Viral video stars

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General Mills’ Betty Crocker brand was surprised by the success of its online video campaign
General Mills’ Betty Crocker brand was surprised by the success of its online video campaign

Imagine learning to make a perfectly frosted, pink Barbie doll cake for your daughter's birthday party, thanks to a video sent to you by a friend. General Mills' Betty Crocker filled that need with an online video campaign this summer, which detailed how to make cakes that look like dinosaurs, castles or even butterflies.

“Any brand is looking to grow its sales,” said Alison Provost, CEO of PowerPact Holdings, a sibling company of TouchStorm, which pro­duces the branded content, and Howdini, which distributes it to a broad network including news media and social networks. “But Betty Crocker felt if it could be a better brand to its core con­sumers, they would naturally be more loyal.”

Timeless videos offer ongoing viral opportunities

The results of the campaign have taken every­one by surprise, she says. Engagement scores are well above average and comments are posi­tive. No one imagined how many people would watch an entire five-minute “branded infor­mation” video, she says. And, an older brand such as Betty Crocker now appears relevant to digital-savvy consumers. While videos about making cakes will never be shared by as many people as a silly stunt video, the videos are also evergreen, providing viral opportunities year after year.

Whether it's Kobe Bryant jumping over a moving sports car for Nike or holiday-themed dancing elves from OfficeMax, top brands have captured the attention of Internet consumers through online videos, who often share them with their friends and family. Forrester Research expects the online video marketing market to explode to $7 billion by 2012, with a 72% com­pound annual growth rate.

But measuring the effectiveness of online video campaigns is at the forefront of many a mar­keter's mind — nearly 60% of marketers surveyed in Forrester's recent study, Interactive Market­ing Channels to Watch, 2008 cite “measuring effectiveness” as the greatest challenge to using online video as a marketing tool.

So can today's marketers learn whether their video campaigns are truly effective? The answer, say industry experts, is yes and no. While the growth of viral video campaigns is expected to explode in the coming years — 83% of market­ers believe the effectiveness of online video will increase in the next three years, according to Forrester — the practice of measuring these cam­paigns still lacks some maturity for the complete picture, since consistent and standardized metrics or measurement strategies don't yet exist.

Videos offer unique measurement challenges

Matt Cutler, VP of marketing and analytics at Visible Measures, which offers online video measurement solutions for clients such as MTV Networks, Nike and Boston.com, notes that measuring Internet video is quite different from measuring Web analytics.

First, videos often travel quickly around the Web — not just embedded, but with others copy­ing video and re-uploading it to multiple sites, or creating spoofs. It's not enough to just look at the videos themselves when measuring the impact of a viral campaign, Cutler says, but also at all the subsequent viral activity, copies and derivatives that result.

Second, the nature of the experience is differ­ent inside a continuous playback video environ­ment. In traditional Web analytics, people click from page to page on a site. Therefore, the way data gets collected, organized, and visualized is a totally different problem, says Cutler. “We've seen organizations try to apply some of the his­toric measurement technologies to Internet video and wind up being very frustrated or significantly undercalculate their results,” he explains.

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