Viral Video Reports from Grave: Still Dead

nalts media whitney nalty huffington post
Just when I was feeling mortal for falling off the top 100 most-subscribed YouTube partner list (a fact that ZackScott and PeterCoffin felt compelled to remind me via voicemail), I scored placement on Huffington Post via the lovely and talented Daisy Whitney.

Check out this report from iMediaConnection in Vegas (or LA or SanFran, I’m not really sure), and thanks to Jan for alerting me… she’s constantly validating her top listing on the blogroll below!

You’ll see me dart past during her intro, and the camera work was by the cool and passionate Mike Donnelly from Coke. Please keep your comments focused on her hair, and not about the heady items we discuss.

And Zack and Peter you can suck it because I’m back at 99 on the list, beeatches.

“Viral Video is Dead” Echos in Canada & Beyond

Nalts speaking in Toronto

If there’s one thing more fun than speaking to hundreds of marketers before a giant video of yourself like a “Rolling Stones” concert, it’s to read Twitter “tweets” after you speak.

By searching #mweek and @nalts after my talk on Wednesday, I learned what “stuck” with the Toronto “Canadian Marketing Association” audience. Canadians are nice, and apparently quite addicted to Twitter. They surprised me by almost making me sound intelligent in the quotes they shared.

Here are two of the things people most RT’d (aka retweeted, which here means posting on Twitter or sharing someone else’s Twitter post).

  • Viral is dead.
  • An impression isn’t an impression unless it makes one (see TechVibes coverage).

Marketing Magazine led with this article titled “Marketing Week Begins with ‘Viral is Dead’ Declaration.” IT Business was struck that a “viral is dead” statement woud come from “a person who owes his fame and fortune to tons of viewers on YouTube.” Then there’s the Canadian Star, which captured one of the most important points I hoped to make:

But advertisers don’t have to spend millions making YouTube videos, like the Evian Roller Babies, in hopes they go viral, Nalty said. The ad features digitally animated babies rollerskating to rock music. Instead, they can use existing YouTube stars, like Fred Figglehorn, the teenager with the annoying high-pitched voice and the online following bigger than Oprah’s TV audience, Nalty said. Fred makes a six-figure income from advertisers on his YouTube posts, Nalty said.

Certainly there’s a robust future of incredible clips that will gain “viral” fame. But my point was that marketers should not waste time and money investing in clips with hope that they go “viral.” It’s rare for a commercial clip to be shared wildly, although Evian’s babies is a recent exception.

Instead, I encourage marketers to chose the more efficient and guaranteed approach of partnering with online-video weblebrities. These individuals have large, recurring audiences and fans. So their sponsored videos are far more likely to travel the web and be seen by millions. I showed the Hitviews case study on Fox Broadcasting as proof. Two of my Fox videos alone have surpassed 1 million views each, which was half the targeted views of the campaign (for “Fringe” and “Lie to Me”).

I was encouraged to speak with a number of creative directors (or former creator directors) that seemed excited about the prospects. I had feared that they’d feel threatened by an online-video “weblebrity” creating videos that aren’t as easy to control. But they seemed to appreciate the idea of giving a popular creator a creative brief, and some room to tailor the message to his/her audience and style.

Here’s the deck, though most won’t make sense without context. Steal away. Spread the word.

But remember two things above all. US/Canada border guards require passports, and don’t care to be videotaped even if it’s on a Hello Kitty Flipcam. Trust me on those.

Deadbeat Dads Unite in “At Least We’re Not Heene” Anthem

Richard Heene to Be November Centerfold for Deadbeat Dad Magazine

Deadbeat dads everywhere are celebrating the fact that they’re perhaps not the worst dad in the United States. That title belongs to Richard Heene, who tugged our heartstrings, lied, and made his kid hide in a box for hours… all for publicity. TMZ showed one of the public “smoking guns,” a public profile he created late in November pitching himself for reality television. Turns out, TMZ reports, Heene already has a criminal record.

My advice last week to my kids was “never hide from us or police.” My new advice, “don’t lie to police, even I was stupid enough to pull something like this.”

Here’s an article that shows the tool in a bra on YouTube. I figure it needs a few more inbound links.

Seems Richard Heene could face charges as high as $2 million, although these are rare. There’s also comfort in knowing that this has undermined Heene’s credibility enough to likely kill his goal of a reality television show. I’ve never protested a network, but I can guarantee I’d make the biggest possible stink of any network that paid him a dime for this story or any future circus.

