Seeding a Political Viral Video

Don't Ignore the Unexpected

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I'm the head of Feed Co., a video-seeding outfit in Los Angeles, and a Sen. Barack Obama supporter. So when Eric Hirshberg, president of Deutsch, Los Angeles, called me several weeks ago and asked me to help him seed a spot for Mr. Obama's "Hope Changes Everything," I jumped at the chance to volunteer the sort of services I provide to paying clients.

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GOING FOR 100,000: 'Hope Changes Everything'

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When Eric sent over the spot, we loved it. It has a U2 "Rattle and Hum" feel as it follows the candidate bounding from auditorium to auditorium accompanied by a driving rock soundtrack.

But Eric and his friend Tom Dunlap needed more than a good video. They needed to get the ad noticed among all the other political ads on YouTube.

After seeing that many ads posted by candidates on their own YouTube accounts were getting views in the 20,000 to 40,000 range, I talked with Eric about our expectations for seeding of the video and agreed on benchmark of 100,000 views. But there was another factor in play. Several days earlier, Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas and Jesse Dylan had launched the celebrity-filled "Yes We Can" video in support of Mr. Obama on YouTube. It was racking up millions of views with help from the same blogs, outlets and users we would reach out to for our "Hope Changes Everything" video.

But in video seeding, whether it's for a candidate or an advertiser, the unexpected can't be ignored. "Hope Changes Everything" was now clearly part of a much larger story about leaders within the advertising and creative communities using their professional abilities to make a difference in this year's campaign on their own time.

That would be the story we would lead with as we reached out to well-known political blogs such as Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish, Huffington Post and Media Matters, always including a link to the "Hope Changes Everything" video on YouTube. We also targeted the blogs of regional daily newspapers, such as the Chicago Tribune. We even reached out to music blogs because of the candidate-as-rock-star feel of the video.

Yet in any video seeding, or any marketing campaign for that matter, you've got to hit your base. We spent a lot of time seeding the video directly to Obama supporters -- sending messages to users on YouTube who had previously uploaded or "favorited" Obama videos and asking them to do the same for our video. We also reached out to Obama groups on Facebook.

We're at 86,468 views for "Hope Changes Everything" video. We're tracking our original post, which accounts for the majority of views, and three other user posts on YouTube. (We track user posts when they upload the original video, and it's something we encourage for particular campaigns.)

The holy grail of earned media really depends on the particular brand or effort. The Obama video, for example, was, in essence, a serious 60-second spot. Since other candidates were getting 20,000 to 40,000 views on their own ads, we felt if we could more than double the high end to 100,000 within one month of the original posting, we'd feel good about our pro bono effort.

For most of our consumer-brand seeding campaigns, we guarantee minimum views of 250,000. After all, you can't call your video "viral" if no one is watching it. Video seeding not only gets your video out there and puts it in front of people likely to pass it around, it's a great way to stretch a budget -- for a political candidate, entertainment company or advertiser.

Video-seeding campaigns for brand advertisers and their agencies still get views long after their original post. Last summer, we seeded the Ray-Ban/Never Hide film "Guy Catches Glasses with Face" on YouTube, Break and other top video sites. It still gets several thousand views a day. The same goes for "Gotta Move Faster," the Intel-sponsored music video from Sean Kingston that we seeded and premiered on MySpace and other video sites.

But our seeding of the "Hope Changes Everything" video has a unique reward -- the opportunity to contribute to a great piece of creative for a candidate we admire and in a very small way help shape a new way of political campaigning.
Josh Warner is president of Los Angeles' Feed Co., the leader for video seeding on the Web for major brand advertisers and agencies in the U.S.
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