The Viral Palette

One of the problems that Marketers are concerned with is how do they maintain Brand Values while trying to maximise reach with Viral Media. They're uncomfortable with the stunty craziness associated with YouTube but realise they can't miss out on the opportunity. What do they do?

I'm going to bust the misconception that you need to be off strategy and whacky in order to get millions of people interested in your content. In fact, the most viewed, most memorable corporate content is all about brand strategy and brand values. You have to have something to say, why not say what you believe in?

Instead of talking about the sociological theories of viral media or showing a powerpoint slide with the "marketing approach" shopping list (which only provides the illusion of brand control) I'll show some examples and do a quick precis of what I believe they do. This is by no means an exhaustive list of options but I'll try to cover the main bases.

How do you get people to pass along your message? Here's what worked for a few brands.

Take a Stand

A couple of guys jump an airport fence under cover of darkness and tag "Still Free" onto the fuselage of Airforce One. It's a political statement. Well, it's a corporate political statement. Marc Ecko and Droga 5 decided to make a film that embodies the spirit of the Ecko clothing label: The Art of Street Graffiti, Freedom of Speech (Ecko had sued New York City over the right to a graffiti competition) and champion of the youth. The sheer audacity of the prank meant it spread like wildfire. Ecko quickly (nearly the next day) explained why they did it in a statement from the owner himself where he mentions all of his Ecko properties. He did it for the kids of America, because he believes it's the right thing to do, because it creates an altruistic brand character for people who sell t-shirts to kids from the hood and the burbs. They claim nearly 80 Million views.


Buy the Still Free t-shirt
Read about the Still Free Game
The Marc Ecko Brand
Still Free Official Site

Cannes Cyber Grand Prix 2006

Tell the Truth

A woman sits down in a studio full of lights. Through time lapse we see her transformed from a normal person with pimples into an idealised fiction on a billboard. This is an invitation from the Dove Self-Esteem Fund to take part in their sponsored classes. It's also the most viewed film of 2006/7 in the world. We all know the story, you can read the story here if you missed it. Why does it work? Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty is all about debunking stereotypes. In this case they expose the very techniques used by their competition that they have vowed not to use. It's a moral and ethical statement from Dove. It's perfectly on strategy and connects with people. It might have gone terribly wrong but they displayed the right amount of honesty to be believed.


With over 150 million U.S. dollars worth of free media exposure through millions of hits on YouTube and every talk show in North America and Europe singing its praises, our Unilever clients say this piece has to have the highest ROI in the history of advertising.

Something that is hardly thought about is the amount of PR that contributed to the free exposure. The film needed to be amazing but without real world support it would never have reached the number of people it did in the end. Evolution has also been flighted in a number of countries as a full duration (75") TV spot and was the 2006 Superbowl ad for Dove.

Find out how you can be part of the Campaign for Real Beauty

Cannes Cyber Grand Prix 2007
Cannes Film Grand Prix 2007

Say It All

VW Passat had 120 new things to say about their car. How do you possibly explain 120 features in any meaningful way? Especially when they couldn't be vague, "the VW Passat films needed to communicate a very specific technical feature of the car". What Arnold Worldwide did was commission 120 short films. You may only have ever read about this campaign in a business paper but 120 films to dramatise 120 new features on a car is something to remember. Distilled to the nth degree, this campaign is only about the number "120". You may only watch 5 of the films ever, but you know they are part of a set of 120 (each spot opens with it's serial number eg. "38/120"). You may not like all the films, but you'll love some of them.

the Arnold-devised 120 Feature Films web blitz that began in the fall not only represents what's being called the largest use of online spots for a single branded entertainment initiative, but also illustrates the new roads agencies are taking to create a buzz-worthy campaign.

The amount of online buzz around the films has resulted in between 15 and 20 of them being formatted for broadcast. Considering that the spots were relatively inexpensive to make (around $2,000 per film says Weist), spreading them across various mediums certainly gives the client much bang for the buck.


You could say that VW tested 120 concepts and then aired the favourites on TV to everyone who didn't see them online. Buzz and research all in one package.

See the first 25 films at Brand New School

Cannes Cyber Bronze 2006

Have an Adventure

You land on a site where a Mini suddenly erupts from a traditional looking banner. The thing drives out of the box! It then invites you to follow the car, promising that it won't take you to the Mini site. What ensues is a fun ride through the darker recesses of the web. Stuff you didn't know you could or should search for is brought to you via your Mini web adventure. The campaign in Britain for Mini at the time was "It's a Mini Adventure" and was supported by TV spots featuring Martian attacks and Print showcasing comics about mad scientists driving invisible cars. I suppose one of the reasons it worked was that it used real websites as it's destinations, not made up weirdness. Respecting the web even as they drove all over it.