The Anti-Virus to Online Video

I’m still procrastinating my AdAge article for online-video, but the process awakened me to something vital about online video. You see, when I was featured for the first time on YouTube it was mocking a “viral video genius.” It was meant to be a joke. Viral video was not an art form, and remains a mix of luck, timing and the impact of the video. But I’ve still been using the term “viral video” like it’s some sort of holy grail, and I’d like to change course in 2009.

Yes friends, the self-proclaimed “Viral Video Genius” is now advocating for the anti-virus. Viral video is dead for 2009, and I hope this Feed Company report of the best “Viral Video” advertisements is one of the last roundups I read. 

Viral Video is Dead in 2009Yes, Virginia. I said it. Viral video is dead. In fairness, it was a bad idea from the beginning. The term viral was around well before online-video and derives from the term “virus.” Needless to say, when I first used the term in interactive-agency pitches to pharmaceutical firms in 1999 and 2000, marketers were deeply confused. 

There are three reasons I’d like to inject an anti-virus penicillin into the arm of marketing.

  1. The term “virus” is not polite or accurate. Social media requires a new mindset where terms like “targets” and “bulls eye” aren’t exactly terms of endearment. Business is packed with war terms, as is sports. Even “retention” or “persistence” isn’t quite the same thing as winning a customer’s loyalty. So when you want a consumer to share your promotional message with their friends, a virus isn’t the connotation you’re after. The term even implies that the video spreads despite the carriers instead of as a result of their work.
  2. Second, it’s increasingly difficult to go viral and virtually impossible to predict much less guarantee. I’ve done more than 700 videos, and only a few have gone “viral,” if that’s defined as millions of views. Fewer and fewer brands will have promotion that is so dang compelling that it will be passed along by consumers.
  3. Third, going “viral” is hardly even a worthy goal. The “viral” obsession is based on a preoccupation with “total views” instead of the right views. In our hysteria to deliver big numbers, we’ve missed a core tenant of marketing that’s more vital than “reach, frequency and single-minded proposition.” It’s called targeting.

Example: Many of you WVFF readers may remember when’s “Subway Pitch” process was documented on YouTube, and spread among interactive marketers and agencies. lost the pitch, and the video reached key “insiders” of the medium even though it did not get many views by conventional measures. If I’m marketing a software product to human resource managers, I want my video viewed by HR people. Sure if it’s seen 10 million times, it’s likely some of them will be HR managers. But if only 2 percent are indeed my target, perhaps I’d rather 200,000 views on blogs read by HR managers.

So let’s get back to the basics. Online-video is growing wildly, and gambling on a “viral hit” is far riskier than identifying and promoting via select channels or video creators. There are two ways to help ensure online-video investment reaches the right people:

  • ensure media buys are focused on the right audience (demographics or otherwise). 
  • partner with popular video shows and creators (professional and amateur) that have already aggregated your most-valuable consumers. 

If you’re marketing a men’s health product called “Macho Cologne,” do you buy an ad in Men’s Health (or try to get an article written about your product). Or would you launch Macho Cologne Magazine, and pray people might find it, and read it? If I’m marketing cat food, I don’t want to create my own cat videos and launch a channel. I want my ads associated with already popular animal video channels and creators (and this is getting easier with Google keywords available on YouTube). And if there’s a popular pet show that features cats, an even higher-impact model would be to sponsor the creator — especially if they have a proven ability to attract regular crowds (not just a one-hit wonder, but regular viewers/subscribers). The combination of sponsored video and advertisements is just the right cocktail is more likely to work. 


Zombies are Coming. Stay Inside or Go for the Car?

interactive zombie movieIf you’ve watched a few horror movies, and screamed “don’t go outside to check things out, you idiot!” then you might find this short interactive zombie film worth some time. It’s got some gore, though. So I warned you.

It’s called Survive the Outbreak, and you’ll make choices almost every minute — each leaving you dead or alive. So it’s hard to watch passively, and you find yourself feeling far more stressed than watching Dawn of the Dead after 8 Miller Lights.

I find several things interesting about it:

  • It’s well produced. If you live long enough, you’ll see some cinematic beauties– like overturned cars lit with eerie lighting effects.
  • It truly branches constantly. Typically these things branch briefly, and then the paths return so the creators don’t have hundreds of options to shoot. This is why I tried to stay in the house, assuming that budget would require us indoors (not to mention that I liked my odds inside).
  • While some of the acting was B grade at best, the effects, music and cinematography was unexpectedly professional.
  • I’d like to see more of these, and especially appreciate that the plot was brief (at least the way I survived, which took only about 5 deaths and do-overs.

Dead Video Sites Don’t Have Proper Funerals

Oh dear. Did I sleep through a Google Video death? It seems these video sites barely have the courtesy to send a “goodbye” card when they die. 

