Does Premium Viral Content Exist?

Marketers work hard at crafting promotional efforts they hope will stand a chance of becoming viral online. No matter how well we succeed at this, though, the viral space will always be dominated by UGC (define).

UGC, also called consumer-generated media (define), the kind of content we see on video sites and that occasionally makes its way into the mainstream media, has the authenticity consumers crave. But that authenticity is as elusive to marketers as, say, calculating the ROI (define) of a so-called viral campaign.

As discussed in my last column, one way to approach online video is to invite consumers to participate in contests in which they create their own video submissions based on a theme that’s relevant to the advertiser’s product. It’s a win-win situation for the marketer, who gets just the type of authentic UGC consumers love, plus an increased likelihood that it will be spread to others online. And that’s all without the stress of trying to gauge what customers want in a viral promotion.

Even in this ideal scenario, however, stress does exist. How can the marketer ensure the content consumers create will be up to a brand’s standards?

One way is to limit how users actually create the videos by supplying them with approved assets they can manipulate. By inviting them to remix existing video content that relates to your brand, you’re guaranteed a certain level of quality while allowing users to personalize the available materials.

Another way is to sponsor content that’s being created in this fashion. Viral video is synonymous with controversy for many marketers, and as such they wouldn’t dream of placing themselves in close proximity of UGC. But if that content was developed using approved materials, the odds are much better that the outcome will appropriately complement the brand.

Video mixing platforms like Eyespot facilitate this kind of media buy through ad network and publisher partnerships. “We’ve allowed brands to insert themselves through in-stream advertising, the traditional way, but also give people tools to manipulate it, which equates to an increased level of performance and ROI,” says Eyespot CEO Jim Kaskade.

An advertiser might sponsor a sports site page on which visitors are encouraged to create unique videos of their favorite teams using the provided content clips. Or a brand could partner with a site, supply the content for the video submissions, and distribute its products to the users who compile the best videos. The video content is premium quality because it’s created using premium video assets, and because it’s still user-generated, it’s more likely to resonate with the target audience. It’s also a conduit for connecting with consumers on a more personal level.

To give a more concrete example, in one sample Eyespot video campaign, consumers are challenged to visually interpret the question, “What kind of world do you want?” using famous historical clips supplied by The History Channel, and incorporating the song “World” by the band Five For Fighting. While allowing users to flex their creative muscle, the effort delivers branding value and exposure among engaged Internet users to both advertisers involved.

Eyespot calls this an engagement marketing model. It goes well beyond the passive video viewing many Internet users participate in. Eyespot says videos built using its platform enjoy about five times the distribution rate of content that’s typically passively viewed, and that time spent with its videos is about 30 percent greater than some of the better performing social networks. In short, the more time consumers spend interacting with video content, the more they’re invested in it — and the brands surrounding it.

So does premium viral content exist? It can if we guide users in its creation while still allowing them the freedom to make it authentic. The online video space may be dominated by UGC, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for marketers, too.

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