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We are only just over halfway through 2013, but we are already seeing some significant trends in the social video space.
It’s not surprising. If you thought a week was a long time in politics, it feels like a lifetime in social video. Every day we are seeing more and more brands setting out to create content that will engage the web.
The results have been simply staggering. Over the last few months we have seen brands, large and small, make a big impression online. Moonwalking ponies, dogs driving cars...even an unfashionable brand like Kmart enjoyed incredible social video success thanks to the kind of joke that would not look out of place on an 11-year-old’s social media profile.
And with good reason. Video consumption is rocketing, with Cisco even predicting that in less than four years’ time, video will be bigger than Facebook and Twitter, making up 69% of consumer internet traffic.
With such a huge rise in people now watching online, brands have been quick to follow. Online video advertising was the fastest growing category of ad spend in 2012, with 30% annual growth. Within three years, online video spend is expected to rise to $10B.
But what are the biggest trends we have seen this year?
1. Brands creating their own dramas
Let’s face it, 2012 – it was emotional. Hello ‘Empty13’. That's right, after being moved to Olympic-sized tears by P&G and inspired by Red Bull’s record-breaking space jump over the last 12 months, there hasn’t been a great deal on the calendar for 2013.
Last year offered up a wealth of opportunities for brands, which had their pick of awe-inspiring, headline-grabbing events to build social video campaigns around.
But this year there is has been no Olympics to inspire us, no election to bore us or even a Mayan apocalypse to not worry about.
Following a hectic year of global events, the global water cooler has been running a little dry. In fact, our diaries have been as bare as Mitt Romney’s of late.
So it’s no surprise brands have been creating their own dramas and events to build their campaigns around. Here are some examples of how brands have been filling up their content calendars.
Tapping into the zeitgeist plays a key factor in creating contagious content – in fact it is one of the key social motivations for driving sharing. So when there’s a vacuum of real world events, it’s only natural that brands should turn to the Internet for inspiration.
This has been happening for years, with mixed results, but in the last 6 months we’ve certainly seen an intensification of brands’ interest in meme culture.
The most prominent example of this is Harlem Shake. Many have called it the natural successor to Gangnam Style, but what really made the dancing meme stand out from any other is the sheer number and speed of the number of parodies.
Around 40,000 Harlem Shake videos were uploaded in just the first 11 days, giving a cumulative total of 175 million views. That’s simply staggering.
Gangnam Style inspired a lot of parodies, but there was a central video as a reference point. With Harlem Shake, every man and his dog wanted to do their own version. In fact, you almost felt like you had missed out if your office, sports club or group of friends hadn’t donned the helmet and danced around like loons.
NBA team Miami Heat’s video is the most popular among brands, but Manchester City FC, Seaworld, the Norwegian army, Facebook, and even Unruly produced their own Harlem Shakes in the first few days.
With now more than 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube alone, we have a seen a lot of brands taking a few risks with their content in 2013 to get cut-through.
As more and more advertisers embrace their role as content creators, it seems only natural that more and more are increasingly pushing the boundaries and being more controversial in their content output.
Creating controversial content is high risk and does not always go to plan – just ask Hyundai and Mountain Dew - but sometimes it can drive awareness in an increasingly crowded space, especially during a year with no tent-pole events.
It has certainly paid off for brands like Kmart, with its recent “Ship My Pants” video – the 11th most shared ad of all time - and Paddy Power, whose campaigns regularly push the boundaries – one of which, ‘Ladies Day’, was among the most complained about ads of 2012.
With very few events in the calendar, it’s hardly surprising that some brands have decided to create their own stunts for people to talk about.
These “punk” ads or “prankverts” – a phrase first coined by AdWeek following the success of Pepsi Test Drive to describe brands contrive an event in a public space and trick supposedly unsuspecting members of the public into joining difficult situations – are nothing new.
For example, in 2011 Carlsberg created the cinema from hell and awarded couple brave enough to sit down – it was one of the top 10 ads of the year.
But in 2013, possibly fuelled by the mammoth success of TNT’s Dramatic Surprise the year before, we have seen a real shift in focus to these types of ads.
Pepsi’s Test Drive, in which NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon takes a car salesman on the test drive of his life, has been the most popular so far, attracting more than 2.58 million shares since its launch on March 12.
However, there has been a load of ads that have enjoyed a lot of success using this technique over the past six month. Some of the most notable examples are Nivea Stress Test, Carlsberg’s Friends Test, Adobe’s Street Retouch, THINK!’s Public Loo Shocker, Renault’s Va-Va-Voom, plus Murder Elevator and Beauty Salon Scare for horror movies, Dead Man Down and The Last Exorcism 2.
But why are they so popular? Research has found that the secret of sharing success is eliciting the strongest possible emotions from your viewers - and capturing people's reactions to a stunt is a clever way of doing this.
What better way to make people emote than to make them question how they would respond in the same situation?
Many of these prankverts also work well because they combine the content triggers ‘hilarity’ and ‘surprise’. In other words, viewers were surprised by the fact that brands have put credulous consumers in compromising positions and were amused by the ensuing results.