18 March 2010

Great Creative + Lotsa Luck = Viral Success

We were shocked -- shocked! -- to see this headline today: "Strong Creative Drives Viral Success".

Who knew? To read the article, click here, but here's our perspective:

Millward Brown is a trustworthy source. The headline is a "duh" but you can be sure it's backed up by bulletproof research. I love the Millward Brown people that work with my clients.

Screens are screens. MB's analysis sounded exactly like their analyses of what drives strong television advertising. Many people declare or predict the death of 30-second TV commercials. TV commercials aren't dead, they're just moving to other media, mainly digital.

Luck is the second biggest driver of viral success. Even great creative is no guarantee of success. A colleague once told me "viral is not a strategy, it's an outcome." Saying you're doing a viral ad is like saying you'll go to Vegas and come back a million dollars richer.

The Millward Brown study acknowledges this. "We see there are certain principles that make an ad go viral," says Ann Green, senior vice president of marketing solutions for Millward Brown. "But there will always be ads that have these characteristics that don't catch on and vice versa."

Strong creative. I'll be darned.


  1. Ha! I saw your link in the comments on that original article and then popped over here to read your take...

    Gotta say - i agree 100% with you vs. that other site's post.

    I've had some minor viral success myself. And as you say - a LOT of it is luck, combined with a creative with potential to go viral, plus (if/when it does start taking off) some effort to maintain its momentum.

    But really it's luck that makes the difference.

    ...and when they said "only one in six reach the upper echelons of heavy viewing"... that's actually being quite generous, imo.

    There are countless companies and agencies vying for viral success online, and depending on their definition of 'heavy viewing', far more than 5 outta 6 fail at that.

    Either way, that's my 2 cents and glad to see you calling them out. :)

  2. Steve,

    I still find it amazing that agencies will sell work as if they know it will go viral. I have been in presentations where agency folks have guaranteed a client that this idea will go viral.

    That is a huge guarantee that very few should make.

    Don't forget about trusting your gut or intuition. I think it plays a big part. We have beaten the human part of what we do down with numbers and measurable results. That's why the Super Bowl spots sucked.

    Well, one of the reasons.

    I'm stepping off my soap box now.