When going viral isn’t enough

CASSIES judge and DDB Montreal's Etienne Bastien on campaigns' actual vs. perceived success.
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Leading up to the CASSIES awards night (Feb. 19), strategy is featuring a series of articles penned by a different CASSIES jury member, highlighting some effective advertising trends.

By Etienne Bastien

For many marketers, a campaign gone viral is a dream come true. The notoriety, the bragging rights, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the delightful strokes to our egos – it can all be euphoric, and it’s becoming a golden standard to pursue.

We see this measurement culture reflected in many award show submissions too, where agencies present their campaigns via video cases that emphasize success primarily on the web. For us as judges, it’s impressive to see thousands of views, likes and shares, all implying that a brand’s messages are resonating with consumers. We become romanced by the storytelling behind the campaign’s journey.

If we must be sticklers in measurement based on business results, as was the case for our CASSIES jury panel, we must take a step back to critically analyze business objectives and evaluate actual success versus perceived success.

Unless the world is your target audience, any web impressions outside of a brand’s target market, in theory, shouldn’t count in the final measurement of a campaign. So if a brand needs to grow sales in the Canadian market, we must focus on that campaign’s impact specifically on Canadian soil.

In reality, nothing is so black and white, of course. How does one measure the PR value of global notoriety here at home? How does one measure today’s “six degrees of separation” whereby a story from Asia can turn it into household news in North America almost instantaneously? Measuring business success and sales from this lens is difficult.

Web and social media analytics, however, are becoming more sophisticated with each passing day. Therefore, in 2015 and beyond, award show judges will be clamping down on potential “viral” measurements – no matter how exciting they are. Today, judges must accept data behind each campaign at face value – such as clicks, likes and shares. With click farms and other computer-generated engagement tools on the rise, those days are numbered. Analytics that capture a campaign’s authentic digital footprint in a target market will be required to win. As marketers, we won’t be able to make claims anymore; we’ll have to back it up with solid evidence.

One key implication to this upcoming measurement paradigm shift is the video case study. These are time-consuming and expensive for agencies to produce. Essentially, they are ads for our ads. And while today, agencies tend to produce one video for submission into multiple categories, and multiple award shows, in the future, these videos will need to be much more tailored. They will need to demonstrate true business success beyond any degree of viral success.

Etienne Bastien is a CASSIES jury member and VP and creative director at DDB Canada Montreal.

The CASSIES awards show is being held at the Hilton Toronto on February 19, 2015.