The power of the viral video

Jul 22 2014, 01:47 IST
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SummaryMarketers are fast realising that online content, especially videos, have the power to engage and influence audiences

One of India’s largest fast moving consumer goods companies, Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), released a video online called Tree of Life and it generated 12 million views from across the globe, out of which 2.4 million views were generated out of India alone. The video tells the story of an Indonesian woman ‘Utari’ and her special relationship with a tree. She talks animatedly to the tree, has meals with it and buys tiny colourful toys and other embellishments from the local market in order to adorn its branches. It is only towards the end of the film, that you realise that Utari has lost a child and that her little boy has been buried underneath the tree.

This online tale of loss and longing brought out an explosion of sentiment online and did more for HUL, than what a short commercial on television could, maintained Samir Singh, global brand vice president, Lifebuoy, Unilever. He admitted that HUL had not pre-empted the impact and the truly viral nature of the film. “Digital has liberated us. It has freed us from the tyranny of the 30-second or 15-second commercial and the cost associated with it,” said Singh. Since the video is long form, it was released online.

“Nearly 1.7 million children die of infectious diseases every year. Our brief to the agency was to put out a compelling powerful story and make this a bigger issue than just a number. Lifebuoy has taken its hand washing behaviour change programmes to 183 million people across the world,” said Singh, “We wanted to tell the world the Lifebuoy story in a deeply emotional way and turn the Help a Child Reach 5 campaign into something personal and powerful.” Unilever also has a dedicated online channel for Help a Child Reach 5.

Singh added that long form films benefit from the digital medium. “Unlike television, there is no pre-testing required for digital content and campaigns,” Singh said and added that the way a video went viral depended on what people experienced. A long form film could bring out powerful emotions.

The fact is that marketers are fast realising that online video and other forms of exclusive online content have the power to beguile, transform and move the audience in ways that television seldom can. The audience for this content chooses to watch it voluntarily. If they like it, it becomes viral. At least 5-8% of their online budgets

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