I had this conversation a couple of times in the past, enough for me to think that maybe I should write it up here. Namely, it's about the role of TV in success of social media initiatives ("viral" campaigns included). It's kind of a fact by now that search traffic spikes after a brand's advertisements were shown on TV (even Google talks about it). The number of fans on brands' Facebook pages as well as Twitter pages also multiplies in terms of hundreds upon those brands ads hit TV. So much for building a brand "organically" via "connecting" with consumers through social media.
In a way (and absolutely ironically) this effect turns TV more in a direct response medium than in what it's traditionally considered: a broad-based awareness and branding medium. Get that.
This kind of thinking reminded me of a 2007 paper called "Viral Marketing for the Real World" by Duncan Watts, Jonah Peretti, and Michael Frumin, which talks about ways to augment impact of "viral campaigns".
Rather than figuring out which sort of content is going to go viral (puppies, pranks, etc, which made some people naively wonder what should brands learn from the most popular web videos?), and how to "seed" it so it widely spreads (which "influencers" should we target?), the model that authors propose combines the power of traditional media with the ability of digital to quickly and easily spread messages. The catch is - in order to reach a wide spread - social media campaigns need a little help from, well, mass media. (They aren't call mass for nothing, after all).
The authors specifically call out BK's Subservient Chicken, which is often used as a blueprint example of a legendary and wildly successful "viral" campaign. Ok, so maybe it's time to debunk its myth. Just a little bit.
Apparently, Watts and Peretti claim, the Subservient Chicken campaign "reached millions of viewers, but was also supported by a nationwide marketing effort that yielded a very large seed."And,"although many people heard about the website through word of mouth, many others saw television ads paid for with a multimillion dollar advertising budget." The best part is this, however: "Perhaps because it makes a better story, journalistic accounts of the campaign usually fail to mention the paid advertising and present the campaign as a purely viral phenomenon." Conclusion: "Nevertheless, the Subservient Chicken clearly benefited from paid advertising that dramatically expanded the reach of the campaign." Fair enough.
A question now: why are TV & social media efforts not better coordinated, and more often?
(image found here)