During the last technology recession one of my colleagues used to sell public relations services as ‘free advertising’ because it resonated with a number of clients that he spoke with. Nowadays I have been hearing similar things regarding social media, and if I thought it was just the circles that I move in, Gerry McCluster’s recent post dispelled that myth for me.
Viral means free widespread advertising; the hypothesis goes that you throw a video up on to YouTube, a Facebook page and sit back as the internet flocks to see your product or service. Which is the reason why thousands of videos sit on YouTube virtually unwatched, Facebook applications and groups being virtually unused. Which is partly the reason why ‘viral’ has come to mean something that is ‘a little bit shit’ as Nik Roope jokingly once put it.
Creative good content which people will want to share and carry out a brand’s call to action costs money in terms of good creative, good execution and seeding. Its like making a Hollywood film; even with Tom Cruise playing the lead role, there is no guarantee that it will be a box office smash. A classic example of this is the hit and miss campaigns that Fallon has done for Cadbury or Crispin Porter Bogusky who have done a mix of applauded and gringingly bad work for their clients from Burger King to Microsoft.
People that do it well like the Viral Factory are very much in demand and get paid accordingly. There is no such thing as free advertising.