Viral Ad Inspiration

There’s a lot to love about viral marketing. Because viral campaigns are designed and structured with grassroots online sharing in mind, they can greatly extend a media buy…and a media budget. The good ones have staying power. Subservient Chicken still gets press. It was launched three and a half years ago.

There’s a downside to viral campaigns, though: there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to how and why they work. When you deal with a venue known for its measurability, that’s a serious problem. Tracking how and where your viral initiative is cited online is a challenge. Keeping tabs on your competitors’ stuff is darn near impossible.

Maybe what viral marketing needs is a viral advertising tracking service, like that being offered by Competitrack. The full-service ad tracking firm monitors online and offline media in the U.S. as well as internationally through its Online Viral Monitoring service. It consists of a database of over 4,000 viral ads, access to which can ensure you know exactly what competing product and service brand managers are up to online.

The company claims to have the most comprehensive archive of viral marketing in the country, and works to maintain it by dispatching researchers daily to scour blogs, social networks, video sharing sites, and everywhere else viral ads are likely to be found. Varied ad formats are considered, including microsites, online games, and podcasts. But it isn’t just the successful messages that Competitrack tracks. In addition to carefully crafted viral ads, subscribers to the monitoring service can view negative viral messages, including ad spoofs that paint an unflattering picture of a product or brand.

Competitrack’s service includes access to the archive, daily new ad alerts, links to live viral pieces, and reviews of noteworthy new viral campaigns. Subscribers pay $3,000 U.S. annually for the first individual user, and a discounted rate for each additional subscriber. That price also gets you the company’s e-mail newsletter, which highlights some of the best viral pieces of the season. The June-July issue was packed with new viral inspiration from such brand as Ray-Ban, McDonald’s, Panasonic, and Royal Caribbean — some of which flew completely under this marketer’s radar.

Each newsletter is capped off with a scorecard of sorts that summarizes viral efforts added to the Competitrack database in recent months. Take one look at the list and you’ll never question the validity of a viral campaign again. Virtually every major advertiser is represented there, with at least one microsite or video that can be categorized as a viral ad. Kudos to Apple for generating the most additions to the list — the majority of which, of course, are consumer-generated love letters, er, videos.

Maybe you propose them on behalf of your interactive agency. Or maybe you receive requests for unique viral campaign ideas. Whatever the case, as an online marketer involved in viral advertising, you owe it to yourself and your clients to stay on top of the state of this nubile genre online. What works and what doesn’t changes on a near daily basis, as consumers get wise to the formulaic design and messaging responsible for past successes. So as with any concept, creative, or placement requirement, it makes good sense to research the competitive landscape.

They may not care to admit it, but some of the most effective viral marketers have drawn inspiration for their campaigns from exiting efforts that fell short. Often, a fresh pair of eyes is all it takes to turn a good idea that’s poorly placed or executed into a great idea that’s perfectly refined. That’s what Competitrack can offer with its database of viral ads: great fodder for your own superior viral campaigns.

Frankly, my first reaction to hearing about this service was somewhat subdued. Any decent media planner or buyer should already be aware of new viral ads. Heck, even our friends and relatives have happened across our industry’s (and our potential customers’) latest contributions on YouTube. As long as viral marketing remains an afterthought in an otherwise traditional online media campaign, however, few of us are able to dedicate the hours necessary to paint a complete picture of the online viral space at every given time.

Call Competitrack a shortcut to viral enlightenment. And create your next viral piece with the objective of seeing it featured in the Online Viral Monitoring Service.

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