I’ve been doing some bits and pieces of awards judging for various folk this year. It’s all been interesting so far.
The one I’m most worried about is the D&AD Viral Category. I’m the chairman of the jury and I’m guessing that there’s going to be loads of debate around ‘what is viral?’. There always is at this kind of thing. There’s also going to be loads of fighting about whether specific things are or aren’t viral. Is a TV ad that went viral ‘a viral’? Is something that got passed round because it was really beautiful a viral? Does a viral have to have a farting squirrel in it?
I used to be of the opinion that you couldn’t really judge something as being viral or not unless you actually know whether it did or didn’t become viral. In which case you’d need to know the results. And how they’d managed to achieve the results. For example if a video has been seen 3,123,826 times, but they’d achieved that purely through paid media I’d have said ‘not viral’. Conversely if a clip was great, but had only been seen by 5 people I’d also have said ‘not viral’.
Basically the old me would have said something is viral only if it has been seen by a disproportionately high percentage of its target audience purely as a result of peer distribution (email, blogs, forums, mobile pass on, IM, etc.).
But now I’ve chilled out a bit ;-)
Having looked at 100s of supposedly viral things (I say supposedly only because they’ve been submitted into viral categories in awards) I think one has to be a bit more relaxed about the definition of viral. I’m not sure I can exactly describe what I mean here. But I’m going to give it a go.
I guess I’ve started judging stuff based on:
Has this thing been conceived and created with a set of qualities that might make it ‘viral’ to its target audience. And is it actually any good.
Quite often when discussing work in a creative forum you’ll find that people don’t want to talk about things like target audiences or results. But when you’re talking about something peer distributed those two things absolutely have to be considered. Don’t they? There’s still far too much viral stuff that relies on bad knob-gags and nudity even though it’s totally inappropriate for the brand and the audience (and don’t get me wrong I love a good knob-gag, in the right setting).
Anyway as you can see the whole debate gets very wordy and waffly and ultimately tied up in its own entrails.
So as I was trundling off to sleep last night I set myself a challenge. Could I come up with 5 words to describe whether or not something is viral. The three I can remember are: