Dove and Viral Marketing

By now, you’ve probably heard of the Dove “Evolution” YouTube marketing video. Having been out for a month, it’s made its way around the Internet, and even got a mention in the Globe and Mail yesterday. In addition to being an impressive spot on what really goes into making a billboard model (and thus continuing their “Real Beauty” campaign), what’s even more engrossing is how Dove decided to distribute the it – the ad was only made available online.

Developed by Ogilvy Toronto, a professional ad agency (as most ads are), the piece seems like it would fit in well on traditional media, such as TV. However, by distributing the video on YouTube, Dove made a critical change that seems to have benefitted them tremendously. The video has gotten well over a million views since its inception (and even more if you count all the copies), while at the same time costing virtually nothing to distribute. That’s quite the ROI – though a TV spot would probably get more viewers, it certainly would cost much, much more.

Furthermore, the people viewing the ads are doing so willingly. This is in sharp contrast to TV ads, which in my opinion, rely on ad nauseam tactics to drive home their point. This is really the advantage of viral marketing – it spreads from person to person (at least in its early stages), and not really from a centralized source. However, this also puts the onus on the advertiser to develop an interesting and captivating piece, as this is effectively determines how many people will see the ad, not how much money is spent on distribution. But, perhaps this is a good thing – after seeing some of the commercials they now force upon you at the theatres, I would welcome an improvement on advertising.

Another advantage of the viral marketing campaign are the inevitable spinoffs that will occur. The Dove video has already spawned copycat and parody pieces on YouTube, with people eager to either display their Photoship skills or elicite a laugh or two. In effect, this is giving Dove free publicity. While Dove isn’t the first company to use viral marketing to their advantage, this is one of the times I’ve seen a seemingly made-for-TV spot distributed only on the Internet. Except Dove’s foray into this arena to be a litmus test for other advertisers – and by most measures, the results seem to be quite positive. One could argue that all this publicity won’t necessarily result in increased sales – but that could be said of any marketing campaign.

Does this mean that the sky is falling for traditional advertising mediums? Well, yes and no. (Forgive me for taking the easy way out and avoiding a direct answer) Traditional advertising is not going anywhere anytime soon. You will still see companies throwing millions at the prospect of the 30-second SuperBowl ad, which has always been the time to put out innovative commercials. However, the Internet has its own niche, and one that is rapidly being taken over and being taken serious by more companies. I think this will eventually force marketers to re-think and hopefully innovate more when it comes to ad spots.

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