Mini Pic
With four destinations within one journey and three unique journeys created, the user is unlikely to go on the same adventure more than once.

The Mini Showcase

Cannes Cyber Gold 2007

Play The Game

The California Milk Processor Board brought their "Got Milk?" campaign to the web with a brilliantly realised "board" game. It's a bit like Monopoly with mini stage games and some amazing animation. They've brought the production values of Pixar to a website. It's just so well done that people can't help but tell other people about it. Yes, there is the "milk is good for you" educational messaging liberally spread throughout but you forgive it any heavy-handedness because of the sheer entertainment they give you. The game is educational, fun, engaging and all about the milk. It's also the centre of their new campaign, 7 TV spots and a poster/print campaign drive to the game.

Get the Glass

Play Get The Glass

Cannes Cyber Gold 2007

Fake Real

In 2004, at a time when webcams were finally getting headway on the net and ordinary people could see each other talking on the other side of the world, Crispin Porter + Bogusky engaged the skills of The Barbarian Group to help Burger King tell people that you could Have Chicken Your Way. How better than to go to a site where you can order a guy in a chicken uniform to be an idiot? You'd think that after all these years the guy in the chicken suit would be tired... well, I'll tell you a secret. There is no guy in a chicken suit. The interaction perfectly demonstrated the BK promise of "Have It Your Way' though.

Burger King

Order the Chicken
The Stats (demonstrating a very long ROI tail)

Cannes Cyber Gold 2005

The Limited Experience

Two gorgeous and crazy girls stole the new Diesel Intimate collection, kidnapped a nice guy, locked themselves (and him) in a hotel room. Then, using six video cameras they broadcast their experience 24 hours a day, live for 5 straight days on Branded Reality Interactive TV. As a viewer you could participate in their experience so it became your own experience. They blogged, took photographs, had parties and generally lived the perfect Succesful Life. All, of course, in Diesel's Intimate Collection. Unlike the Subserviant Chicken above, this had a lifespan of only 5 days. It was a short, powerful experience for viewers and then Diesel moved on. Which is exactly how a rock star would do it.


Watch what happened over those 5 crazy days.

Cannes Cyber Grand Prix 2007

Make A Useful App

Nike and Apple collabrated to create Nike+. Not just an iPod add-on or a social website but an entirely new product. Their video tells it better than I can, but this is a situation where the agency, R/GA, forged a new worldwide business with their clients. It's a bit of a holy grail to be honest and probably required the blood of virgins to be sacrificed to actually make it happen. They've created a tool that's useful, fun to use and includes a community of like-minded users from all over the world. At the core of it is a back-end sales tool that R/GA originally developed independently of Nike+, it's purpose is to sell shoes with as little fuss as possible. They hand over this powerful application for the price of a widget that sticks to your shoes.


The iTunes store even added a Nike Sport Music section with special workout mixes, athlete inspirations, podcasts, etc. A well rounded product. Is it an ad though?

The hack around if you don't want to buy a pair of Nike.
Buy your own Nike + iPod Sportkit

Cannes Cyber Grand Prix 2007

Immersive Content

A guy named Justin tinkers with a system of broadcasting video signal from a small camera on his body, from any location, to a website. It takes him about 6 months to figure out the technology. When he does he goes live 24 hours a day. Real time. From his car, to his office, to the first virtual date between and iJustine, his life is laid bare for us to view at our leisure. Which is a trend young people are exhibiting online, sharing everything. As near as I can tell no one other than Justin has created any PR buzz, brand experience or ad awards with this technology. Yet.

The Alexa Stats

I've obviously missed out on about 99% of the cool stuff on the web. What I hope I've collected are some awesome pieces of brand work that defy the "whacky" label. User generated content about a kitten falling asleep may grab eyeballs but no one believes it when there's a logo stuck on the end. These brands have told the truth, been honest and generally surprised us. I've missed out on the Nine Inch Nails Year Zero launch and about another 8 million other clever ideas. Oh well. Maybe later.

Presentation Created & Assembled by Ivan Pols, Associate Creative Director @ Ogilvy Toronto
All works are copyright of the respective brands and agencies.

ps. An experiment gone wrong:
Chivas "This Is The Life"

pps. Here are a few other interesting experiments:
See More Side Effects
Volvo - The Hunt
Ikea - Come into the Closet
BMW - Pace