BBH Refuge online video is a viral Modern Classic

Many years ago, Howard Gossage wrote: “people read what interests them- sometimes it’s an ad”. For a ‘modern classic’ this should be extended to see, watch, search for, hear, partake in and pass on. When TV shows boasted 20 million viewers, a good ad would get talked about the next day, in the pub or, as the Americans say, by the water cooler.

With fragmentation of channels this is harder, and many marketers in these modern times look for ‘talkability’. This is an ugly word, but it means that, whatever the channel, more impact will be engendered for the piece of communication because people – consumers or the press or style leaders- will ‘talk’ about it. Beware wishful thinking.

I have written before that even if an ad is not intended as a viral, pretend it is: why would anyone want to share it, to pass it on, to talk about it? I believe that clients often convince themselves that people will talk about their brand, and even buy it, simply because they really want them to. Just because the R&D people have said that the product is the best on the market does not mean that people will believe it, let alone talk about it. On one of the courses I ran one client gave an example: the idea was to invite journalists to interview the PG Tips Monkey – until one called to say that he had no interest whatsoever in interviewing a stuffed puppet.

‘Talkability’ is not just word of mouth, of course. It can be a hyperlink to an article or a webpage; it could be as simple as a recipe passed on to another. It is also important to remember that the context for all this is much broader and more competitive than just other brands – it is the whole of society and culture from the X-Factor to Facebook, from local notices to gossip.

Successful examples to date have tended to be films, however (though there is a lot going on out there) and include Cadbury’s Gorilla, OK Go’s music video for Chevrolet, Dumb Ways To Die for Aussie trains, Evian Babies, Old Spice, and T-Mobile. In some cases they started as virals and then went on TV; in others, vice versa.

Millions of people have seen them because they had something to say or were different and entertaining. With thanks to Ken Hoggins of agency BBH London, my choice for now is the viral for Refuge – for victims of domestic violence- ‘How to look your best the morning after.’ Most victims are assaulted many times before they report it. (This one has got a shampoo ad stuck to it – Ed).

I remember an ad some years ago about a woman being hit every four seconds- powerful but perhaps this understated film actually packs more of a punch (so to speak) and the key message about not covering it up will make more of a difference. I hope so. It certainly has a reason to be shared.

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