The power of the viral video

Written by Anushree Chandran | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 22 2014, 07:17am hrs
One of Indias largest fast moving consumer goods companies, Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), released a video online called Tree of Life and it generated 12 million views from across the globe, out of which 2.4 million views were generated out of India alone. The video tells the story of an Indonesian woman Utari and her special relationship with a tree. She talks animatedly to the tree, has meals with it and buys tiny colourful toys and other embellishments from the local market in order to adorn its branches. It is only towards the end of the film, that you realise that Utari has lost a child and that her little boy has been buried underneath the tree.

This online tale of loss and longing brought out an explosion of sentiment online and did more for HUL, than what a short commercial on television could, maintained Samir Singh, global brand vice president, Lifebuoy, Unilever. He admitted that HUL had not pre-empted the impact and the truly viral nature of the film. Digital has liberated us. It has freed us from the tyranny of the 30-second or 15-second commercial and the cost associated with it, said Singh. Since the video is long form, it was released online.

Nearly 1.7 million children die of infectious diseases every year. Our brief to the agency was to put out a compelling powerful story and make this a bigger issue than just a number. Lifebuoy has taken its hand washing behaviour change programmes to 183 million people across the world, said Singh, We wanted to tell the world the Lifebuoy story in a deeply emotional way and turn the Help a Child Reach 5 campaign into something personal and powerful. Unilever also has a dedicated online channel for Help a Child Reach 5.

Singh added that long form films benefit from the digital medium. Unlike television, there is no pre-testing required for digital content and campaigns, Singh said and added that the way a video went viral depended on what people experienced. A long form film could bring out powerful emotions.

The fact is that marketers are fast realising that online video and other forms of exclusive online content have the power to beguile, transform and move the audience in ways that television seldom can. The audience for this content chooses to watch it voluntarily. If they like it, it becomes viral. At least 5-8% of their online budgets are now steadily moving towards digital content. The world of the web doesnt suffer from constraints of television such as bandwidth or prime time.

Sportswear brand Nike released a 5-minute animated feature film called The Last Game which starred some of the worlds greatest footballers on a mission to save football from the hands of a villainous mastermind called The Scientist. He creates clones of the footballers who are programmed to remove all the risk-taking and focus only on efficiency, decisionmaking and results. The story ends with how the real football champs trump the clones and save the game. This film premiered on all of Nikes digital platforms and generated more than 140 million views online. The film was a global effort by Nike, advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy and production house Passion. Closer home, Nike India released a digital crowd sourced film Make Every Yard Count which won as many as seven metals at the Cannes Lions International Festival Of Creativity recently. The film featured vignettes of 1,440 aspiring cricketers and 225,000 crowd sourced moments from over a 1,000 cricket fields of India. The sound track was especially lauded because it captured both the tension of the game, and the fevered pitch of the crowds.

Avinash Pant, marketing director at Nike India said that the film was successful at Cannes because it truly depicted the dedication and passion of young cricketers through a digital led campaign. Also, the content was authenticimages that were crowd sourced from across the country. The campaign superbly illustrates the raw desire of everyday cricket that plays out in the streets near you, he said. There are millions of young cricketers in India, who strive hard every day, with a dream to represent their country at the highest level, said Pant. We wanted these young cricketers to convey their incredibly passionate stories and their pursuit for greatness to the world. Thus was born the Make Every Yard Count campaign.

On the other hand, the animated film The Last Game celebrated the very essence of football. It captures the true heart and soul of football which is to risk everything, create brilliance and always play to win. The film proves that predictability, caution and uniformity have no place in this beautiful game. We made it to inspire. We want footballers everywhere to take the risks that will define their legacies, said Pant. The film was part of the #Riskeverything campaign which had two other digital films as well. The campaign generated over 380 million online views. Two of the filmsThe Winner Stays and The Last Gamehave emerged as two of the most viewed digital videos of our time.

The shareability of online content, especially video, has increased almost 30 times over the last five years in India, say digital experts. Diversified group Godrej has said that it is coming out with a series of online music videos in collaboration with Whistling Woods International Institute for Film, Fashion & Media as a part of its new brand campaign. This activity includes the use of eight branded music videos. This is the first time that the Godrej group is reaching out and communicating with its customers through music videos, says Shireesh Joshi, head, strategic marketing, Godrej Industries. The videos will be amplified by social media pages and will cover a large range of the products that the brand has on offer, he added. Joshi says that the partnership with Whistling Woods was Godrej's endeavour to explore other ways of communicating, than resorting to traditional media. The Whistling Woods students were asked to create their interpretations of brand Godrej. What we got was a beautiful and varied set of interpretations of brand Godrej, Joshi said. The videos themselves cover a range of emotions, products, innovations and make use of a variety of movie making techniques, he said.

