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Media Monitoring News, December 2008

Viral Videos for PR: Guidelines for Success

Online video is the latest publicity tactic in public relations. Everyone seems to be grabbing a video camera in pursuit of the "viral video" that will catapult a product into prominence. Indeed, video has emerged as a key communications language of the web and the explosion of video on the Internet offers extraordinary PR opportunities. Failure to speak the new video language is a huge impediment in communicating your corporate or brand message.

There are now dozens of video outlets reaching hundreds of thousands of viewers — millions if a video achieves "buzz" — for short PR and marketing videos.

The first step toward using this powerful medium is to consider a basic question many pr people fail to ask: what audience do I want —and need— to reach? Do you need to influence youthful tech enthusiasts? Soccer moms? Mid-level business executives? Each group reacts to a different video style and content. Trying to be cool and hip can turn off the soccer mom but is absolutely necessary if you're seeking out young, tech-savvy consumers.

Once you've determined your audience, think through how you can make your message cut through the video clutter on the web. Large companies with large budgets use celebrities like they would in a more traditional series of commercials. Nike recently paired martial arts personality Kimbo Slice with San Diego Chargers running back Ladanian Tomlinson.

Since few of us have that kind of budget, get acquainted with the video celebrities who have made themselves stars on the web. A young guy from Kentucky (of all places!) named William Sledd has established himself as an arbiter of fashion with a series of popular web videos. Video bloggers like David Choi have a big fan base on YouTube. Some of these web celebrities can be hired for your video at reasonable fees.

Whether or not you take the celebrity route, developing a compelling concept is critical to success. You have to grab your audience immediately or they'll quickly move on to another video. Think through the story you want to tell and the images you can use to command attention.

Complex and expensive video production isn't necessary, but eye-catching or unique visuals are important. Don't approach this like a video news release, which mirrors the kind of story you'd see on a television newscast. Figure out a narrative that will appeal to your target audience by focusing on their lifestyle and the issues they face. Make it fast paced with lots of visuals; don't linger on an image or your audience will soon be gone.

And keep your video short. People may watch a half hour of "The Office" on the web but they don't expect the typical web video to take much of their time. Five minutes max is a good rule of thumb. Keep in mind that the Obama Girl video that got almost 12 million viewings on YouTube was a just little over three minutes long.

A number of successful forms or formats are emerging in the online video space, including "performances", "how to", "product demonstration", "home videos" and others.

The most successful online videos feature most of the following characteristics:
    1.Humor — The most successful online videos are funny and spontaneous. Wacky comedy is by far the most viral of all content. Violence, sex and spirituality are also successful.
    2.Early Hooks — Attention spans are really short. Fingers click quickly. Something must hook viewers in the first 10 to 15 seconds.
    3.Originality — Always the case. Take-offs of TV shows or movies worked at the outset, but have lost their mojo.
    4.Virtuosity — A performance — any kind of performance — that excels. While polished professional performances and music videos such as I'm Yours by Jason Mraz are coming to dominate viral videos, wacky virtuosity such as Solving the Rubik Cube in seconds, also succeed.
    5.Eye-Catching Visuals — Video rules apply. Attention-grabbing visuals are vital.
    6.Interesting Characters — But, of course.
    7.Music — Adds to entertainment value. Consumer-generated videos use copyrighted music with impunity. In commercial uses, take care of copyright issues.
    8.Grabber Title — The title listing is a big deal. You need to craft a title that demands viewer attention — and tells the story in a few words. Include the most important keywords in your title and video description so that the search engines will find the video.
    9.Niche Culture — Target niche audiences by demographic or culture.
    10.Low-Key Promotion — Slip in the product story slyly; don't pound it.

Bottom line: originality and virtuosity are the two key features of the most successful online videos. At least one "wow factor" — whether originality, virtuosity, humor or stupendous visuals (including video tricks) — is absolutely essential to achieve an exceptional success. As in most media, sequels and imitations do find an audience, but usually smaller than the original.

Creative tip: Wacky Performance + Product = Success

Like all promotion programs, company-created online videos need to be vetted by legal counsel.

With the accelerating plethora of videos, it's also important for companies to monitor video sharing sites for videos about their company and its brands. It's nearly impossible to monitor all the sites manually using search engines. CyberAlert VDO, a subscription service, monitors the meta tags of over 200+ video sharing sites automatically searching each day for new mentions of company name or brand name, and then delivering a daily e-mail report of newly found video clips.

Reviewing the Internet's "smash hits" can enlighten the way to creating a successful viral video. Here are some of the most recent online viral video hits.

Free Hugs Campaign (34 million views)
"Offbeat" and fun. Tells a visual story with absolutely no words.

Yes We Can — Barack Obama Music Video (14 million views)
An "anthem" of the campaign — and probably the presidency.

Randy Pausch Last Video: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams (8+ million views)
Professor talks about his impending death and what he wants his children to know about life. Breaking most all the rules for "success" in online videos, this straightforward lecture is a compelling learning experience from Carnegie Mellon University.

Awareness Test (6+ million views)
Successful public service announcement.

Hitler Rants About D3
An out of the box approach to portraying camera features.

Playing for Change: Stand By Me

Robert Burden's Voltron
Time-lapse photography demonstrates creation of modern piece of art.

American Toy Boy - Etch A Sketch Man
A prototypical visual approach to showing Etch A Sketch virtuosity.

Join the You Tube Symphony Orchestra
A first attempt at "interactive online video" by Google (YouTube) itself.

Stacking Routine
Virtuosity personified. What if the young performers were wearing your logo on their shirts or stacking your brand's packages?

