Viral stunts, marketing (risk and opportunity)

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YouTube hotel guy

You may have seen this video somewhere on the Internet (or maybe on your local television station news program):

I first encountered it when an offshore publisher in the Google AdSense program complained that his account had been disabled for copyright violations after he had “earned” more than $2,000 in advertising revenue and hundreds of thousands of page views of “his” video.

A little research and searching uncovered this documentary, showing that indeed the video is a deliberate hoax, designed to attract maximum interest and viewership on the Internet.  In listening to Dave Maitland, you can see the challenges — and opportunities — of engineering truly widespread Internet coverage.  The video you’ve just viewed, which appears to be from a hotel security camera set-up, in fact, is elaborately staged with actors and the actor isn’t really nude — he is wearing a special costume to make him look that way.

Of course, this is, for the creators, a safe stunt.  Maitland and his organization’s business is producing videos — and ultimately he has created a rather intriguing marketing piece.

However, there are paradoxes.  The video needed to be discovered and not be seen to originate from a professional video-making organization to be successful.  This means, Maitland needed to set things up so that various people, such as the offshore YouTube member who discovered it in an obscure location, could claim ownership and spread the word — and, in this case (at least temporarily) collect the advertising revenue from all the traffic.

As well, there are real risks in pulling off a stunt to attract massive traffic and interest if you are concerned about your reputation, and don’t wish it to be tarnished.

Most readers here don’t need or want this type of broad, mass, attention. If you are an engineer, sub-trade or general contractor, the last thing you need is for millions of people around the world spreading your story — your audience and relevant community is much more focused and specialized.

In this context, you would never want to produce a professional video stunt — but you might want to observe one reason the video here is so successful:  It doesn’t look professional at all. I’m not suggesting that you show off sloppiness in your marketing work, but a grainy, natural, video testimonial from a real client will I think be far more effective than a professionally narrated and choreographed advertisement.  Take your cameras to your jobsites, and your clients, and capture some images and shots that show people how they are, and how they think about your business.

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