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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Casting Call: Your Chance to Speak at Ad:Tech NY

One of the questions I have gotten from more than a few readers is how to get into speaking at events and conferences.  It is surprisingly more easy than it may seem, but the real challenge is breaking into your first conference speaking chance.  Perhaps you work for a small company, or you are still starting out your career.  Whatever the reason, you might feel like speaking at events is open to a closed realm of people.  It's not.  In an effort to open up what can sometimes seems like an insular world of marketing speakers, I got clearance from the organizers of Ad:Tech NY to do something different in recruiting speakers for my upcoming panel at Ad:Tech.  Consider this post an open casting call for a speaking slot on the panel.  Here is a description of the panel:

wednesday, november 7, 11:00am - 12:00pm
Creating Talkability: Using WOM Lessons to Make Your Marketing Go Viral
No one creates a "viral" video. As much as any marketing team wants to go into a campaign with the goal of having it take off and get discussed all over the Internet, the real aim is to create something talkable. Once enough people talk about it, you go viral...but that is an outcome, not the intial goal. In this session, we've gathered individuals who know all about going viral—both on purpose and by accident. Each will share tips on what it takes to go viral, and whether doing so should be your aim. If you want to know how to avoid getting ignored, create something worth talking about and understand whether a science exists for taking something viral, this panel has the answers.

I could fill this panel with folks that I know (as most panel speakers are selected) - but I thought it would be more interesting to see if we can use the panel to discover a new speaker.  Someone who hasn't spoken at an event before but is looking for their first chance. 

So, here's your shot.  Here's how you can participate:

  1. Write a paragraph or two explaining what perspective you would bring to the panel that the audience would be interested in.
  2. Post your submission through a comment on this post, or on your own blog and provide a link through a comment.

That's it.  The only requirement is that you be a new speaker who has not spoken at industry events before.  Next Tuesday, I'll post the three strongest and open up voting through the rest of the week for the winner.  The aim is to get a variety of voices on the panel (ie - agency, client, vendor, etc.), and there are several folks I and the conference organizers have already been speaking to for filling the other slots. 

UPDATE: Last month I selected a winner of this casting call and notified all the entrants who submitted prior to the deadline I noted above.  The winner was Terence Thomas from BIA Information Network.  Congratulations to Terence and thanks to everyone for their interest!

Note - For those unfamiliar with Ad:Tech, it is a huge show generally considered one of the largest in the interactive marketing industry.  This year in New York, the event has lined up some top notch speakers - including Beth Comstock, Teresa Iezzi, Ted McConnell, Suzie Reider, Jon Fine and many others.


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Hi, I've been involved in viral and WOM campaigns for a few years now, both in my client work at my day job (as SEO and SMM manager for a full service web shop), where the challenge is to bring "not sexy" products to social media, and in personal projects where I've launched several successful viral marketing and link baiting efforts. One of my most successful was

Viral is one of the hottest and most misunderstood words used in our industry. Marketers and advertisers alike salivate at the possibly of delivering millions of impressions at a ridiculously low cost. The impressions delivered by a true viral campaign are far more meaningful than those delivered by traditional media, as they are generated by trusted sources, peer recommendations. In short, viral success is the holy grail of social marketing.

Viral campaigns fall on their faces far more often than they succeed for a number of reasons, principle among them being a communications disconnect. Brands and advertisers love themselves far more than their average target user. In order for a video or any other asset or concept to “go viral” it must first and foremost be compelling. Compelling content can be broken into three categories: timely, relevant and remarkable to the target. Content that nails all three of the above mentioned criteria is most likely to achieve “viral” success.

Advertisers today place far too much focus on the “feel” (be it consumer generated or other) of their videos and investment in seeding companies. While our marketing, advertising and promotional worlds may have a strong legacy heritage of making the most of our place as the cracks between the content, viral success requires that you deliver something greater than “interesting”, it has to be truly remarkable, compelling and actionable. Successful content will drive users implicitly to repost, share, comment, contribute and above all else generate positive feelings towards the brand. Success comes from hitting the big three goals of timely, relevant and remarkable, not from marketer driven actions including the all too familiar marketer suggested drive to action within the content.

About Me: I live in the Digital Media and Marketing Agency World as an Emerging Media Strategist. I blog at In my agency role I have worked on a number of social media activation campaigns including “viral video campaigns” for leading national and global clients.

Nice challenge. I'm up for it.


Hi Rohit, my name is Terence and I'd love to speak on your panel.

I'm the Interactive Mktg Manager for BIA Information Network and have been assisting companies in marketing our Branded Desktop Apps to a company's audience. Check out for more info about the BDA.

Anyway, we have stumbled upon a viral phenomenon with this Web 2.0 technology. Our app tracks "referrals". So If I send you an "invite" to download the app, and you sign-up, download and run the app, your name is recorded in the database and I'm listed as the one who referred you. We are finding that almost every media company that we work with, they have a viral percentage that averages between 65-90%.

My angle on your panel will be to simply layout some simple steps that a company can take to create "viral" items, based on what I've learned. If a company wants to go viral they must:
1. Teach their audience how to refer friends, family, etc
2. Make the viral interface easy for their audience to use
3. Create a movie, app, network, etc. that has value to the audience, is informative so that they want to pass it forward, and is based on their behavior
4. Incentify the referers to transmit the viral item
5. Track the viral process
6. Teach all new "infectees" or convertshow to virally send the same item

The model then starts over again with these new infectees.

