Brief Encounter: Unruly Media
Wondered how hit viral videos from commercial brands manage to garner hundreds of thousands of views? One answer is quality, original content. Another part to the answer lies with the likes of Scott Button of viral seeding agency Unruly Media. An NMK exclusive interview.
NMK: So you upload videos on to the likes of YouTube? Do we need an agency for that?
Scott: (laughs) We seed 'long form' branded entertainment - usually videos - on a global and pan-European scale. This can be simply uploading videos to sharing sites like YouTube, but also PR and editorial seeding on magazine sites and specialist blogs.
One thing to understand about seeding is that uploading a video will get you precisely nowhere. The trouble with YouTube is that while it's the most popular, it's also the most competitive platform. There are tens of thousands of videos being uploaded every day, to YouTube alone. 'Seeding' is about getting your videos noticed by the right people. That often means working with smaller sites and letting the YouTube version take care of itself once the video starts to gain traction.
In every country, there are different favourite video sites. While YouTube is dominant in the UK and the States, in France, dailymotion is bigger, while in Germany, clipfish is very popular. We also handle paid placement, which is an option on many sites.
The following video sharing sites are all massive in local territories:
YouTube's dominance isn't nearly so clear in non-English-speaking territories. It took them a long time to localise, giving regional players time to build substantial audiences. For pan-European campaigns, we may upload content to 50-100 video sharing sites.
So what does it take from you to make a video go viral?
Well, that expression 'go viral' loads the question a little bit. Viral is not necessarily in the business interests of the client. It's about getting it in front of the right customers.
If we were attempting to make a video a global hit, then that would involve paid placement on 50-100 sites, and free placement on the top 10-20 sharing sites in each country.
Budgets for paid placement tend to go between £5K and £50K, which compared to television, is getting a lot of very targeted viewers for your money.
You promoted the recent 'Tipping Pot' video from Pot Noodle. What was that like?
'Tipping Pot' was fairly unique - it got 50,000 views on YouTube on the first day. But we seeded that clip to 100 different websites, which is part of what made that happen. Another big part of what we do is making it possible to track views across the Internet, so that clients can see exactly where a given clip it has been successful. We also make the property as portable as possible.
So the editorial sites you work with... would that be the likes of the LondonPaper and Nuts?
Those sites are both fairly mainstream and we actually find that a lot of the action is with bloggers and cult networks, such as Holy Moly and Popbitch. Those two, in particular, are a good place to find journalists on a Friday afternoon.
[Nervous giggle] Yes, I take your point.
Another thing to note is that although we work with lots of cult sites in the mid-tail and long-tail of the web in order to reach passionate, engaged and influential audiences, many of these sites reach surprisingly large numbers of people. All the sites below deliver millions of page views per month, some tens of millions.
So I presume you create accounts and vote up your own stuff?
Well, actually we don't do that at all. For one thing, we don't think it's sustainable. For another, it will be [has been] outlawed under the Unfair Promotional Practices act this month. We try to make sure there's clear blue water between us and the sort of people who'd go in for those sorts of practices.
Our job is to take excellent content, get it out to an audience, make that content easy to share and spread further, and to track its performance.
I know you aren't a creative agency, but what makes for 'excellent content' in this format?
Well, the obvious things are humour, sex, celebrities and shock value. Less obviously, videos that make some sort of emotional connection with the end user. The Cadbury's Gorilla was a good example of that. It was so nearly-human that it stirred a nerve in viewers. Also items that provoke some sort of moral outrage or are particularly zeitgeisty.
It's important to be fairly one-dimensional to be successful with this format. Don't try to be funny and sexy and have celebrities - you'll fall between stools. Being very strong on one of those vectors is a lot better.
Above: the gorilla is credited with reviving Phil Collins' career. Don't tell us advertising isn't evil.
One anxiety people might have about what you do is that you could be perceived as polluting the user-generated utopia with commercial content and driving the amateur film makers out...
Commercial productions are still a tiny fraction of the content on YouTube. And to be honest, amateur film makers are always going to be able to produce content that is ruder, more shocking and more zeitgeisty than anything a brand would be likely to countenance. There's also something a little disingenuous about the point. YouTube and the like rode on the back of copyright infringement for a long time, with clips from the Daily Show and so forth. They've always contained commercial content, but uploaded by individuals rather than agencies.
To be sure, we try to unlevel the playing field. But that's what the advertising industry has always done.