Viral Marketing

Like its namesake in the disease world, a video goes viral when it spreads extensively within a short period of time. The number of views/hits a video gets on YouTube may rise exponentially as people share it with friends and family through the Internet using email or social media. You can see why marketers want to get in on that action…and they have.

This YouTube video is a good example of a by-all-appearances-homemade video “gone viral” that gained worldwide attention.

Specifically, the video (below) appeared to show, in real time, a man using his iPhone to hack into a number of Times Square’s large electronic billboards:

It was later revealed, however, that the video was produced as part of a promotional campaign to support the Bradley Cooper / Robert De Niro film Limitless, which was being released in theaters later in 2011. During the two-minute video, a very brief segment of the trailer for the movie appears in one of the large electronic billboards just before the billboard is “hacked into” by the young man in the video. The story generated a great deal of media attention (including an article in  The New York Times) due in part to the amazing feat (later revealed to be fake) demonstrated in the video, but also because viewers didn’t even realize that this “viral video” was actually an ad for a movie.

We expect these kinds of below-the-radar campaigns to increase in number and frequency in the years ahead as advertisers become more savvy and consumers demonstrate continued impatience with the more hard-sell methods at work in conventional 30-second broadcast ads. Consumers should develop and maintain a conscious awareness of these kinds of ads and the impact that these tactics can have on their spending decisions.

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When a video (or song, or photo, etc.) “goes viral,” it becomes very popular very quickly. It gets shared from one person to their group of friends, from each of those friends to even more people, and so on, just like a virus.

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