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The Business of Viral Videos

Last week, Stephen was featured on the top technology website CNET News speaking about “The Business of Viral Videos” and it is our pleasure to share the video with you here! Tune in to find out what we learned from our own viral success, why contagious online video is now so critical to marketing and brand management, plus get a sneak preview of what we’re up to next in the EepyLab!

Viral Video Case Study: Drive Thru Invisible Driver Prank

One of the hot viral videos this month is Rahat Hossain’s Drive Thru Invisible Driver Prank.  Let’s take a look and see how it does on the four rules from The Viral Video Manifesto.

Rule One: Be True

Rahat does a really good job here.  His intro sets things up perfectly. He’s out in a real parking lot somewhere, not a set, not a studio – it’s REAL.  Excellent!

Next, he shows you exactly how the prank works. He’s got the fake seat right there and shows us everything. This complete transparency really draws us in. He’s going to prank people, but from the start, we can tell that he’s authentic and he’s being really honest with us.

Then there’s the fake seat – it’s not very good! It’s a cardboard box covered with cloth and it looks like… a cardboard box covered with cloth. But it’s good enough, and that’s all you need, and he knows it.

In fact, the lack of polish in the fake seat is great. It’s one of the many things that our brain takes in that tells us – accurately – that what we’re seeing is real.

For the rest of the video, Rahat just shows us what Alan Funt, the creator of Candid Camera (and the guy who essentially invented this kind of entertainment back in the 1940’s), called “people in the act of being themselves.”

It’s just clip after clip of real people have real reactions to real events. And if the reactions are good, that’s money. And here, they’re great. High marks for this video on Be True.

Rule Two: Don’t Waste My Time.

Again, really good. It’s nothing but set up and punch lines. The rule for sideshow is: give us just enough explanation in the beginning so we understand what’s going on and then get to it. Here, Rahat explains exactly what’s going to happen, then he gets down to business immediately.

A word about the cuts here from one drive-thru reaction to the next: every cut, every edit, makes your video less true. Each cut removes the viewer a little bit from what it was like to actually be there when it all happened.

But cuts like Rahat uses, and like those we sometimes use in our videos, save time. And that’s all they do.  And that’s good. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice a little bit on Rule 1: Be True (where the ideal shot is a single, unedited one), in order to make sure you don’t run afoul of Rule 2: Don’t Waste My Time. That’s what Rahat does here, and it works.

Rule Three: Be Unforgettable. 

car-seat-halloween-costumeThis is usually the toughest and the most important of the four rules. Now, we’ve seen magicians pretending to be invisible before, and in fact, we’ve even seen a version of this stunt before, in a photo that went viral a while ago.

But still, this video has a memorable hook – an invisible driver prank is not a stunt most people have seen before.  And, in particular, what the video has that the photo doesn’t is the amazing reactions of the people working at the drive-thrus. That’s what really elevates this to unforgettable.

For them, it’s an unforgettable moment, and we get to see it. One woman says, “Am I tripping?!” It’s priceless. One after another, we see other people experience unforgettable moments, and that’s compelling. That’s where Invisible Drive Thru hits it out of the park, which brings us right into Rule Four:

Rule Four: Ultimately, It’s All About Humanity.

After the brief set up so that we understand what we’re seeing, it’s all about those great reactions: fun, funny, likeable human reactions, one after the other, until we’re almost overwhelmed. Like the best Candid Camera videos, it’s full of active, positive emotion. That’s contagious.

So, Invisible Drive Thru does really well on all four rules. It shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s had over 30 million views in just a couple of weeks.

Excerpt from the Viral Video Manifesto: I Am the Camera. Take Me There.

LipdubTV and film production relies on fancy camera tricks and quick cuts to hold a viewer’s attention. This is precisely what doesn’t work in viral video. In viral video, you want to show us something real, and you don’t want anything to get in the way. This week, we’re pleased to offer you an excerpt on this topic from The Viral Video Manifesto called “I Am the Camera. Take Me There.”

In viral video, you should move the camera as if it is a person, as if it is your audience. It’s a simple idea and a great guiding principle. In the chapter below, we offer examples of videos that have successfully used this idea in different ways. Some use a single, uninterrupted shot, and others have cuts from one money shot to the next. But by applying this idea, the result is true, unfiltered and, consequently, highly contagious content.

EepyBird’s Top 5 Tips for Going Viral

Over the last six years of creating crazy Coke & Mentos experiments and other viral videos, we have discovered many useful principles. But if we had just 5 minutes to tell you what to do before making a viral video, these would be our Top 5 Tips. The old rules of film and TV don’t work online, but these tips will show you how to make videos that get people sharing with their friends:

This video is also a sneak peek at the content from the enhanced ebook version of The Viral Video Manifesto. For a complete look at the four rules for creating contagious content, check out the book.

[The Viral Video Manifesto on Amazon]

EepyBird’s Top 10 Branded Viral Videos of 2012

Looking for our picks for the top 10 overall viral videos of 2012? Click here.

Viral video is about more than people just falling and hurting themselves. It’s become a powerful way for brands to create an emotional connection with consumers. Most importantly, as more and more traditional ads just get ignored, viral video is a way you can make ads people want to watch.

