At the 2nd Tandaa Symposium a fortnight ago, Jim Chuchu from Just A Band rose to speak on “Viral Campaigns” and because of the Makmende phenomenon, he had the ear of everybody present. His presentation was interesting and one of the things that stood out for me was that immediately after their Makmende Video going viral – he mentioned that they received tones of calls by people and companies seeking to know how they could make their own adverts and videos go viral. And these were not just people calling for friendly advice but rather people and organizations looking to hire them to make viral campaigns for them. Unfortunately, Chuchu and the rest of the Just A Band team had no clue what to do with them. Their video going viral was not by design as Chuchu confessed at the Symposium. And another thing, they are a band; they make music not ads.
That said, the barrage of questions they received on how to go viral need to be answered… But before I continue, let me give you a glance at what a viral ad campaign looks like… This is an Ad by a US company called Blendtec and the series of Ads they have on YouTube receive mad love.
Yeah, I said it. And I am speaking as a user here. One thing I will confess straight-up is that I hate a majority of Kenyan adverts. They are just plain stupid and every time they air is proof enough that there is no thought process that goes into their creation. Take the Sonadol adverts for instance – they just insult your intelligence. Whether they put ghost Mulee, Mwala or even Obama in that ad, you will still be left with a sickly look in your face. And I am very sure that a majority of us switch channels whenever these adverts show up on our screens especially during news or just before news starts. My brother goes to great pains to avoid these adverts. We frantically look for the remote at the onset of a majority of ads because they are usually 30 seconds of extreme torture.
And if you still doubt me – try and sit still during that “Nakufeel Pia” condom advert – who talks like that? This is not 1963 where the decision to have sex is arrived to in such a formal manner and language. You would think they were next going to sign a contract to use condoms.
The team that comes up with this stuff needs to go. Or, they can retake some basic advert rules that are user oriented and which incorporate new media. Some lessons…
The majority of these companies running ads on TV assume a lot of things. The biggest assumption is that just because they are on TV, we must be watching them – That is a MYTH. You have no idea how desperately we run around the living room looking for the remote to change channels whenever these ads come up. If we cannot locate the remote – we just shut the TV off for a minute or so. And I am sure I am not alone in this. The other assumption that these companies make is that we actually like these adverts. The problem is that they are using “push” media which is what TV, Radio, and Print media are. Since we have no way of interacting with these media, we just change channels or switch stations. Now assume that we actually had a way of telling you exactly what we think about your ads?
Assume no more… Just put your ad on YouTube as it is and we will let you know what we think about it. If you think I have been hard on those ads up there – I can assure you that I am modest. You will probably be butchered on a channel like YouTube that allows anyone to tell you exactly what they think. This is the first lesson of going viral for those companies that were seeking out Just A Band to make viral ads for them. Continue using push Media but also embrace social media. The feedback may be brutal on social media but look at it as a lesson on what not to do. Look at it as a rebirth from old to new media and start from there.
Going viral is about pushing boundaries, not being safe either in lingo or action. My small bro who works in an ad firm tells me the way companies try to control every little detail of adverts that comes out. Remove this, add that, don’t put that are the order of the day which is cool as long as the editing does not kill the creativity. But kill creativity is what these guys do. I believe that even though they were seeking help in making their ads more viral – truth is, they probably would not be able to handle the outcome and eventually end up editing out the very bits that would have made the ad viral. Given the kind of adverts we now see on TV – it is obvious they are doing a shitty job even with all this control. The unfortunate thing is that most of this control is usually aimed at ensuring the company mantra is recited in the advert or in telling us in so many words what a smart ad would rather show us. Simply, they take themselves too seriously and lose us in the process.
Silly means stupid in a nice way while stupid cannot be excused. Take the case of Peter Marangi – his adverts pass the viral test because they are something I would not mind sharing with my friends. Marangi comes off as silly and we love him for that. He does his little theatrics in a way that makes me laugh and many Kenyans love his adverts for that. To win in a viral campaign, you must touch a certain cord with Kenyans. That is what Marangi has done and what the Makmende video did – taking us back in time to a character most of us could identify with. The moment we like your ad, we will look for it online, on YouTube, send links to our friends, share it on our Facebook Profiles, Tweet it, recommend it to strangers, write something nice in the comment section and embed it in our blogs. If we like it, we will sell it for you. But for us to like it, the ball is your court and you have to start by loosening up a bit. I have never seen a viral ad that reeks of company mantra and “corporate lingo.”
Again, take another look at the Blendtec’s Does it Blend Advert I have embedded above and ask yourself whether you would have let that kind of advert go online or on air at your company?
Being viral is within reach as long as you let creativity reign and embrace social media as the frontline to meaningful reach and engagement. If it’s good enough, Kenyan Bloggers will pick it up and make it viral for you.
Thoughts are welcome…