And here are some classic online viral videos.

Evolution of Dance (106 million views)
Reputed to be the single most successful online video.

How to Fold a T-Shirt
A sound example of the "how to" genre that is almost universally successful in online video, as long as it's visually interesting.

Guitar - Pachibel Canon (52 million views)
The epitome of virtuosity. Classical music in rock style.

Guitar Spin Off — Vivaldi Four Seasons / Summer (9 million views)

Soulja Boy Yums in Finish Line
Using a celebrity to sell in an online video to a "niche" audience of teenage girls.

Ikea Tidy Up
TV ad that works well as an online video with surprise ending.

Shakira-Hips Don't Lie
Could you get a "product plug" into this video?? Of course, corporate commercial use would require clearing music copyright.

Extreme Funny (34 million views)
Another professional performance received more views on YouTube than on TV.

Incredible Machine
One example of many Rube Goldberg devices in online videos — many to promote products.

Quick Change Artists
Example of professional performance video online. Sponsoring "off-beat" professional performances can promote product or corporate reputation.

Here are some of the most successful product-centered online videos.

Blendtec Blender (10+ million viewers, all versions) Will It Blend?
In an era when most countertop appliances break before you even plug them in, this manufacturer's online videos are "rugged".

How to Solve the Rubik Cube (8+ million viewers)
An amateur provides detailed instruction that sells more cubes.

This manufacturer of electronic gadgets has produced dozens of online videos about its products, highlighting features and benefits.

iPod Touch Application Reviews
The 16th in the series. Hint: Think series, not one-off.

Nokia N97 Demo (1 million views)
There are at least a dozen different demos of the Nokia N97 — with some of the amateur demos are more effective and convincing than the professional versions.

Google Android Demo (1+ million views)
Sergey Brin and Steve Horowitz (chief engineer) show features of the new mobile phone operating system.

Mobile phones are a staple of online videos and iPhone is the online video champion. Hundreds of online videos — maybe even thousands — about iPhone and its applications are scattered over 200+ online video sites with over one hundred million video views. IPod Touch Application Reviews create positive promotion by product "champions", but some online videos were created by media professionals and Apple PR placements including A Closer Look at the iPhone. But there are also some detractors such as iPhone Bill, iPhone Scratch Test and The Secret of iPhone's Service Policy. The broken screen problem can be readily fixed, however, as demonstrated by iPhone Screen Replacement & Disassemble/TakeApart Directions

Video Site Rankings

In October, Google Sites once again ranked as the top U.S. video property with nearly 5.4 billion videos viewed (representing a 40 percent share of all videos viewed), with accounting for more than 98 percent of all videos viewed at the property. Fox Interactive Media ranked second with 520 million videos (3.8 percent), followed by Yahoo! Sites with 363 million (2.7 percent), and Viacom Digital with 305 million (2.3 percent). Hulu, a joint venture of NBC and Fox featuring full-length broadcast TV programs, ranked sixth with 235 million videos viewed (1.7 percent).

Top U.S. Online Video Properties* by Videos Viewed
October 2008
Total U.S. - Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore Video Metrix
PropertyVideos (000)Share (%) of Videos
Total Internet13,536,595100.0
Google Sites5,373,78339.7
Fox Interactive Media519,9263.8
Yahoo! Sites363,4262.7
Viacom Digital305,2582.3
Microsoft Sites286,4642.1
Turner Network228,0241.7
Disney Online126,6110.9
AOL LLC122,5800.9

*Rankings based on video content sites; excludes video server networks. Online video includes both streaming and progressive download video.

Google Sites Draws 100 Million Video Viewers in October

More than 147 million U.S. Internet users watched an average of 92 videos per viewer in October. Google Sites attracted a record 100 million online video viewers, or more than two out of every three Internet users who watched video during the month. Fox Interactive ranked second with 60.8 million viewers, followed by Yahoo!Sites (45.2 million) and Microsoft Sites (30.7 million).

Top U.S. Online Video Properties* by Unique Viewers
October 2008
Total U.S. - Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore Video Metrix
PropertyUnique Viewers (000)Average Videos per Viewer
Total Internet147,28391.9
Google Sites100,47553.5
Fox Interactive Media60,7918.6
Yahoo! Sites45,1878.0
Microsoft Sites30,6969.3
Viacom Digital25,65811.9
AOL LLC22,7435.4
Turner Network20,85810.9
Disney Online13,7579.2
CBS Corporation13,6394.7

*Rankings based on video content sites; excludes video server networks. Online video includes both streaming and progressive download video.

Other notable findings from October 2008 include:
    • 77 percent of the total U.S. Internet audience viewed online video.
    • The average online video viewer watched 274 minutes of video.
    • More than 80 percent of the 18-34 year olds watched online video, higher than any other age segment. The average 18-34 year old online video viewer watched 4.8 hours of video during the month, also ranking above all other age segments.
    • 99.5 million viewers watched 5.3 billion videos on (53.2 videos per viewer).
    • 51.2 million viewers watched 520 million videos on (8.0 videos per viewer).
    • The duration of the average online video was 3.0 minutes.
    • The duration of the average online video viewed at Hulu was 11.6 minutes, higher than any other video property in the top ten.

Other online video outlets include Metacafe, Atom Films, CollegeHumor, Veoh, Grouper, Revver. It's quite acceptable to place a video in more than one web site.

If you want/need more guidance on conceiving, producing and distributing online videos try this new book. YouTube for Business: Online Video Marketing for Any Business by Michael Miller.

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