10 Best Viral Videos of 2009 – No nonprofits…

Josh Warner, founder of Feed Company, which promotes and distributes brand videos has selected the 10 best Viral Videos of 2009.  None of the are videos produced by nonprofits.  While this list is probably biased towards videos produced by agencies since that's the business Josh Warner is in, there are still things to learn from the list.

Among the list are a few grassroots hits like the JK Wedding Dance (33 million views), and the Single Babies video (5 million views) but the majority of the chosen videos are from ad agencies that created viral videos for products.  Videos like Piano Stairs for Volkswagon and Guy Catches Laptop with his Butt, for MSI X series laptops.

But why are there no nonprofits in the mix?  The easy answer is money.  Nonprofits don't have the deep pockets of corporations to hire ad agencies to develop innovative viral videos.  But I think it's much deeper than that.  In our interview with FreeRange Studios, co-founder Joshua Sachs outlined some of the reasons why many nonprofits aren't hitting the mark with viral media.  A quick recap of his arguments; 1) nonprofits have been working on their issues for so long they fail to see the humor in what they do 2) nonprofits are afraid many times to step outside the boundaries of normative advertising for a fear of not being taken seriously 3) they aren't able to effectively boil down their message into something the general public can respond to.

The third point is something I want to elaborate a little on.  While I was working at the UN Millennium Campaign, one of the biggest problems our communications team had was being able to filter the complex messages of ending global poverty through the 8 UN Millennium Development Goals into something simple for the general public.  The communications team even viagra buy online went to the extent of hiring the Global PR firm Young and Rubicam to do the work for them, but at a cost get viagra online that was so high I feel dirty thinking about it.  The message Y&R came up with was a simple, 'End Poverty 2015' alluding to the fact that every government promised to end global poverty by 2015 by signing the Millennium Development Goals.  But most nonprofits don't have the kind of resources the UN does to hire Y&R to come up with a catchy slogan, so what should be done?

I remember in our MBA classes one of the first things they teach you to do when thinking about re branding is to take a step back and not think about slogans or headlines but to really think about what your organization does.  What makes you unique and what is your value added?  For nonprofits the same theory applies, what are you delivering to your community?  Why you and not Joe nonprofit down the street?  I know at the UN, we constantly struggled with communications because we never really went through this process of defining who we were first.


Pink Glove video is a viral hit

200 doctors, nurses and hospital staff from Providence St. Vincent Center created a viral hit with their Breast Cancer Awareness video “Pink Glove Dance,” that currently has close to 4 million views on YouTube.

But why is the video a hit and should your nonprofit do something similar?

Let's take a look at some of the elements that makes this video popular.

Issue – Breast Cancer is something that affects millions of lives and is easily recognizable.

Humor -The video does a great job inserting funny scenes with choreography.  The humor is light and does a good job allowing you to laugh with the video instead of at the expense of anyone.

Authenticity – I think you really feel that many of people in the video care about the subject.  From the doctors to nurses to surgeons you get the feeling that they are doing this in their spare time and not part of any public relations campaign.

So you're a nonprofit that watches this video, do you develop your own pink gloves video?  Probably not.  One of the biggest takeaways that I've seen in the viral media world is not trying to make a video copying another hit. When I was working at the United Nations our boss saw The Meatrix and wanted a similar video for global poverty.  After speaking with Josha Sachs at Freerange, the studio that produced the Meatrix, this is probably the worst thing you can do.  Each organization has their own personality and unique message to get out and attempting to replicate a successful campaign purely based on viewers is almost certainly bound for failure.

Each nonprofit has a viral hit in buy real viagra online without prescription viagra super active generic them, the trick is unlocking that unique combination of message and story that makes people want to learn something about you.  One place to start is to start studying internet memes (or hits).  Why the hell is a chimpanzee on a segway popular?  Take a look at KnowYourMeme and figure out what makes them tick.  Then analyze your own organization.  What unique story and voice are you presenting?  What kind of message would motivate your audience?  With some time and creativity maybe you could make the next Hamster on Piano


Used Cats for Sale!

The San Francisco SPCA has come under fire for a used car themed advertisement for “certified pre-owned cats.” Is this exploiting cats, or exploiting cars?  Or is it a clever advertising campaign that will attract attention and get people to blog about it? oh wait…

The online campaign promoted the 'used-cat' angle but also reduced the fees for obtaining the felines, which shocked and awed many.

In an from the sfweekly, Joe Eskenazi notes the level of horror that people felt from the advertisement:

“members of the group Fix San Francisco have already sent letters to management expressing certainty that this will lead to, at best, irresponsible owners stocking up on cats, or, at worst, horrible people buying lab animals or pit bull bait.” -

Maybe it's my years of watching inane online videos but I don't see what is shocking about the campaign.  It's a clever way of grabbing attention and adding some levity into what is otherwise a very depressing situation.

The argument about lowering prices of cats leading to deranged cat fiends also seems implausible.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that cats probably aren't the hardest animal to find if you really want one.  FixSF co-founder Julene Johnson agrees:

“I'm not aware of any studies showing that the less you pay for an animal, the higher at risk it is for abuse,” she said.

I understand whenever cute animals are involved there is going to be more passionate people on both sides but anger over the advertisement really ignores the problem the SPCA is facing; they have hundreds of unwanted cats who aren't kittens anymore and they need to place them in good homes.

Issues about screening is one thing but let's not bash an organization who is trying creative ways to reach an audience.

So while I have no problem with 'trying' to do something shocking for shock's sake to garner attention to the problem.  As an actual messaging tool, I'm not sure how well this is going to hit it's mark.

Let's look at the type of person who is going to actually take home a “used cat.”  This is pure conjecture but I'm going to say that this demographic is going to be primarily female, previously or current owners of cats, who feel like it is the right thing to do to adopt an adult cat.  They probably know something about the problem already and feel like they are doing their part to adopt an adult.

Let's just say I'm right about this profile.  If you were in this demographic, would you be turned on by a commercial about a used cat?  I wouldn't, because it doesn't address my reason for adopting a cat.  I'm not doing it because it's cool or because I just saw an online ad that made me laugh, I'm adopting a cat because I want to feel like I'm giving back and I love cats canadian viagra and healthcare viagra buy online enough to save one from being put down.

So as an advertising campaign, I'm sure it will attract more visitors to the site, and at the end of the day they might actually adopt more cats because more eyes are going to be learning about the adult cat problem.  But as a messaging tool in itself, I'm not sure how closely it hits the mark.