14 October 2005

Viral marketing

One of the latest marketing phenomena is so-called viral marketing. It's based on the simple idea of having your message carried for free via e-mail and similar methods by the target audience members themselves.

There's even a company that calls itself the Viral Factory, specializing in exactly this type of selling approach.

Ads for the Ford Sportka, a compact marketed in Britain were among the first virals I ever came across. They wound up in my e-mail inbox as an attachment from a friend of mine. There were two. One is the bird version found on the Viral Factory website. The other was my favourite.

It was startling and hysterically funny, in a sick, twisted kind of way. It fits the viral bill perfectly because while the bird ad - the car bonnet swats a bird that flies too close (birds crap on cars; this car gets its vengeance) - might theoretically make it to commercial television, on the Internet you get three advantages:

1. You do NOT have to pay for placement. People circulate your stuff for free.
2. You do NOT have to navigate the sometimes painfully bureaucratic world of getting your ad cleared by the lawyers to air on television.
3. Your single ad is almost universal - there is no need to produce a version in different languages or suited to particular cultural sensitivities.

Yes, you say, but cable has become so risky that anything goes. True, but there are still boundaries.

In a genuinely successful ad, the news media will pick it up, thereby adding to your reach. The client can then disown the ads and the agency - at least publicly - thereby generating even more attention for the brand.

The agency will get paid. It will likely pick up new clients and the clients will get all the advertising they need, with the right audiences and at a relatively low cost.

You and I often get a laugh.

Everyone wins.

For a Friday bit of fun, here's the cat-eating car. WARNING: This is NOT for cat-lovers or children. It is safe for work.