Viral Video: Does it Work?

Posted on August 6, 2007
Filed Under Marketing 2.0 |

Viral marketing is an area of great interest to brands today. Services like MySpace and YouTube have created potentially powerful new marketing channels and marketers have shown little hesitation in trying to leverage these new channels to spread their marketing messages virally.

Smirnoff and British ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty are the creators of one of my favorite viral video campaigns. Their award-winning “Tea Partay” ads promoting Smirnoff’s Raw Tea products are funny and entertaining.

This first ad, released in August 2006, parodies East Coast “prepsters” with a hip-hop video and has received over 3 million views on YouTube.

Apparently inspired by the success of this video, Smirnoff upped the ante and decided to parody the East Cost versus West Coast rivalry that plagued the rap music scene for many years.

Following the trash talk, the West Coast responded in true Beverly Hills style.

Added to YouTube on August 2, the scathing response from Boyz in the Hillz has garnered Smirnoff more than 415,000 YouTube views as of this writing.

The campaign has even sparked user-generated responses. One of the more amusing ones was put together by Duke business school students to poke fun at Vanderbilt University’s Owen MBA program.

Needless to say, it would be hard to argue that the Tea Partay campaign hasn’t been successful for Smirnoff from a pure marketing/branding standpoint:

I love content that makes amusing social commentaries and the United States certainly has a wide range of curious cultural aspects to wonder about (and laugh about where appropriate). I think the popularity of Smirnoff’s campaign can probably be attributed in part to the fact that the Tea Party music videos take certain cultural stereotypes and exaggerate them. Exaggeration is a crucial element of good comedy and in this case, the exaggeration is done in an entertaining yet subtly intelligent fashion. For that I give the playaz at Smirnoff and Bartle Bogle Hegarty mad props.

But as I was watching these videos, it occurred to me that I have never sipped Smirnoff Raw Tea. Watching the video got me thinking more about the absurd old money and nouveau riche lifestyles so popularized by the media today than it did about asking the bartender for some Green Tea next time Buffy and I hit the clubs. None of my friends have invited me to a tea partay, so my friends have either remained loyal to the Goose or my less-than-flattering comments about Saab automobiles got me kicked off the Martha’s Vineyard summer party invitation list.

While I don’t know how well Raw Tea sales are for Smirnoff, it doesn’t appear to me that Raw Tea has taken over the market. Obviously, it’s a niche product and maybe sales are strong, but for brands like Smirnoff, there are a number of things to consider:

Only time will tell if marketers can squeeze tangible value from viral video. In the meantime, if you ever throw a tea partay and want some company, chirp at me. Buffy and I will be glad to holla back and RSVP. In cursive.

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3 Responses to “Viral Video: Does it Work?”

  1. hello on August 6th, 2007 2:51 pm


    The most obvious (and successful) viral video that can be directly correlated from increased brand awareness to product sales would be the Budweiser “Wassup?” TV adverts.

    The “Wassup?” adverts were based upon a two-minute short film called “True” by Charles Stone III. I first saw “True” at film festivals in ~1998; by 1999 it had appeared on the Internet at (now defunct)

    The IMDb link for the original short film:

    A Black Enterprise Magazine (Sept. 2000) profile of Charles Stone III:

    The original short film “True” on the ‘Tubes:

    The original Budweiser TV advert:

    Note[1]: That’s the director Charles Stone, who answers the initial phone call (wearing the red sweater).

    Note[2]: “Wassup?” was not the tagline for the short film, it was the catch phrase “True, true”, In the TV advert, “true, true” is spoken before the “True” appears below the Budweiser logo at the end of each commercial.

    My favorite of all the Budweiser adverts was the third of the “Wassup?” series “Wasabi”.

    Here ’tis on the ‘Tubes:

  2. TechDumpster (living in First Life) on August 8th, 2007 12:33 am

    I think the interesting thing is that viral videos may gain millions of views, but the incremental impact is still small. I have seen all of these videos and even forwarded them to friends. They are funny and enjoyable. That being said, I have yet to try Smirnoff Ice Tea. If a friend told me how great it was, I’d probably go buy one this weekend. I’m not typical but I do represent some percentage of the populace.

  3. Omar Ismail on August 8th, 2007 10:36 am

    By themselves viral video probably won’t translate into substantially increased sales. However, the increase in mindshare can be leveraged into marketshare. You just have to be careful about it. One idea: Smirnoff can have a contest for creating a commercial that will then be shown on television (probably during the Colbert report). Smirnoff can make sure the winning commercial isn’t just “entertaining” but also shows why their product is good. That’s a way of bridging the whole Web2.0 marketing with traditional Madison Ave marketing.

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