Viral videos have become something of a holy grail for marketers, in no small part because a quickly spreading Internet meme can bring boffo numbers. Here at WCG, we’re big fans of Toyota’s “Swagger Wagon” spot (9.8 million views). And that’s taking nothing away from the Will It Blend guys (12.7 million views for the iPad spot — yes, it blends) or the angry flier ballad “United Breaks Guitars” (11.1 million views).
But there is a video platform even more impressive, number-wise than YouTube. It’s a platform that 99 percent of American households have invested in, where top videos get more than 22 million views every day (or, about 15 times more than the last Old Spice video has received in the past 2 months). It’s a medium where year-over-year growth has jumped toward the double-digits recently.
I’m talking, of course, about the evening news.
Theories on why the evening news is experiencing a renaissance are varied, but the implications are clear. The broadest of the broadcast mediums has arrested a three-decade slide, and it’s adding viewers, even younger ones. That means that at least as much attention should paid to that opportunity as trying to recreate the magic of the skateboarding bulldog (17.9 million views in 4+ years).
Of course, unlike YouTube, not everyone gets a shot at a lead-in from Scott Pelley, and — with only 22 minutes per episode — there is much competition for airtime. But thinking hard about the ways of doing that, taking into account the increasingly unique approaches of each network, is well worth the risk. That means thinking visually, not just in terms of b-roll, but also graphics, interviews and animations that take advantage of the information-dense nature of television.
The bonus? That sort of thinking has spillover benefits across other media types, the least of which is YouTube itself. A brilliant medical animation can be repurposed in a dozen different ways even if Diane Sawyer takes a pass. Collecting a half-dozen illustrative statistics makes for a great infobox on TV … but also serve the raw material for 2011’s hippest media form: the infographic.
The explosion of media types over the past 15 years has given those of use in communications a vast palette of tools. The challenge now is making sure that the allure of the shiny new ones doesn’t blunt the fact that, a few hours after you read this, a population of people greater than the size of the entire state of New York will sit down in front of one of their 2.86 television sets and watch the evening news. Will you be on?