The Viral Formula – what works?

Viral campaigns are still the flavour of the month (and year) because clients have the perception that they are FREE or low cost. This may be true for the media component, but any viral campaigns that has a high pass-on effect still needs to be built on a great idea (and with that usually comes a high production cost). Viral campaigns must be stand out ideas for them to gain momentum. Not only do they need to be great ideas, but they must be nurtured. Nurtured to seed the idea out there and ensure that as many people see it as possible.

When I was working at Wunderman, my Creative Director (Jon-Paul Jacques) and I came up with a formula that best predicts the success of viral campaigns:

Viral = (PCF)2, where

  • P = Personal – using your name or personal details in the viral campaign (examples of this are: CSI: NY launch campaign and Mini Have a word)
  • P = Perverse – the politically correct way for saying porn (an example of this is: Paris Hilton burger launch)
  • C = Cool – anything you would be happy to forward on to your friends because you will be seen as finding things first (examples of this are: Mentos and Pepsi experiment, VW Golf and Hotmail launch)
  • C = Carnage – this builds on shows like Australia’s Funniest Home Videos. People love watching others hurt themselves.
  • F = Funny – most funny viral have been publish on YouTube (examples of this are: Trojan Games and Calton’s Big Ad)
  • F = Freaky – anything that makes you question what you have seen or turns your stomach a little (an example of this is: CSI: NY launch)

A viral success depends on the creative idea, but if it has one or more of the following it is more likely to be successful.

Here are some interesting articles on viral:

Viral marketing influence spheres

Viral marketing influence spheres

The things to remember about viral:

  • Must be a great idea
  • Viral doesn’t necessarily mean free
  • Nurture the campaign to get it out there.

Written by Dominique Hind

How to promote a campaign competition?

One thing that most advertising agencies are really good at is creating campaign microsites. Most microsites are created to support an offline campaign and don’t have enough of a media investment to drive adequate traffic to them. I like to refer to the microsites as islands and the media as bridges – without the bridges the island just doesn’t get enough traffic.

To try and spike traffic to the microsite (over a short period of time), a promotion or competition is often used. One question I have about using a competition to drive traffic is whether or not the competition is being taken up by the target audience or if it is just the ‘prize pigs’ that hunt the Internet for competitions.

Last year, we placed a competition on the Telstra Spread the Good Stuff website targeting a younger audience (Gen Y – 18 – 24yrs) where everyone received a prize for playing a game. The competition generated a lot of traffic with minimal advertising investment and to see if we were talking to the right audience, we contacted some of the major prize winners to find out more about them. Most people we contacted were well outside the target audience – women aged 40yrs+ with children in the target audience, so how did they hear about the site and competition? From all of the prize and competition sites that list competitions, promotions or free offers discovered online.

These sites are great for driving traffic, but not sure if they drive the right (qualified) traffic. A list of these sites are detailed below.

Competition, contest, freebie Australian online communities:

Submission-based competition websites:

General interest communities – receptive to competitions, contests and freebies:


These sites are great at driving traffic, but not always the right traffic.

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Online community driving offline change – Starbucks

A lot of companies are talking about corporate social responsibility (CSR) and throwing their support behind it. There have been a few questions raised about the real reasons behind this support: is it just to drive sales or is it because the company is actually interested in it.

When I worked on the Westpac account, I realised that they had been committed to the environment for years before it was the done thing. In the late 80s/early 90s they were focused on it. They actually believed in making a difference to the community and encouraged all of their staff to get behind it – whether it was by volunteering for a day a year to a charity of choice or working within their CSR team.

Something I came across a couple of weeks ago was Starbucks starting to put their hand up in the CSR arena. Starbucks have been trialling a lot of things online and I’m not sure if this is another trial or something they are going to be committed to for years.

Starbucks are trying to get people to donate 1million hours of time towards community service. They want everyone to donate 5hrs of time to a community service in their local area. In return for this, the pledger can go into Starbucks let the barister know that ‘I’m in’ and you will receive a free cup of coffee (see screens below). I took this screen grabs a couple of weeks ago and now the hours is well over a million and continuing to grow.

