One thing that the Kony 2012 phenomenon has created is a renewed interest in viral advertising amongst charities.
Seth Godin and Jeff Brooks have some words of advice on your chances of achieving the same sort of impact as Invisible Children, but if you are still interested in giving it a go, some recently released research might be of a little help.
It's based on eye-tracking studies used to determine what people are actually looking at when they watch an online video along with facial expression analysis that helps reveal what they are feeling.
The research team, led by Thales Teixeira, used the techniques to isolate what elements of an ad encourage engagement or cause people to stop watching.
As a result, they have identified the five big problems that the aspiring viral marketer faces along with some possible solutions…
Prominent branding puts off viewers
Viewers seem to focus on mouths, eyes and logos. But the more prominent the logo, the more likely viewers are to stop watching - even if they like the brand. Why? People seem to have an unconscious aversion to being persuaded, so when they see a logo they resist.
The solution is to copy Coke and weave the logo unobtrusively throughout. A tactic that can increase viewership by up to 20%.
People get bored immediately
Keeping people viewing depends on generating two emotions – joy and surprise. It's important to deliver them early. This Apple parody uses Mr. Bean rather well in this respect.
Don't use old school advertising techniques that escalate towards a dramatic climax or a surprise ending because people simply don't wait around that long for the pay off.
People stop watching as soon as they get bored
Viewers are more likely to keep watching a video ad if they experience emotional ups and downs. It's a little like walking in to a warm house on a cold day. We get an immediate buzz of pleasure that soon wears off. The researchers recommend that advertisers need to briefly terminate viewers' feelings of joy or surprise and then quickly restore them, creating an emotional roller coaster. Check out Bud Light's Swear Jar ad as an example of this technique in action.
People like an ad but won't share it
People know they are going to be judged by what they pass on to others. They may be happy to watch something a little risque, but they will probably think twice about passing it on to their friends – particularly if they are worried that it might get them in to trouble at work. Clothing Drive, also by Bud Light, is an example of an ad that gained a fair number of views, but was not widely shared.
So surprise, but don't shock.
People still won't share an ad.
Only a few people will share an ad, so target those people who like to pass things on to their friends. And the people who are most likely to share are those who want to demonstrate something about themselves – that they are connected and media-savvy.
In short, sharing is a way to show off.
If you'd like more detail on the study you can see an interview with Thales here.
And to close, I thought I'd feature one of my favourite virals of all time. It's over twelve minutes long but rather good. See how long it takes you to work out what product it's promoting.