It took a while for me to realize TheDailyReel was RIP, and I just discovered this morning that Flix55 (the video-sharing site by a NYC television station) had vanished.

Now check out Google Video. It’s not quite dead, but I think I could fairly describe it as what I first advocated for Google: A video search engine (albiet not as intelligent as Mother Google or even YouTube results). It does allow you to find videos from other websites, and even play Yahoo videos without making you leave Google (good boy for allowing that Yahoo… goooood boy).

Alas Google’s vision, not unlike Knol, was to be a destination site. Where select creators were sharing advertising revenue, and Mighty Mouse episodes were playing on the destination site. When Google swallowed YouTube it was only time before the two merged or went different directions.

If Stupid Videos, Break or Metacafe die will someone please let me know? Next thing you know it someone will tell me eFoof died.

Here’s hoping YouTube remains solvent. I really don’t want to get that second job delivering pizza in Allentown.

Televisions Obsolete. Online Video Takes Over.

No I’m just kidding. Television isn’t dead yet (but I’ll let you know when it is).

You didn’t waste money on that high definition set, and you advertising executives still have a little shelf life.

But here’s a new tidbit of research that verifies that online-video consumption is eating into our television viewing time. Courtesy of NewTeeVee (who I’m quoting way too often since they became my top RSS on iGoogle) and the folks from the Integrated Media Measurement Inc. (IMMI) (click here for full report via pdf):

Based on its tracking of primetime content across the major networks, IMMI has generally found that up to 20% of episodic content viewing occurs online, depending on the genre of the content
and the amount of time the show has been on the air. This amount is higher now, than last Fall
and in a few cases, is higher even than DVR viewing of the broadcast content.

This shift won’t soon reverse, or continue slowly. So that means it’s officially time to find a viable advertising model for free online video (and explore a fair paid model too). :

Try forcing a long preroll, and the advertisers have bigger problems than DVRs allowing people to zip through 30 and 60s (as if they weren’t running off to pee before time-shifting). But the good news is that the music industry helped us transition from copyright pirates into, to some extent, people too lazy to hunt and download free music. In time, it will be easier to pay a small fee or accept some ads as long as I can watch good quality video on my own time.

Now that the industry is maturing, watch for: bigger audiences, a better ad model, and more professional content. The amateurs are already losing share to professionals (check the YouTube most subscribed charts for proof), but the pie is continuing to grow. And as long as the economy doesn’t starve marketing innovative budgets (and force marketers to resort to proven but dying media) then I’m still bullish on the opportunities for advertisers, creators and audiences.

Keep in mind the pretty charts by IMMI are a little deceptive. Like this ‘ere chart. It does not tell us that 50% of an average American’s time is moving to online video. Rather it says that half of us — upon being assaulted by a survey — acknowledge that, at some point, we looked to the Internet in lieu of television. I’m surprised that number isn’t higher. Most of us early adopters are probably close to 50/50 online-video vs. television right now.

But keep in mind that even though we’re all still watching television, our brains are clinically dead during this time (well, maybe just more dead than when we’re watching online video or pretending to care about the person rambling in that meeting).


Can Roku Sustain?

roku stole my dingoSorry. I’m a little slow on the uptake here. Didn’t pay much attention to Roku (a device that allows you to stream videos via Netflix instead of dealing with red-envelope chaos). I used to be a rabid Netflix user, but finally got overwhelmed with the logistics.

But now if I buy a $99 Roku device and activate a $8.99 monthly Netflix account. Now I have unlimited access to 10,000 movies via streaming video.

When it seems too good to be true, it usually is. This doesn’t add up. The unlimited rental system made sense when Netflix was sending out DVDs in red envelopes. But now it would appear Hollywood would have a high incentive to squash this. In theory, I’d have no good reason to buy DVDs anymore, and I’d stop going to Blockbuster. So isn’t there a concern that this could cannibalize DVD sales and rentals? What possible monetization model exists between Roku/Netflix and the film creators?

Sure it’s not terribly convenient because it’s another darned device, it’s not portable, the video quality can vary depending on my bandwidth, and I don’t get the lovely color DVD case. But if I watch 2-4 videos a month, this appears like a relative no brainer.

Am I missing something?

“The Industry Standard” of Online Video RIP: The Daily Reel

The Daily Reel’s chroniclesWell I think The Daily Reel has finally flatlined. For a while, it was old news and old ads. Now I can’t get a signal. A moment of silence for the website that was The Industry Standard of Online Video. Well at least some of its daily videos still exist, even if the last one was October 20.

Based on this Google News Archive, one might say it “jumped the shark” September last year, so it’s probably best that we bury the body before it begins to smell.