Starbucks i'm in - home page

Starbucks Pledge 5 'I'm in' - Home page

Starbucks i'm in - Subscribe thank you

Starbucks Pledge 5 'I'm in' - Subscribe thank you

One of the best things about the site is that you can have a look at the community services that needs help in your area. Unfortunately, this is only relevant in the US but it is such a great tool. I would love to volunteer, but just don’t know how to. This is one way that removes the barriers and encourages people to help each other.

Starbucks I'm In - Beverly Hills volunteering options

Starbucks Pledge 5 'I'm In' - Beverly Hills volunteering options

Starbucks have extended Pledge 5 to a Facebook page and an application that you can remind yourself of the 5hrs of community service that you have pledged.

Starbucks I'm In - Facebook application

Starbucks Pledge 5 'I'm In' - Facebook application

In addition to Pledge 5, Starbucks have two other CSR projects: Starbucks Shared Planet and Starbucks V2V.

Starbucks Community Involvement

Starbucks Community Involvement

Starbucks V2V is a volunteer to volunteer service (see below for screens). It launched in April 2008 and uses the V2V platform which is a global volunteer exchange. It is focused on helping achieve the million hours of volunteering.

Starbucks V2V - home page

Starbucks V2V - home page

Starbucks V2V - Log in

Starbucks V2V - Log in

Starbucks Shared Planet is a site that talks about all of Starbucks CSR initatives to help the environment and the community. It’s a great site that makes you feel good.

Starbucks Shared Planet - Home page

Starbucks Shared Planet - Home page

Starbucks Shared Planet - Details page

Starbucks Shared Planet - Details page


  • Get involved – particularly in these current times, it is important to get involved. I’m not a coffee drinker and didn’t have a connection to Starbucks, but now this has changed my perception about Starbucks. If I’m looking for a cup of herbal tea while I’m out, I’ll now consider going to Starbucks to support their commitment to CSR. I wouldn’t have done this before because I didn’t understand their values.
  • Consistency – make sure that you are consistent. Companies must continue their involvement and commitment unless they want to experience consumer negativity. If Starbucks stopped their Pledge 5 now, I would be extremely disappointed. I’ve already changed my perception about the brand and am happy to go to the store, if they were to stop now, I don’t think I would go there. I feel so positive about them now, but that can change very quickly.
  • Nuture – CSR is not a set and forget campaign, it must be nutured and their must be a focus on making sure it works. There must be continued attention and updates to the consumer so they feel part of the progress. It is a big committment, but one that is worth it.
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Tasmania – The Movie – Bigger than Australia

How do you extend your marketing budget without outlaying extra media dollars? By piggy backing on the release of one of the biggest Australian movies since Crocodile Dundee.

This is exactly what Tourism Tasmania have done. Not sure if you have seen it, but Tasmania – The Movie has been released. Riding on the dramatic, over the top production of Australia The Movie. It is great.

Tasmania The Movie Home Page

Tasmania The Movie - Home Page

Tasmania The Movie - Trailers

Tasmania The Movie - Trailers

Tasmania The Movie - Gallery

Tasmania The Movie - Gallery


I wasn’t at Leo Burnett’s when this brief came into the agency, but I love it. I think it’s a great campaign. Perfect way to piggy back on something bigger, particularly when Tourism Australia are spending a lot of money promoting and supporting.

  1. Launch and set up – a lot of effort has been put into the initial launch of the campaign. Based on most movie releases, Australia has a talkability life for the next two months so there needs to be an 8 week maintenance/optimisation strategy around Tasmania.
  2. Leveraging communities and assets – the client has done a great job seeding the video. It even received home page status on the Australian YouTube site (see screen grab below). Fingers crossed this is reaching more than just the Australians and will get international momentum over the next few weeks (after Australia The Movie has launched around the world).
YouTube Australia - Tasmania The Movie

YouTube Australia - Tasmania The Movie


There are a few additional things that the campaign can be doing to ensure it is capatalising on all online channels. Stay tuned to see how these evolve.

