Viral Benchmarks Prove Elusive, Study Says

LOS ANGELES Although 70 percent of surveyed advertising and media agencies plan to increase their spending on viral videos, benchmarks of success remain relative throughout the marketing business.

Those were two of the conclusions of a report released today from The Feed Company, Hollywood, Calif., which specializes in “seeding” viral videos on the Internet on behalf of agencies and clients.
“The survey shows there’s still a lot of unknowns and differences of opinion about viral video,” said Josh Warner, president of Feed Co., “by agencies, brands and even within the different departments of agencies.” Warner added that for most the uncertainty hasn’t dimmed enthusiasm for the marketing method. “Clearly, for many, the value of the viral video isn’t in dispute, as long as it’s well executed,” he said.
More than half of the agencies surveyed (56 percent) said they were pleased by the results of previous viral efforts; only 3 percent were displeased. But the level of viewing to benchmark success varies considerably, Warner points out. Twenty-eight percent of respondents considered 1 million views successful; around 22 percent each would settle for 500,000, 250,000 or 100,000 views.
Warner attributed that difference to the relative experience of the agencies and to the fact that “every campaign is different. We’ve seeded videos where contextual blog pick ups and the quality of conversation are more than important than just the total number of views.”
Still, more than half (53 percent) said the industry needs better reporting and tracking methods. “We and others do exhaustive reporting,” Warner said. “Perhaps this speaks to the fact that they have not used us or TubeMogul or Visible Measures.”
Warner said the call for better reporting might be less a function of the efficacy of reporting than variable definitions of value. He explained that viral views are sometimes “engaged views,” not simply impressions, and the results are not easy to summarize. “What is the value of a comment, or someone sharing a video with a friend? This is still in the defining stage of a marketing practice in its infancy,” he said.
The “Viral Video Marketing Survey: The Agency Perspective” study was conducted in August and September 2008 with 40 executives at 29 advertising and media buying agencies across the country, including Omnicom Group’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, independent Wieden + Kennedy, Publicis Groupe’s Digitas and Interpublic Group’s McCann Erickson.