BrokenJPG

A Copywriter’s Blog
“Viral” is not a medium

I like to rant (it’s kind of a prerequisite for keeping a blog) and this post is a well-practiced one. However, since I keep running into people who don’t seem to get it, I shall record it here, and henceforth refer them to the link. (This will both save my breath and increase my hits)

Everybody wants “viral” ads these days. Clients love it. It’s the new black. “We want this campaign to be viral” they say, and you can hear the self-satisfaction as they use an “industry word”. Really? You’d like it to be viral? Interesting. Could you tell me what that means?

They mention the evolution of dance, or that kid who did the thing. Some facebook apps get mentioned. If they’re really hip, they even talk about twitter.

But what it comes down to is this- Viral is not a medium. It is a measurement of success. The VW “Lemon” ad was viral. So was Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” spot. They were ads that passed from person to person, that became part of our society and culture. You don’t set out to make a viral ad. You set out to make the best, most effective ad possible. And when you succeed beyond your wildest imaginations- then it’s viral.

Viral isn’t a style of advertising, or a medium that should be considered. It’s the highest award any campaign can ever win. The award of mass recognition. Whether the message that gets you there happens online or in traditional media is irrelevant. Clients need to realize that you don’t create viral advertising by putting something online. You do it the way great ads have always been done. By being different, being honest, and being entertaining. And once you’ve done that?

Then you can be viral.*

*Following the above rules does not ensure your campaign will automatically be viral. The masses are a fickle beast, and utterly unpredictable. They would as soon watch videos of laughing babies as they would gorillas playing the drums.

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2 Responses to ““Viral” is not a medium”


  1.   Andrew Says:

    Correction, “Viral ” is not a *medium*…media is plural.

  2.   Ben Levy Says:

    Well, that’s not embarrassing or anything. Post edited for grammatical compliance! Thanks!