  1. Search – It would have been great for a targeted search marketing campaign on Australia The Movie keywords. See screen grab below for what people were searching in regards to Australia.
  2. YouTube channel – dedicated Tasmania YouTube channel, currently there isn’t anything set up for Tasmania or Tourism Tasmania. The Premier has his own channel, so does Clemenger Tasmania, but no Tourism Tasmania.
  3. Facebook – There are a lot of groups focused on Tasmania on Facebook (over 500), how can these be leveraged? Even if it is just a URL that is fed to the group to see what impact it has on the web traffic.
Google Searches based on Australia/Tasmania The Movie - 26 November 2008

Google Searches based on Australia/Tasmania The Movie - 26 November 2008

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Missed opportunity Microsoft’s ads – Seinfield & Gates

When I first saw the Jerry Seinfield and Bill Gates Microsoft ads, I thought they were ridiculous and a massive waste of money (nearly as big as the new Commonwealth Bank ads). However, after seeing the second ad in the series, I’m starting to understand why this is a brilliant idea.

Having worked on Microsoft for 4years I know that consumers love to hate Microsoft – not only a little bit, but they love moaning and complaining about everything that Microsoft does. The brilliance of this idea stems from Microsoft trying to understand consumers and be a more human. Not sure how believable it is, but it is still a good attempt to get two very well know people to show Microsoft are starting to listen/understand consumers.

Personally, I think CPB could extend this campaign making it more global and show that Microsoft are listening to all customers around the world. Microsoft divide their regions into two separate areas: G7 and G29. It would be great to show Jerry and Bill understanding the other G7 countries that Microsoft spends a lot of money in: Australia, UK, Asia, etc. I can already imagine the token ads for each country, but they would show Microsoft was listening.


After looking at both ads, I spent some time looking for how this campaign has been replicated/translated online on the Microsoft Window’s related sites (Windows Vista blog, Windows Mobile, Windows, Windows Live). After visiting them all, there is very little that extends past the TVCs and press releases (see below) – very disappointing.

Without knowing the brief and the objectives, I am guessing this is a new brand/awareness/engagement campaign focused on increasing the attactment to and engagement with Microsoft. Because this is an engagement piece (guessing), there is a huge opportunity for additional content to be created. Some initial thoughts are:

  • Travel blog from Jerry or Bill describing and detailing what they have learned from their travels and the families they have stayed with. It would also be a great place to detail what they are trying to find out from the families they are visiting.
  • YouTube channel showing Jerry/Bill interviewing the families that they stay with. This could be a standard set of questions or something random depending on the family.
  • Google maps mash up showing the Jerry/Bill travels, particularly if this goes international.
  • Website promoting user generated content that invites families to be part of the campaign and express their current Microsoft behaviours and what Jerry/Bill could learn from their family. This would be great from a market research perspective and could lead to a Microsoft usage survey.
  • PR and articles around the Microsoft behaviours from the above.
  • Social networks and groups set up to determine where Jerry/Bill should go next.

Obviously, all of these are just thoughts and don’t give any consideration to campaign budgets, objectives or things that are in the pipeline.

Microsoft Windows home page

Microsoft Windows home page

Microsoft Windows Vista Blog

Microsoft Windows Vista Blog

Microsoft Windows Mobile home page

Microsoft Windows Mobile home page

Microsoft Windows Live home page

Microsoft Windows Live home page

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PR vs email – what drives more blog traffic?

Since I started writing this blog four weeks ago, this week has been the highest trafficked week. It has been an interesting observing the traffic spikes on this blog and the reasons why. Below is the traffic summary chart as at 13 September 2008 at 10.20am.

Dominique Hind's blog traffic as at 13 September, 2008 (10.24am)

My blog traffic

Last week started to get some traction with the social networks and blog searches that I had submitted the site to. The biggest traffic drivers were Facebook (I had updated my profile message) and Stumble Upon (I added the site to the mix). The keywords that were driving traffic were around social networking, agency checklists and my name.

The blog traffic this week easily doubled. This was due to a couple of factors: internal email sent around at M&C directing traffic to this blog, my new job being announced internally to Leo’s staff, The Australian article about the move and referencing this blog and trade press.

