There's obviously been a big push by companies these days to embrace "viral media" that gets passed around. There's lots of talk about the value of "passed links" or "earned links" within marketing and ad agencies. The idea is that if a friend passes along links to content, that content gets taken a lot more seriously than if it's pushed out there by a brand. But, still, some of these agencies don't quite realize what's at stake. Tim O'Reilly
points us to an interesting discussion on this topic by Mike Walsh, where he notes that marketers seem to forget whose brand is at stake
when it comes to passing around links. They are, of course, focused on the company who is their client (or employer), but ignore that it's actually the person doing the passing:
Stunning art direction is useless if no one actually watches your ad. In a world of audience networks, people will only forward your content to their friends and followers if it makes them look smarter or cooler by doing so. Their brand, not yours is at stake. You would be surprised how few marketers take that into account and are left wondering when their viral campaigns are socially vaccinated before they get off the ground.
This works in other ways as well. We often write about the fact that advertising is content and content is advertising
, such that smart advertising these days is good content. So, we're always interested in awesome examples
of this in practice. Yet, we recently received a submission for a video, sent via a marketing agency's IP address, pointing to a cool YouTube video. The video itself was, in fact, cool and has been getting sent around a lot lately. But, the video was actually an ad. At the very end, a brand pops up. I don't mind this at all, because it fits with the recognition that content is advertising. If the marketing agency had sent it in making that point, I might have been interested in posting it. Instead, the marketing agency pretended to be some random guy (hint: we can check your IP address!) who had "just found this totally cool video." It was so transparently fake that it turned me off from the whole campaign (and that particular marketing firm). Passing on links is a reputation play -- and while it can do good for some people, if you're just out there faking it, it can do a lot of harm as well.