Social Scanner: The art of the viral stunt video
October 10, 2013 | Russ Martin | Comments
Who’s fooling who?
The viral marketing agency Thinkmodo scored a social hit this week for its client Sony Screen Gems with the video Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise.
In the ad coffee shop customers witness a Carrie-style freak out (spoiler: it’s an ad for Carrie) in which a young actress “moves” books, chairs and a stuntman with her mind. Since being published Monday, it has racked up 19 million views.
The ad is the latest in a long line of marketing stunt videos. Popular recent hits include Pepsi gettingNascar’s Jeff Gordon to torment a car salesman and an unsuspecting beer drinker undergoing a terrible job interview that turns out to be a Heineken-crafted prank. In Canada, VMG Cinematic helped make a stunt-style video of a seemingly supernatural catch by pro baseball player Evan Longoria that turned out to be – surprise – an ad for Gillette.
The reason each spread so successfully on social media is the element of surprise. Something unexpected or unbelievable happened, delightfully surprising the viewer before the reveal came that the video is an ad.
The key to having a stunt video shared for the right reasons, though, is knowing just how far to pull the wool over consumers’ eyes. Jimmy Kimmel’s twerk stunt, for example, left the viewer hanging too long (six full days), and many felt deceived when the reveal came. Slate called it “everything that’s wrong with viral marketing,” blasting Kimmel for destroying the sense of wonder that comes along with authentic, consumer-driven videos.
Thinkmodo’s Carrie video works because it’s not making consumers feel like the fool. In fact, the agency didn’t even fool those coffee customers. The agency’s co-founder Michael Krivicka revealed to Yahoo Movies that the shop was filled with extras instructed to react as if they were seeing the stunt for the first time.
Doing so, the agency created enough surprise to make consumers want to share the video, but not so much that they felt duped. Instead of an innocent bystander, it’s the viewer who is left to imagine the feeling of being scared by something that feels real but isn’t – the exact feeling horror movies produce.
Social spend way up in Canada
This week Marketing reported that social media spending is projected to hit $257 million by the end of 2013. That’s a 35% growth over 2012, though the rapid growth in social spend is expected to slow to about 22% over the next two years. Though the field of paid social media is on the rise, it’s still dwarfed by traditional media like television, which hit $3.6 billion in the year ending August 31, 2012.
Even more social TV news
In last week’s Social Scanner we explored the way both Twitter and Facebook are courting TV ad dollars. On Monday, Twitter and Nielsen launched their first joint report, revealing that Scandal was the most tweeted about show of the week. Throughout the fall TV season, news of new social/television partnerships have rolled out almost as rapidly as the network’s new shows. On Wednesday Twitter launched yet another TV deal, this time with Comcast, that will introduce “see it” cards on Twitter that can be clicked on to reveal more information about TV shows.
Not to be outdone in the TV space, Facebook also announced a slew of international TV deals on Sunday at a global TV conference in Cannes. The partnerships include the extension of a beta program that will allow broadcasters to use the API (an interface that allows third parties to build products using some of a site’s features) for keyword insights and Facebook’s public feed. Though details are not yet available, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed Canadian broadcasters are among those involve.
The Numbers: How social media stacks up to word-of-mouth
A new report by Colloquy research director Jeff Berry shows how word-of-mouth communication is transitioning from traditional channels to social media. Here is a by-the-numbers look at the results:
Decline of word-of-mouth champions (defined by Colloquy as those “highly likely to recommend their favourite brands”) in the U.S. in the past two years.
Respondents who said they prefer to share information about brands face-to-face, compared to email (51%) and social media (39%)
Brand recommendations on social media have grown since 2010
Colloquy’s “word-of-mouth champions” who prefer use Facebook, compared to Twitter (29%), Google+ (25%) and Pinterest (21%)
Young respondents who said it’s appropriate for brands to interact with companies via social media