viral video

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I got a real chuckle out of viral video link my son sent me. It is likely you have seen it already given the speed with which such clips get shared these days. A few days after I saw it, the clip got coverage in Advertising Age and Creativity. And a few more days later, it makes its debut here at NewtonIdeas. Syndication reruns are soon to follow.

In case you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil the fun. Here is the video:

Now, that the show is over and the dust has settled, I have some questions.

When did Turner Broadcasting define the TNT brand as the “Drama” network? (I have to admit I don’t watch a lot of TV and am partial to AMC because of Mad Men and Breaking Bad.)

Did anyone grasp the irony of selling a network dedicated entirely to weekly dramas by staging a stunt built around a hugely comic premise? (Larry David, Judd Apatow, Will Ferrell need not apply.)

Was this a one-and-done for video only effort? (That’s a rhetorical question, but I can’t imagine being a bystander witnessing the epic results of pushing that button and not wanting to press it again and again.)

TNT's site for Benelux pushes its "Drama" shows front and center.

TNT's site for Benelux pushes its "Drama" shows front and center.

How successful has this been in its core purpose — introducing TNT as a new cable offering in the Benelux countries? (While buzz has definitely been generated, I suspect all those TNT drama shows will have a tough time following this act for ongoing entertainment value.)

Why are European town squares so conducive to planning and executing elaborate viral video stunts? (Here is a link to an early Angry Birds promotional effort.)

What is TNT doing to translate that viral excitement over here? (I suspect Occupy Wall Street has spoiled the chance of any US town squares being taken over for promotional purposes the rest of this year.)

I don’t have answers to any of these questions. I just found myself surprised by how much effort went into a single surprising moment of fun, how that moment runs somewhat counter to the brand message, and how little follow-through in the way of integrated marketing communications is in place to take advantage of all the buzz that’s been generated. No one said the advertising business is easy.

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The holiday season opened with a very black Black Friday punctuated by pepper spray and other crazed shopping ugliness. Now, it is winding down with a water cooler moment delivered via a lone FedEx driver and YouTube.

If you have yet not seen the clip, taken by the surveillance camera of a customer whose delivery of a Sanyo monitor was shot put over a driveway gate, here it is.

Hard to tell what was going through the driver’s head — a tight timetable that did not correlate with the backlog of packages in his van, class warfare envy that the package recipient lives in a gated home and he doesn’t, the turbo ingredients of his 4th energy drink of the morning. . .could be just about anything. If he has shared those thoughts with FedEx, they have not shared them with the world. Here is a link and a blogpost to FedEx statements since the video has gone viral. They have taken the driver off the streets, reassigning him within the company. That has triggered a secondary PR backlash judging by the posted comments — unemployed capable people are incensed that this clown still has a job at FedEx. Worse, as Corky notes: “No the delivery man isn’t working with customers any more, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t throwing packages around a warehouse somewhere. Most of us would be fired for doing something like that. FedEx, you are hurting your other employees by keeping one who does such public relations damage to your company.”

FedEx, normally the model of reliability and efficiency, has been challenged by the actions of one driver and its own HR policies.

FedEx, normally the model of reliability and efficiency, has been challenged by the actions of one driver and its own HR policies.

So, yes, this delivery man will go through the rest of his life as that crazy Christmas delivery loon. However, the venerable FedEx has managed to make itself look foolish, too, by projecting a mysterious at best, clueless at worst image by responding to this viral video fiasco in a nebulous squishy-HR manner. FedEx made things right with that single customer, then managed to cause everyone else to question management judgment on what appears to be cut and dried grounds for dismissal. FedEx’s statement sounds vague in light of the video —“We do take this matter extremely seriously, and have initiated action in accord with our disciplinary policy, while respecting privacy concerns. Without going into detail, I can assure you that this courier is not delivering customer packages while we are going through this process.”

Just one more example that the people running America’s biggest corporations and institutions don’t understand crisis PR, let alone social media. It is sad when you think about how much money FedEx has invested in positive PR and advertising programs to build brand image. The initial damage done was inflicted by one poor excuse for an employee, but then management has compounded that damage by failing to act decisively to show that such outrageous conduct will not be tolerated.

And on that note, happy holidays and a wonderful and profitable 2012 to all!

Update: This is the 5th time I have had to repost this entry. FedEx lawyers must be working hard through YouTube to get all the viral video clips in the public domain taken down. It is a shame they did not put as much effort into their PR.

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