Philips India released a music video with actor Ranbir Kapoor, which had him tapping his feet to the classic number Saara Zamaana, complete with the suit of LED lights. The video was leaked on YouTube. In all, it generated more than 4 million views for the brand in three months. We recreated the yesteryear super hit song Saara Zamaana where Amitabh Bachchan wore a light jacket fitted with bulbs, said Vivek Sharma, chief marketing officer, Philips India, In our remake of the video in 2013, we created the song with Ranbir Kapoor wearing the same jacket, but with the latest LED lighting technology. Since remakes of old classics are in vogue, and generate a high level of engagement, we created a two-minute video of the song starring Ranbir Kapoor in a contemporary setting. We created online buzz by first releasing a clip of the song shoot on YouTube. This generated substantial online conversation on social media channels, he said. After that, a television commercial was also released around the video.

We are also partnering to create Philips-sponsored content on digital channels, says Sharma. Recently, we partnered with a popular YouTube chef, Sanjay Thumma (known as VahChef), to produce recipes using Philips appliances, particularly the popular airfryer an innovative appliance that reduces oil consumption by at least 80% and can be used for Indian recipes. These videos were amplified through various channels including Facebook and Twitter, using both Philips and VahChefs reach. This has generated a lot of curiosity about the airfryer, Sharma added. While it is still early for the Philips sponsored Youtube recipe content, it has already generated more than 20,000 views and substantial feedback.

Online content by cola brands

PepsiCo India says that a lot of digital content, mostly video, has been released as part of @That PepsiIntern and the global Pepsi #FutbolNow campaigns. @That PepsiIntern was completely based on consumers becoming the lead content creators using Pepsi IPL 7 as a canvas, with fifteen interns creating real time interactive content, every day of the Pepsi IPL. This is in line with our continuous engagement model philosophy and works well online where the lifespan of content is short and the excitement needs to be delivered in the moment, said Rishi Dogra, head, PO1 (Power of 1), digital marketing, India at Pepsi. PepsiIntern was a huge hit in the digital space, receiving more than 150 million impressions online and over 10,000 internship applications. The campaign engaged with over 18 million unique users in four months. Among the international campaigns that Pepsi has, Dogra said that #FutbolNow has a range of digital offerings, which includes Pepsi Beats of The Beautiful Game, an album on music by various artistes available exclusively on iTunes.

The Coca-Cola spokesperson said that the Coca-Cola India corporate website modeled as a magazine invariably publishes content and news stories that are not published elsewhere. The website is often the first choice of senior managers of the company when they want to communicate to stakeholders and consumers. Last year, when the company celebrated 20 years of its return to India, the communication was exclusively driven through the website. In fact, we only used earned media for the 20-year celebrations and there was no mass media done, he said.

The Coca-Cola spokesperson added that there are numerous other examples of content that the brand has created exclusively for digital media. Coca-Cola released the Small World Machines video, creating the largest digital photo mosaic from across the world, including India leveraging digital media. Small World Machines video which was uploaded on YouTube on May 19, 2013 has been viewed 2.5 million times till date. Over 8,500 conversations have been found on Twitter generating more than 65 million impressions. Small World Machine content on Facebook generated more than 41,000 fan reactions, said the Coca-Cola spokesperson.

TV networks try their hand

A division called Spotlight at Viacom 18 Network India designed a web property called Hitched which had television celebrity Rannvijay Singha gearing up for his Punjabi wedding. The online show gave an opportunity to fashion brand Jack & Jones a platform to connect with a young target audience. Spotlight drives celebrity associations for brands, said Jaideep Singh, senior vice president and business headintegrated network solutions at Viacom 18. He said that Viacom18 handles a roster of 32 artists which includes Manoj Bajpai, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, etc. We are looking to build intellectual property rights online. In other words, big concept shows. Brands can approach us with ideas, or we approach them. Wherever there is a celebrity fit, we take it forward online. For a brand that embodies the spirit of adventure, we'd rather create an exploration themed webisode that brings alive the values that the brand stands for, rather than focus on product placement alone, Singh said. He added that Viacom18 was close to inking deals on concept shows for the online medium, and was talking to companies in the fitness space, telecom companies and handset makers. The cost of producing these webisodes is at least 50% cheaper than traditional television content. But the treatment has to be different. There cannot be a brand or a logo in every frame and marketers have to live with that, said Singh.

MTV, also part of Viacom 18 Network, says that it has created online content for brands and sees it as a viable revenue stream. We've just completed the third season of Drive with MTV, a hugely popular and awarded digital travel show, in association with Tata Nano. We have also forayed into fiction with a web exclusive show called Saturday Night, Alright where we collaborated with McDowell's No 1 Soda. We have worked with brands across the board, from Philips to Mercedes Benz, to create customised content that not only features products but is also engaging for our audience, said Ekalavya Bhattacharya, digital head at MTV India. He added that MTV's range of web properties includes reality and travel shows to fiction.