In analysing the traffic, the highest spike in traffic was from an internal email rather than any PR (articles). So some initial thoughts about this test are:

  1. Emails drive more traffic because it is easier for the consumer to interact
  2. Endorsement (via email) helps drive traffic
  3. PR (articles) is great for branding/talkability, but unless a consumer is interested they won’t research or go online to find out more


For every campaign that goes live (most will have a campaign microsite or associated landing pages), it is important to include the link in any online communications that are sent out. This could be:


  • WOM/viral email sent to people who might be interested in the site (either marketing industry or consumers)
  • Email footers that highlight a collection of new work
  • Newsletter to subscribed people highlighting and communicating new work
  • Social bookmarking the site/critical pages – StumbleUpon, Facebook profiles, Messenger profiles, etc


  • Email sent to the customer database who have indicated they are interested in
  • Email footers (gif or link) that highlights the campaign – Wunderman do this very well for Microsoft for all of their events

There are a number of other ways to get campaign microsites, blogs, landing pages out there, but this is a start.

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The impact of word of mouth

In an internal meeting yesterday, I expressed how excited I was that my blog traffic hit 92 earlier in the week. It was so exciting for me because not only am I a frustrated accountant who loves numbers, but I love web stats and understanding what drives people to sites. After this meeting, Greg Beazley sent an email to group of internal M&C people asking them to view and bookmark my site to see if there was any impact on the blog traffic.

The impact has been huge. Shortly after the email was sent, traffic spiked to just under 200 and overnight it peaked at just over 310 (see graphs below). The average views I was getting on the blog, before this email, was around 20 – 40 views a day, with a few spikes in traffic due to an AIMIA speaking engagement and an article. The ’email’ experiment shows that internal emails sent advising of new campaigns do help to spike traffic, but something I’m interested in is seeing if the traffic continues or if it returns to the average levels (ie. how relevant was the content to the people who read it)

Blog traffic to this blog at 3.30pm, Tuesday 9 August

Blog traffic to this blog at 3.30pm, Tuesday 9 August

Blog traffic to this blog at 7.15am, Wednesday 10 August 2008

Blog traffic to this blog at 7.15am, Wednesday 10 August 2008

Over the weekend, I am going to try a few things to see if I can keep traffic above the average views:

Thanks for helping build the learnings and stay tuned for more updates on traffic.

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Why blog? Data repository, search tests & a PR machine!

To be honest, I had three motivations for starting this blog.

The first was to capture all of my thoughts in one central location rather than having them in seven different social bookmarking sites or social networks. We are always telling our clients they need a single customer database, so this blog is my single thought database….

The second was to do a search optimisation test. I am fascinated by search and constantly craving more knowledge about it. An old wives tale (or industry myth) about search engine optimisation is that it takes 2 – 3wks for a blog to be found by a search engine where as it takes up to 3mths for a website. I wanted to test the 2 – 3wks theory.

On day 2 of this blog, I did a search for ‘Dominique Hind’ and it was already the top ranked site and the supporting posts were ranked underneath it. I was amazed and also a little excited.

The third reason was that for most of my career, people knew me by my maiden name, Dominique Layton. I had written a lot of articles, contributed to a lot of posts, judged a lot of award shows, spoken at a lot of events and when I changed my name all of this PR and brand value (he he) was lost. But now, with blogging you can create your own PR and build on your brand value with worrying about what your name use to be or where you use to work. A blog is all you need to promote yourself and your thoughts.

So if/when I ever apply for another job, I will not be sending a CV through, I will be sending a link to my blog because it gives prospective employees an overview of who I am, what I am interested in and what I believe in without them ever having to meet me. They can judge if I am a good fit for them and potentially I can judge if I fit with them.


So in summary, blogging is not only a very cleansing activity, it is great to house all of your knowledge within the one central place, it allows you to conduct search tests on particular keywords and influence rankings on your own brand, and it also allows you to manage your own PR! Why wouldn’t you blog?

Written by Dominique Hind

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