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“The term Viral video refers to video clip content which gains widespread popularity through the process of Internet sharing, typically through email or IM messages, blogs and other media sharing websites. Viral videos are often humorous in nature and may range from televised comedy sketches such as Saturday Night Live’s Lazy Sunday to unintentionally released amateur video clips like Star Wars kid, the Numa Numa song, The Dancing Cadet, and The Evolution of Dance.” -Wikipedia

The Viral video is a recent phenom of the ever-evolving “web.” With its fast-growing popularity these videos provide free content to advertising cash cow mega-sites. Websites such as Collegehumor.com, YouTube.com, Flurl.com, Break.com and so many more bring in millions of dollars of revenue from their user submitted content. Because of this, it’s no wonder that companies are looking at Viral Videos in a different light.

As is the nature of viral videos, they spread like a virus. They inundate your inbox, fill up your chat windows, or make a buzz around a coworkers monitor – creating a new avenue of marketing possibilities. With each set of eyes trained on these videos, from all walks of life, companies are now originating their own Viral videos.

Not unlike the homebrew versions, these too appear shaky, out of the ordinary, and unexpected. They come as off-roading stunts with impossible gravity defying tricks, or funny spins on everyday occurrences; the seemingly mundane father and child playing hide and go seek until it is revealed that the child has somehow attached himself to the ceiling. The only difference between these videos and the user submitted versions are marketing, branding, and a sales pitch being attached.

These videos sometimes don’t even state which company they were advertising at the video’s conclusion. As if they got away with some sort of subliminal marketing tactic. With a closer look you realize the off-roading truck is the latest Ford model. The kid on the ceiling ate some new radioactive version of Cheerios before his spiderman-esque like ascent.

Aside from this model of Viral video, you have the internet celebrity – the homebrew, webcam, free content giving uploader who “made it”. These faux celebrities gain fame from creating their own Viral. Tay Zonday would fit into this category with his smash hit “Chocolate Rain” of April 22, 2007. He has garnered 16,620,325 views and more daily since its release. This Viral buzz made it possible for him to be picked up by other websites as well as mainstream media, most notably an appearance as a live musical guest on “Jimmy Kimmel Live”.
Even the “Chocolate Rain” star would sell out 7 months later with his collaborative remix with Dr. Pepper, touting their new flavor “Cherry Chocolate” with a professional music video for the song “Cherry Chocolate Rain.” The video was a polished, remixed, overly-produced, rapper-included…advertisement – latching on to Tay’s success as a Viral video star.
Before I start to digress I will return to the main focus of this post. Is it appropriate for advertising firms to take advantage of the user-submitted forum for financial gains, and what affects will it produce if this trend continues?To keep it short and sweet I have to say it will ultimately be up to the users. These outlets are for the users, and basically by the users. If they don’t want to see these videos or be tricked into watching an advertisement, it will be up to them to change it. On the other hand, as with Super Bowl commercials, if they entertain the users sufficiently to deflect the bother of watching an ad, then all seems fair. You are paying for the entertainment via a product placement. As with all things American, monetization of new avenues is inevitable. And the inevitable has gained steam.


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