A lot of successful branded viral videos, like our Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments and the Coke Zero & Mentos Rocket Car, integrate the product into the video.  Others, like our #1 pick this year, connect to the brand on a thematic level and put the brand messaging at the end. It’s as if the video is a gift, and at the end, there’s a little card saying, “from the friendly folks at TNT.” It’s simple and powerful.

These 10 videos show just how great a video can be while simultaneously forging a strong connection with consumers, and the top 3 also made our list of the best overall viral videos of 2012.

These videos also illustrate our four rules of viral video from The Viral Video Manifesto, with different videos having different strengths that helped make them contagious.  One overall weakness of these branded videos: Rule 1: Be True.  They tend to be over-produced and dress things up more than is needed.  Only a few of these videos keep it as simple as possible and get the maximum contagiousness from Rule 1.

Without further ado, here are our personal picks for the best branded viral videos of the year:

1. A Dramatic Surprise on a Quiet Square

TNT Belgium, 39 million views
“A Dramatic Surprise” is our choice for the #1 sponsored video of the year, brought to you by TNT Belgium.  Built around the phrase “Add More Drama,” this video does an amazing job of creating a strong, positive emotional connection.  And the brand presence is clear but never in the way.  Of all the Candid Camera-style videos out there, this is one of the absolute best.  Strength: This video does a remarkable job with all four rules.

2. Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic freefall from 128k’ – Mission Highlights

Red Bull, 30 million views
Red Bull tapped into the powerful draw of the biggest, wildest stunt of the year, turning this 21st century sideshow moment into great viral content.  Strength: Rule 3: Be Unforgettable.

3. Dumb Ways to Die

Melbourne Metro Trains, 32 million views
Melbourne Metro Trains dared to be different, and it paid off.  This is a catchy, quirky song with simple, compelling animation.  Both the song and the ideas stick in your head and are very contagious.  Strength: Music and Rule 3: Be Unforgettable (especially as discussed in Chapter 13 of the VVM: Be Bold Enough to Be Unforgettable).


DC Shoes, 36 million views
We are once again frustrated by the over-produced camera work of the Gymkhana series and think they could be even more successful with a simpler, more viral filming style.  But the stunts continue to be insane, and that’s their strength.  Once again, it’s the 21st century sideshow in action.  Strength: Rule 3: Be Unforgettable (especially as discussed in Chapter 11 of the VVM: Own It).

5. The Bark Side: 2012 Volkswagen Game Day Commercial Teaser

Volkswagen, 18 million views
Following the runaway success of last year’s “The Force,” Volkswagen put out this teaser for their ad during this year’s Super Bowl, “The Dog Strikes Back.”  While “The Bark Side” presumably uses digital compositing, it’s a simpler, more contagious video with more views online than “The Dog Strikes Back.”  It shows how, while “The Dog Strikes Back” was a great TV spot, simpler production techniques and a clearer hook work better online. Strengths: Rule 3: Be Unforgettable (especially as discussed in Chapter 10 of the VVM: Do Something Different).

6. OK Go – Needing/Getting – Official Video

Chevrolet, 23 million views
OK Go returns with a phenomenal video for Chevrolet creating music by driving through a giant musical instrument. Once again, OK Go shows they have a great understanding of viral video techniques.  Strength: This video does a great job with all four rules.

7. The Athlete Machine – Red Bull Kluge

Red Bull, 12 million views
Red Bull makes two appearances on this year’s list.  At number 7, this video has some great strengths and also some weaknesses. A giant Rube Goldberg machine incorporating great athletes is a phenomenal idea, and that gives this video a contagious hook. But with too many camera moves and coming in at a lazy 6 minutes long, it lacks the punch that would have moved it higher up the list.  Strength: Rule 3: Be Unforgettable; Weakness: Rule 2: Don’t Waste My Time.

8. The Big Bang Theory Flash mob!

Big Bang Theory (CBS), 21 million views
One of the memes of the year was “Call Me Maybe” lip dub videos, with the Harvard baseball team, the U.S. Olympic swimming team, and the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders all getting 10 to 20 million views, not to mention spoofs like Sesame Street’s “Share It Maybe.”  One of the most viewed is our #8 pick from CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory.”  It’s also one of the simplest, showing members of the cast and crew letting their hair down and having a good time. That simplicity makes it particularly contagious.  Strengths: tapping into a hot meme and Rule 4: It’s All About Humanity.

9. Unlock the 007 in you. You have 70 seconds!

Coke Zero, 9.5 million views
Coca-Cola has a knack for good Candid Camera-style videos like “Happiness Machine” and now “Unlock the 007 in you.”  Most importantly, they create situations that make people smile – a good strategy for viral video.  Strength: Rule 4: It’s All About Humanity.

10. An Unexpected Briefing

Air New Zealand, 9.9 million views
Air New Zealand did a great job of reaching out to a specific audience, Lord of the Rings fans, in the lead up to the release of the first Hobbit movie. Showing a great sense of humor, Air New Zealand embraced those fans in a very human, non-corporate way.  That emotional connection is a powerful viral tool. Strengths: tapping into pop culture, Rule 4: It’s All About Humanity, and we really like the Lord of the Rings, and we want to go to New Zealand.