11 October 2012 4970 Views

Viral Trends: Advertising Age’s “Next Five Years” of Marketing

by Alex Gerage

There has always been one caveat to viral marketing in the movie industry. Although the innovation and opportunities within the field are apparent, and as successful as some viral marketing campaigns have been, writers and researchers on the topic have been unwilling to look past the impact of television and the 30-second commercial as the most effective method to promote upcoming movies. That is changing though. In a thought-provoking and important article on Advertising Age, “Marketing’s Next Five Years: How to Get From Here to There,” author Matthew Creamer presents a framework highlighting the trends marketers foresee happening, and all signs point to a major shift in the norm I described above. Read on for more.

The story at Ad Age is lengthy, but it’s worth your time to go through it. Put simply, Creamer highlights eight overarching trends and objectives that will impact the marketing landscape over the next five years:


While you could argue all of these concepts will impact viral marketing within our niche, the movie industry, I see trends one, two and three as having the most direct impact on the news we cover. I thought I would offer my thoughts on each of them below, but they all return to Creamer’s overarching point: there is a seismic shift in the works. The amount of money and time devoted to marketing online will not only dramatically increase over the next five years, but the methods of traditional marketing, like television, will be restructured using the principles and ideas found in the online marketing.


“Personalized and data-soaked, context and location aware, the phone is the window into the consumer’s soul that marketers have been looking for. Whether brands are invited in depends on whether marketers understand what consumers want and need in a mobile environment.”

In my first Viral Trends article, I discussed how Republic Project is streamlining the way online marketing platforms can be updated, so ultimately more content can be produced more often. Such an initiative is a response to the increased use of mobile technology Creamer describes above. Phones and tablets today are basically handheld computers, allowing you to access websites, videos, apps and social networks wherever and whenever you want. Creamer says marketers will fully embrace the opportunities within these devices during the next five years, devoting more money to mobile and internet advertising combined than television. That’s staggering, and would have been unheard of even a couple years ago. While we have certainly seen movie studios employ the multitude of mobile tools effectively in various viral campaigns, we should expect to see an even great commitment to campaigns using mobile devices in the future.


“This kind of stuff is game changing and will put new demands on every part of the marketing supply chain. First of all, marketers can think differently about how they use TV. With more granular data about who is viewing their ads, those micro-targeting approaches begin to make sense and that will impact not only the marketing mix but also business strategy and product development. Agencies will need to shore up consumer insights and creative processes to deal less in overly emotive anthems and more in clear propositions for well-honed customer segments.” 

Traditionally, the goal of television advertising has been to reach the biggest audience of individuals possible, regardless of whether or not they were interested in your product. According to Creamer, this longstanding approach will change to one that uses complex viewership data to pinpoint who is watching television when, and then tailor advertising specifically to that audience. Sound familiar? This is niche marketing at its most basic, but employed on what traditionally has been the broadest and most general of platforms—television.

We’ve never really seen a viral campaign filter into television. Most of the time, viral marketing videos have been released and spread online, but the opportunity to use data to recognize “television niches” should encourage movie studios to produce what are essentially viral videos formatted for television. Imagine an “I Believe in Harvey Dent” campaign commercial, with no mention of The Dark Knight, running during commercial breaks of Smallville in 2008. That’s the kind of opportunity we should see emerge, but for movies and properties beyond comics and superheroes. The ability to reach specific, targeted audiences, completely changes the way television can be used in viral campaigns.


“A few years ago, an industry attempt to replace frequency with engagement failed in part because engagement suggests we know what’s going on in someone’s brain when they see an ad and we couldn’t really deliver on that. Yet into the brain is precisely where measurement needs to go, said Ted McConnell, exec VP-digital at the Advertising Research Foundation. “What I hope you will see in digital media (online, or TV in the future) is that measures of exposure will become comparable and reliable and that measures of engagement will try to glean what happened inside a brain,” he said.”

As I discussed above, the old approach to advertising was about reach; make as many people aware of a product as possible, and hope that a sizable portion of those would want to purchase that product. What is so revolutionary about viral marketing is how it does away with that notion, instead focusing on a specific niche audience that has already bought into what is being marketed to them. Furthermore, there is the expectation that they will not only be receptive to the message, but would serve as willing advocates to engage with the content producers and other users about it. The Prometheus viral campaign earlier this year didn’t produce the Weyland Industries viral videos and websites to reach and sway the masses to see the movie, but rather encourage longtime fans of the Alien franchise to hype it up online. The goal was based upon outcome—what users did with the content once they received it. As Creamer suggests, marketers’ greatest challenge has and always will be to understand how and why consumers think and act the way they do, but with marketers now measuring success and developing campaigns around the outcome of the consumer, instead of just reach, the possibility of achieving that is greatly increased.

Impact: For those that have been following our site, the trends Creamer describes aren’t necessarily revolutionary: the rise of interactive mobile technology, niche programming and a focus on user experience and advocacy. These have been the foundation of the viral campaigns we have been covering for years, but they’ve always been discussed within our narrow context. Now, it appears these approaches will be adopted on a wide scale over the next five years. That’s huge news, and should mean that the interactive viral campaigns we have come to love will be used for a broader variety of movies and television shows, and will be more encompassing and engaging for those who experience them.

Our culture’s increased reliance on online and mobile communication, as well as a desire for engagement with brands they follow, will force Hollywood studios to pay more attention (meaning greater budgets) to online marketing for promoting their films. For this reason, Creamer’s forecast is both practical and understandable. The viral videos, ARG campaigns and interactive online marketing we cover for the site, and you experience as a consumer, will be based at least in part around the forecasts and predictions he writes about.

At this time five years ago, we were enjoying the spectacularly unique and mysterious viral campaign for Cloverfield, and about to begin the all-encompassing viral journey for The Dark Knight. Remember how special and exhilarating that was? Such events had never really happened before. Now, they are common place and have been replicated with varying degrees of success. Viral marketing has been established. The next five years will determine how it will grow and evolve. Given Creamer’s analysis, there should be some big changes in store. I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

So, what do you think of Matthew Creamer’s article? How do you expect the marketing landscape, and viral marketing in particular, to look five years from now? Let us know in the comments section below.


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