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March 31, 2021

Questioning the effectiveness of viral videos

For someone who can’t get enough of that spectacular Phil Collins-drumming gorilla, it never dawned on me that the viral video – no matter how many times I linked myself or others to it – never once made me want to buy the product it was designed to promote.

No, no rampant primate performance of "In the Air Tonight" was enough to make me thirst for a Dairy Milk, which kind of causes me to re-evaluate the success of the spot.

And it turns out I’m not alone in my suspicions. On the heels of that Evian rollerskating babies ad becoming the most watched online commercial of all time, BrandWeek.com points out that the viral potency of the clip really did nothing to boost product sales.

Indeed, in spite of more than 100 million views and the honour of being made Time magazine’s No. 1 TV ad of the year, Evian’s CGI roller-tots actually preceded a sizeable 25 per cent average sales drop for the bottler in each of its 2009 quarters.

Now, those losses could be a recessionary recoil effect – with consumers choosing to downgrade from the premium water brand after widespread economic collapse – but they do call into question the effect of viral videos’ value in the first place.

Many sources are now questioning how best to measure the efficacy of online ads, and answers are slow to trickle in.

On the one hand, anything viewed by 100 million people can’t possibly be bad  for business, and – at the very least – such an online prowess boosts search engine optimization and claims valuable Internet real estate for a product, one marketing director tells BrandWeek.

But if the sales aren’t there, at the end of the day, what do you have?

Supporters of viral video point to T-Mobile’s awesome “Life's for Sharing” ad, its ability to increase foot traffic in the U.K. and the 29 per cent sales bump it caused in a “lousy retail environment,” according to BrandWeek.

Yet for ever marked success in the viral game, there are countless ads that circulate the ‘net, drum up consumer interest but ultimately fall flat where bottom lines are concerned.

Again, this certainly isn’t a drawback for companies – the videos cost next-to-nothing and can get you Super Bowl-level exposure without the $3 million placement fee – we simply don’t know how to properly measure a viral ad’s effect just yet.

“A lot of these videos have nothing to do with the product and how you can drive sales,” Augustine Fou, author of the go-Digital blog, told BrandWeek. “People who defend them say they want engagement but that’s not enough.

“These days the bar is higher with so many analytics. (Businesses) expect more ROI (return on investment.)”

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...