease. You may like the popularity of YouTube and the money from Revver, and Metacafe. But you can’t afford to miss sites like AOL Uncut, Yahoo or Google Video since they do deliver volume. I think I speak for most video makers that my LEAST favorite part of video is manually submitting it on sites. And I invariably forget one or two.

A number have people have confided in me certain new businesses that address that unmet need — I will not reveal specifics of these in respect to their need for secrecy. As you can guess, some go after subscriptions, others charge a flat fee, and others are targeting high-end publishers to charge a premium.

Marquisdejolie recently shared that Veoh uploaders can automatically populate their YouTube, MySpace and Google accounts with their videos. That’s brilliant. Something I’ve urged Revver to do for months.

This is how I see this market playing out:

  • The progressive, smaller sites will use this as a value-add to attract content. The larger sites (with maybe the exception of YouTube/Google Video) have no incentive to facilitate this.
  • Some software players will try to make a business model on this separately. You’ll register at a site, and they’ll take care of all the form requirements of the most common video sites. While I’d probably pay a modest monthly fee to avoid an hour of work each day, most will resist that.
  • Someone will build a free shareware application to do this. However the video sites might change their specifications or make this obsolete.
  • Ultimately there will be a hybrid free/paid tool. For free you’ll get, say, 20 uploads a month to various sites. For a minor ($10-$20) fee you can have unlimited uploads to a broader base of sites.
  • To avoid commoditization these tools will offer additional value-add functionalities. For example, they’ll get your video search-engine optimized, Digged, etc. And maybe they’ll discover additional value-add services that provide video junkies more time to focus on creating instead of posting and publicizing.

Top 10 Online-Video Predictions for 2007

sit.jpgI pulled out my crystal ball this morning, and I’m predicting the most significant online-video highlights of 2007.

I’ll be citing these selectively at the end of 2007 (only those in which I was right).

Okay I didn’t use a crystal ball. This video tells a better story about the process I used to arrive at these today.

  1. Online video and television collide then converge. We’ve seen small steps toward this, but they’re trivial relative to what will happen in 2007. We’re first going to see some territorializing between online-video players and larger networks and media distributors. Then we’ll start to see great partnerships between major networks and online video sites, as well as deals with Verizon, Comcast and TiVo that give online video creators much broader exposure.
  2. Consolidation of online video sites will increase exponentially. Eventually there will be only a small hand-full of sites (GooTube, AOL, Yahoo) where people upload videos, because those sites will gain critical mass and cut exclusive deals upstream. Almost every industry starts with hundreds of players, consolidates to a dozen, and finally matures with 2-3 major entities. Small sites will get acquired or fade. There will still be niche sites like and special-interest sites.
  3. amanda.jpgViral video creators will “cross over” to television. We saw Amandon Congdon make the leap from Rocketboom to ABC recently. People with talent, like ZeFrank, will land a short segment on The Daily Show or some other television show. Ultimately this will make ZeFrank’s bloated ego explode — something we hope occurs live on Good Morning America. A few name-brand stars will decide they can move online without the hassle of networks. I don’t see any of these succeeding initially, but as the audience for “online video” surpasses (in some areas) television viewers, it will be hard for them to resist.
  4. Many television shows will develop online manifestations. This will include “behind the scenes” shots, extended storylines, and interactions with the show. Some shows will invite submissions by amateurs and even cast amateurs to participate.
  5. Consortiums will form for economies of scale. Viacom/Fox/NBC/CBS are already toying with an anti-YouTube play. This is as impossible to resist as it is to achieve airlift. Other consortiums will succeed. I see groups of independent online video amateurs forming copperatives to market their content to networks, or networks organizing the coops. Shows like RabbitBites will have higher odds of moving to mainstream when connected with similar content.
  6. Select amateur video creators will begin to make a full-time living without “crossing over” to television. Metacafe‘s CEO Arik Czerniak recently told me he anticipates his top amatuer creators will make six-figure incomes in 2007. I think he’s right. I’d also watch for people earning high revenue via Revver if the company rapidly expands its viewer base through affiliate/syndicate partnerships.
  7. crystal_ball_juggling.jpgA major news story will break via live (or close to live) footage by “citizen journalists” holding cameras. Remember the impact of the Rodney King footage? Consider how more of these we’ll see now that so many of us are equipped with cell phones that record video. And eventually we’ll see live footage from a cell phone in a major news story — a robbery, hostage situation or natural disaster. If the reporters can address the nation live via satellite, why can’t the amateur videographer via a video-enabled cell phone? It will look like garbage, but it will be horrifically real.
  8. Marketers will get smarter about how they gain consumer mindshare through online video. The self-created viral videos will give way to more creative partnerships between brands and top video creators. These deals will be efficient for marketers, and highly profitable for video creators with low budgets. We’ll see increasingly fewer $250K viral video series created by agencies, and more low-budget, fun videos that were inspired by amateurs but get the media support of advertising budgets.
  9. lonelygirl15.jpgReal vs. fake will be a major 2007 theme. People don’t understand that some videos are designed to be “story telling,” and others are real footage. LonelyGirl15 was an example of a deliberate ruse, but many other “are they real or not” videos are endlessly dissected by comments. This will catch media’s attention, since they’ll enjoy raising viewer concerns about the integrity and validity of this threatening medium.
  10. The “big boy” sites are going to start sharing advertising revenue with select creators like some smaller sites (Revver, Metacafe, Blip, Brightcove, Lulu). That means Google, YouTube, Yahoo and AOL will finally realize that good content means eyeballs. And eyeballs means more revenue.

AOL Buys Banners on YouTube

I can just hear the internal dialogue on this banner campaign…


  • AOL VP of Marketing: Why are we still running ads on YouTube?
  • AOL Media Buyer: Because you told me it might help in our negotiations to buy YouTube.
  • AOL VP of Marketing: Well Google bought them, idiot. They’re our competition in case you’re not keeping up on these things.
  • AOL Media Buyer: But you signed the insertion order yourself, sir. And we’ve committed for 8 more weeks.
  • AOL VP of Marketing: Can you change the creative?
  • AOL Media Buyer: It will increase the CPM. But we can change it. What would you prefer?
  • AOL VP of Marketing: “Click here to get the hell off YouTube and check out AOL Uncut.” Or something to that effect.

Mark Day Featured on AOL Uncut

aoluncut.jpgFrequent WillVideoForFood contributor Mark Day landed a prominent feature on the homepage of AOL Uncut. This is the first time I’ve seen such a significant “carve out” for an amateur creator. Congrats, Mark. The comedy or bribes are paying off.

If you haven’t seen Mark’s work, it’s well worth it.