From time-to-time a YouTube video becomes an overnight sensation. It could be of the most mundane things, yet once the populous gets hold of it and finds it endearing, controversial or funny, it can rack up a vast number of views in a very short period of time.
This is the ‘viral’ effect.
Take, for instance, ‘Charlie bit me’ or ‘Fenton’. In isolation, neither of these videos is of anything remarkable, exciting or interesting. But due to being cute, funny and a little bit silly, we have taken them to our hearts and between them they have racked up well over 500m views. And it’s clear we’re often just out to see something daft. A simple search for ‘talking cat’ shows that the most viewed video has received over 23m views.
Car companies have also proven the power of viral video. Take for instance the Ford KA’s ‘evil twin’. Ford denied (and still do) any association with the making of the videos, one of which shows a cat coming to an unfortunate end, and the other a pigeon meeting a similarly sticky fate. But no matter who made the videos, they went viral, being passed around the internet and via word-of-mouth creating no end of media coverage for the brand. In spite of (or, arguably, because of) the controversy.
Volkswagen managed a similar feat of ‘viral’ with its advert for the Passat. Branded ‘The Power’, it is a simple ad which appeals due to being ‘cute’. The original advert was created to be shown only at the 2011 Superbowl in the USA. However, since then it has gone worldwide thanks to the internet. To date, it has amassed over 55m views on YouTube.
The internet also enables carmakers – or even dealers – to rattle the cages of the Advertising Standards Authority. Certainly it has worked for Toyota.
In a recent advert for the brand’s new GT86 sports car, branded ‘The Real Deal’, a computerised figure is seen driving a GT86 in what could be considered – if you were feeling particularly uncharitable – a reckless manner. Two complaints were made against the advert appearing on TV and these were upheld due to the following reasons – which apply to all car brands:
“(Adverts must not) …demonstrate power, acceleration, handling characteristics etc. except in a clear context of safety. Any references to such characteristics must not imply excitement or competitiveness. There must be no suggestion that a vehicle is to be preferred because of its power or speed. Words like ‘performance’ can be ambiguous and care should be taken to make the meaning clear.”
And for these reasons, the full-length GT86 advert is now banished to the internet, where it has inevitably picked up a large number of views and, as word spreads about the ban, is building an even wider following. BMW has been quick to exploit this too, creating two M-performance ads in Canada which would have never been allowed in the UK (video 1 and video 2). Because of their availability on YouTube, however, various UK motoring publications have linked to them through their websites, adding to the viral effect.
Clearly, dealers and carmakers need to be careful when creating a viral video, or any video promotion which could be viewed as controversial. But done right, a viral video – whether intended to be so or not – can work to spread your message far further than conventional means would otherwise allow.