Study: Marketers Are Embracing Viral Video

Over 70% of ad agency and media buying executives plan to increase their viral video marketing budgets next year, despite cutbacks in projected spending. However, what constitutes a successful viral effort remains unclear due to the lack of a standard benchmark, per a new study by online marketing firm Feed Co in Los Angeles.

The study queried 40 executives from major ad firms, including Digitas, RPA and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. It was conducted between August 1 and Sept. 12 (a period that includes the start of the current economic crisis). Of those who participated, 86% have produced viral videos this year, and 14% have produced between six and 10 viral videos.

Some highlights of the study include:

– 72.1% of agency executives said their clients expressed interest in viral video as a medium. Just under half (48.8%) of clients are “interested” in viral video and 23.3% are “very interested.”
– 56% of respondents reported being “pleased” with the results of a viral video campaign, while less than 3% said they were not happy.
– Tracking and reporting remains one of the biggest problems with viral. Over half of respondents (52.6%) said this is an area that needs improvement, and 21.1% said it needs “a lot of improvement.”
– Seven in 10 respondents do not believe that viral video marketing is a standards practice, and 38.5% predict it will become so within a year.

Despite the industry’s enthusiasm for viral video, there isn’t a benchmark for measuring success.  For example, 27.8% of the study’s respondents said a million or more views defined triumph, while 22.2%, said a successful video is one that was viewed 100,000, 250,000 or 500,000 times.

“This is a surprise, that there is no absolute measure in the minds of these leaders for success,” said Josh Warner, president of Feed. “And yet the majority of companies are going to increase their budgets for viral.”

In a written response to the findings, Josh Rose, svp/creative director at Deutsch Bank (one of the study’s participants), said success depends on the campaign creative and brand goals. “But the quality of engagement and conversation matter too,” Rose added.

The increase in viral video spending may be directly related to emerging online video sites like YouTube and social networking sites like Facebook, where creative and other messages can be passed along quickly to consumers. Most notably, BMW created its online film series in 2002, an effort that is still talked about. Earlier this year, LG Electronics launched its new LCD TV line via a campaign dubbed “Scarlet,” which was based primarily on a viral effort that promoted Scarlet as a new TV series.

Viral spending is still hard to measure, as the participants in the study lamented. But it is part of the overall increase in Web advertising. Companies spent $21 billion on online ads last year, per the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and analysts expect that to more than double in the next decade.