I love a well presented chart or a neatly laid out table. The guys over at marketingcharts.com, for example, put out a daily newsletter that delivers one good insight per day without trying too hard.
But this report from the usually reliable Millward Brown left me utterly cold. They claim to have developed a metric for determining the viral potential of your video. Their metric includes “Buzz”, “Celebrity” and “Distinctiveness”. As far as I am aware none of these is measured in SI units. Worst of all is that loaded word “potential”. In other words, even if you accept the crazy notion that you can actually measure the celebrity-ness or the buzz-ocity of your video, you will still only arrive at a figure which shows the potential your video has to go viral. Your video may or may not fulfill its viral potential, but at least you will know how likely this was to have happened… potentially.
Based on Millward Brown’s new index and a survey of over 100 ads, a bizarre statistic was reported here and elsewhere stating that only 15% of ads go viral online. Firstly 15% seems shockingly high to me, but when you look at their definition of viral success you start to see all sorts of chicanery in action.
To back up this statistical flim flam, Millward Brown offers eight case studies analyzing, post facto, the main viral drivers behind each. It’s a classic instance of “past posting”, the delicious con tactic that was used in The Sting. Out of the eight videos analyzed, three were ads that were shown during this year’s Super Bowl. The other five were similarly big budget productions backed up with additional TV and print campaigns. The only lesson Millward Brown is teaching here is that if you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars making your video and then millions of dollars buying airtime for it so that tens of millions of people tuned in to the most watched program of the year see it, there is a chance that more people will watch it again online. It’s the daftest, most insignificant piece of research since this study into whether it’s better to be hit over the head by a full or empty beer bottle.
I understand that agencies are still taking millions of dollars from foolish advertisers to make viral videos with no discernible ROI. I get that this outmoded practice will be defended by other agencies paid by the first lot of agencies to try to lend them some integrity. But this latest attempt at selling the Eiffel Tower doesn’t even try to appear credible.
I call on the researchers at Millward Brown to use their metric to identify some viral successes (and failures) before they happen. Furthermore, in order for something to qualify as an online viral success the campaign must garner more eyeballs online than in any other medium. Let’s see you work your magic with that!