Don’t chase viral video dream, says YouTube superstar

It sounded strange coming from a person who owes his fame and fortune to tons of viewers on YouTube …

“Viral is dead,” announced Kevin Nalty, interactive media marketing expert and YouTube star, speaking at Marketing Week, a digital marketing conference hosted by the Canadian Marketing Association this week.

Nalty, a former marketer for Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co Inc., has posted more than 800 videos that have been viewed more than 110 million times by fans around the world.

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Nalty conceded that “every once in a while someone proves [him] wrong with an exception — such as the roller dancing babies video for Evian.” (The video has already been viewed more than 11 million times).

But the fact, he said, is even the most successful viral branded marketing videos aren’t getting as many views as popular independent YouTube creations.

The YouTube icon now runs Nalts Consulting an advertising and marketing firm specializing in social media and online videos based in Doylestown, Penn.

“Please, please don’t chase the viral dream,” Nalty pleaded.

He admits “there is still some potential for profit” but the viral video is largely the domain of indie-type projects rather than big budget productions.

Support local stars

Quite a few big name companies such as Fox Networks, Coca Cola, Microsoft Corp, MTV and various film studies are leveraging YouTube, says Nalty.

But rather than throw huge amount of advertising dollars on sophisticated YouTube campaigns, Nalty suggests companies study the space first and identify YouTube’s resident stars that can carry the brand.

“Don’t throw $300,000 or more on a YouTube campaign, because it’s never a sure thing that viewers will come.”

Nalty said it’s much wiser to spend $5,000 or $10,000 on an existing YouTube star who already has an online presence and access to tens of thousands of fans. “A little cheque will go a long way, especially if they’re in college”.

What local talent can Canadian marketers turn to?

Nalty says marketers might find some gems in the likes of: The Wine Kone;  Cutewithchris; Corey Vidal;  and FlippyCat. “When these guys put up a video, tens of thousands of people tune in right away.”

“If you are in Canada and you’re not aware of them, as a marketer you’re losing a lot of opportunity.”  

New magic media mix

Other marketing experts don’t believe viral is on its death throes.

They say the industry is still in a state of flux and marketers and advertisers are still seeking the digital era’s new magic media mix.

“We’re seeing clearly a shift from traditional marketing to digital marketing,” according to Steve Levy, president of Canadian market research for Ipsos Canada.

Marketers and consumers are gravitating towards e-mail, online and mobile, he said. “There’s no doubt this trend is partly fueled by the economy. Companies are moving stuff to a less expensive, more measurable medium.”

A recent Ipsos Reid poll of Canadian marketers indicate that 81 per cent of respondents believe more ad dollars will go to online media in the near future. Meanwhile, print media spend fell by 41 per cent; radio by 26 per cent and TV, 22 per cent.

Wise companies are also using digital media to “listen” rather than talk, according to Mitch Joel, president of Twist Image, a Toronto-based marketing and communications firm. “Some surveys show 20 per cent of firms have some Twitter presence.”  

But not all of these companies are trumpeting their brands — rather they are using Twitter as a research tool.

“I think an alternative way to use Twitter is to find out what conversations are going on in your space,” Joel said.

He said the medium lends itself to immediate and candid conversation. The marketer can use this to gauge the thoughts and interest of a community, or a certain demographic, in a topic, Joel said.

“Listening in on the conversation helps you feel the pulse and the flow of public opinion.”  

While there are some overnight successes, Joel says marketing in the social networking space takes time to produce results. “It’s a slow process. Companies need to build trust, value and communities.”  

Follow Nestor Arellano on Twitter.

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