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  1. Are shock tactics the secret to viral success?

    Are shock tactics the secret to viral success?

    The term viral marketing is loosely defined as marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes.

    To one degree or another, most of us have played a part in a viral campaigns success – we’ve all forwarded or posted a YouTube clip of the ‘man your man could smell like’ and (possibly unwittingly) become advocates for an after shave our Dad’s used to wear (sorry Dad, your secret’s out!).

    Invariably agencies and brands now see viral as an additional channel to the conventional communications mix. Something that has the potential to be seen by millions, without the media budget of a prime-time TV campaign. Of course, the very nature of viral campaigns leaves success difficult to plan and quantify. If it were that simple, everyone would be doing it! The key, as with all campaigns, is a great idea.

    Recently though, we’ve noticed an upsurge in ‘shock tactics’ by advertisers which (given the right placement and considered PR) can invariably give a campaign the necessary nudge it needs to go viral and make an impact with consumers.

    Paddy Power – a master class in courting controversy

    A prime example of this is Paddy Power’s recent online video as part of their ‘We Hear You’ campaign. Launched only days after the announcement of Roy Hodgson as England Manager (complete with ‘Uncle Roy’ reference), the ad features a few eyebrow raising references to England players off-field reputation, and potential solutions. The Drum soon reported that the ad (within weeks of launching) was restricted to over 18’s viewing by YouTube.

    Paddy Power are no strangers to this strategy, having been the subject of a ban on their recent ‘transgender’ Cheltenham festival ad, and receiving over 1,000 complaints for a previous ad satirising blind football.

    The hidden benefits of so-called ‘bad press’

    The cynical marketers amongst us will on the one hand applaud such tactics. After all, the press coverage of the resulting ban alone will have got the brand some serious column inches, and history teaches us that controversial ads can often be the most recalled (United Colours of Benetton were masters of it during the 90s). But then was that the brief in the first place?

    Of course, only Paddy Power and their respective creative partners will know the truth and (to their credit) they seemed to approach any concerns over the Cheltenham ad’s risqué nature with due consideration during planning, consulting a leading transgender group about the script prior to launch. Though it should come as no surprise to even the most liberal of us that the ad has resulted in such controversy.

    It does raise the question of whether creating an ad to shock and push the boundaries of conventional good taste is the key to brands looking for that holy grail of organic Facebook shares and Twitter trends. It is invariably the more shocking ads that tend to pick up the social buzz, and benefit from the extra coverage they receive as a result of their (some would say) brave strategy.

    Whether or not the strategy fits with a brand’s personality and ethics is a much broader question, and probably one for another day, but I’m sure many marketers would hardly bat an eyelid at the 1,000 complaints their blind football ad received, when they consider that very ad has been viewed almost 500,000 times on YouTube. After all, you just can’t buy that type of publicity…. or can you?

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