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Creating YouTube Ads Worth Spreading

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Back on August 7, 2006, Robin Antonick, The Christian Science Monitor’s chief web officer, asked my company to provide some “guidance.” The Monitor was preparing to publish Jill Carroll’s story about her 82 days of captivity in Iraq.

In an 11-part series, Carroll would reveal how she survived, her thwarted escape plan, her highs and lows, and the details of her final release. The first part of the multimedia series was scheduled to appear on Sunday evening, August 13 – less than a week later. The Monitor had already negotiated a broadcast deal with ABC News. Antonick asked if there were other, measurable ways to help promote “Hostage: The Jill Carroll Story.”

On August 10, 2006, we uploaded a short, promotional video, “The Jill Carroll story,” to YouTube. The short video helped generate record traffic to The Christian Science Monitor’s website. The YouTube video was embedded in stories in CNN.com, Yahoo News, AOL News, The Huffington Post, and BoingBoing.net.

Within the first 24 hours after the series went live, more than 450,000 unique visitors flooded CSMonitor.com, seven times its daily average in July. And page views for the first day broke through the 1 million mark, a massive increase from the site’s July average of 121,247 page views per day.

An Important Lesson

We learned that creating YouTube ads worth spreading is like telling stories that are worth retelling. In other words, it’s not enough to make video ads that get views. You also need to create video content that generates passion, intensity, motivated conversions, and referrals.

Now, I’m not talking about creating viral videos. I’m talking about helping brands create simple, high quality social videos that people respond to, benefit from, and recommend.

Today, we’ll look at what it takes to make videos that compel people to watch ... and share ads.

Video Content: 4 Forms of Value

Enchantment Resistance is futileOne of the tools that will help you in this effort is Guy Kawasaki’ tenth book, “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions,” which made it to the New York Times bestseller list in the category of Advice, How-To, and Miscellaneous.

Kawasaki asked me to contribute four pages about YouTube to “Enchantment.” He says in the book, “The first thing Jarboe taught me is that video content that can enchant people must provide intrinsic value to your viewers.” This value can come in one of four forms:

  • Inspiration – “YouTube has brought to light thousands of inspiring stories of courage and bravery.”
  • Entertainment – “Some videos are plain-and-simple guffawingly funny.” 
  • Enlightenment – “These are documentaries similar to what you’d see on PBS or the Discovery Channel.”
  • Education – “Educational videos show how to do things and use products.”

Kawasaki adds, “One way to remember these four categories is that they form the acronym ‘IEEE,’ which is funny in a nerd humor way. If you don’t get it, don’t worry.”

Recent Examples of ‘Enchanting’ Videos

Another tool is the Mashable Global Ads Chart, which looks at the number of times a video is shared on Facebook, Twitter, and in the blogosphere.

Check out “Google Chrome: Justin Bieber.” It inspires us with an ad of a young musician who uses YouTube.

According to the Mashable Global Ads Chart, “Google Chrome: Justin Bieber” has been shared 279,287 times, including 227,475 Facebook shares, 51,703 tweets, and 109 blog posts.

Next, watch “T-Mobile Angry Birds Live.” It entertains us with a life-size version of the cult Angry Birds game.

According to the Mashable Global Ads Chart, “T-Mobile Angry Birds Live” has been shared 1,318,321 times, including 1,286,089 Facebook shares, 31,441 tweets, and 791 blog posts.

Then, look at “Dear 16-year-old Me.” DCMF Canada enlightens us with ad featuring real people with melanoma.

According to the Mashable Global Ads Chart, “Dear 16-year-old Me” has been shared 968,245 times, including 949,192 Facebook shares, 18,523 tweets, and 530 blog posts.

Finally, view “The Google+ project: A quick look.” It educates us by showing us how to use the product.

According to the Mashable Global Ads Chart, “The Google+ project: A quick look” has been shared 147,262 times, including 140,286 Facebook shares, 5,989 tweets, and 987 blog posts.

Although each of these YouTube video ads has “gone viral,” going viral is rare. Less than 1 percent of YouTube videos ever get more than 1 million views, according to TubeMogul Digital Video Research published in May 2011.

In “Enchantment,” Kawasaki says, “The goal of companies is often to create a ‘viral video.’ You know, the kind that millions of people watch in a few days – for example, the Old Spice guy videos. This is the kind of video every other company wishes it or its expensive agency created.”

But he adds, “Don’t make creating a ‘viral video’ your goal. Luck makes a video go viral, and ‘get lucky’ is not a good strategy. The right goal is to provide a steady supply of video that is inspiring, entertaining, enlightening, or educational and that, over time, enchants people.”

What Should You Do?

Look at your ad, now back to the Old Spice guy videos, now back at your ad.

Unless your agency is Wieden + Kennedy, try to create video content that provides intrinsic value to your viewers. The odds of enchanting people are much higher than the odds of going viral.

And if you are going to SES San Francisco 2011, drop by the Social Media Solutions on a Budget or the Next Gen YouTube Marketing. I’ll be speaking at both sessions along with some very enchanting panelists who a lot about creating YouTube ads worth spreading.


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