Simple, easy and effective. This is what I learned from our app. Let me know if this is interesting to you. Like I said, I'd love to join your panel.


Viral marketing in some form or another has existed.

If it wasn't for cave man sharing recent discoveries with each other, civilization would not be this sophisticated. Imagine the exchange between cave men when they found prey for food. What this means is the concept of sharing and, more specifically sharing of information, has always been around.
Then isn't sharing of information really what viral marketing is all about? Exploiting this characterization vital in understanding how viral marketing is critical to shape the brand's image and its personality.
Viral marketing can be successful by achieving the right balance of content and attitude.
These elements can help achieve this balance:

Trust: This determines if your influencer is trusted within the target audience. This is the most important factor.

Transparency: Advertisers need to understand the level of clarity that their content needs to be crafted with. This gains the trust of the consumer.

Comprehensive: Construct messages that are easily understood by diverse personality types within the group.
Uniqueness: Using the same medium or tool repeatedly will distinguish the buzz factor.

Entertaining: People are easily bored and need constant stimulation.

Informative: People like to appear more informed within their networks.

Provocative: The message needs to invoke a reaction in order to get the desired "call to action".

Affinity: Provide the tools and resources that help consumers project the brand's personality accurately.

Incorporating as many of the above elements makes the message engaging to a wider span of audience. The imbalance or the absence of these can be disastrous and the right mix of these factors can lead to a highly successful campaign.

Creating buzz or talkability shouldn't be a concern, compelling content talks and walks itself. Offline and online should not be substitutes but supplementary.

Measuring and maintaining success in viral marketing is a topic I would like to invite discussions on my new blog.

I am the Information Manager for a non-profit PR firm in DC. My marketing and communication experience spans over 6 years. I have lived and worked in Delhi, Dubai, London, New York and Washington, DC. I bring with me the perspectives of an interactive web 3.0 marketing professional that grew up using sophisticated tools for communication, online and offline.
I am keen to be a part of this panel and thank Rohit for presenting this opportunity.

Manvi Drona-Hidalgo

Note: this is a comment, not an emendation to my previous entry.

While I agree with virtually all of the points made above, the end product still has to timely, relevant, accessible and compelling. No matter how we slice and dice those 4 elements, we are really only cluttering the viral strategy, all to often seeking to quantify "compelling". Compelling simply means - something that is both relevant to the users and provides them with that "Wow" moment (or what I like to call the Wow Effect) that generates the urge to interact and share.

I love all the posts above, but the reason why I would like to participate in the roundtable is to bring a slightly different perspective to the table, by exploring 2 things: the cultural resonance, and the psychological hook of what makes something become viral. Which means i won't talk here about the basic brand rules and the different seeding strategies - but just about human behaviors, rules of amazment and motivations to share.

As a strategic planner in a digital agency, I was recently challenged by a client to “do a viral campaign”, with a video at the center of the program, and the astonishing, unreasonable objective of generating “more than 3 millions views in the first month”. Of course I tried to explain to my client that was not the right way to look at it, but they didn’t change their mind: they wanted their big, breakthrough viral movie. And their 3 millions views to bragg about.

The immediate implication was for me to brief the talented creatives in my teams, who had never created a design-to-be-viral video-based campaign. I was in a tricky position because I could not just answer by saying “you guys need to do something that has a great “wow” moment”. I had to work one step further and define more clearly what makes a moment a wow moment people would want to share.

I sent messages to lots of viral-spreaders, read all possible “viewers comments” on youtube, dissected the “internal mechanism” of the most viral videos of the past 2 years. To be honest, I didn’t know what I was looking for. And after a while observing, I first realized that to become viral, a video needed to generated a weird consumer noise: “wow” for some, “aha” for others, “holy shit”, “oh my god”… But I also noticed that the ones who like to spread videos to their friends would send very different ones – one day it will be a homemade video of 2 kittens cuddling, the other a bunch of colorful balls bouncing in the street of San Francisco with a clearly branded message at the end. So I assumed there must be some high-level common points between all the top viral videos (“Evolution of Dance”, “Where the hell is Matt”, “Ok Go music video”…).

I actually found a couple of themes, or insights, that worked pretty well across lots of successful videos (in an “a posteriori” analysis). I won’t reveal all my findings here, but here is one insight. Below you can see how it could work pretty well to brief creatives that are tasked to create something with a great viral potential.

Questions to ask yourself:
What can an extreme use of my product be, and how insanely amazing (i.e. visually impactful) could it become?

Develop a video that demonstrate “amazing dexterity” and somewhat relates to the product

“Amazing dexterity” is a common theme behind lots of viral works, for example:
-HP fingersklilz
-Nike “Ronaldinho _touch of gold”
-Daft Punk “harder faster better stronger”
-The funtwo ‘Guitar 90’ video (unbranded)


Why is “extreme dexterity” such a successful theme? Maybe because as human beings who spend their lives learning a bit of everything, we are all fascinated by that crazy guy who dedicated his time to get trained so well in ONE single activity, to the extend he/she has become a pro. On TV we admire singers, actors and professional athletes. Online, we cherish the ones that master a discipline they invented themselves, by ingenuity, and usually borrowing from common, everyday tools. In a nutshell, we are passionate about those who make the everyday an area of extreme performance, those transforming the mundane into the extraordinary.

Also, most videos I mentioned earlier rely on a counter-cultural twist of today’s paradigm. In the viral world, what is purposeless and gratuitous is also what is the most touching. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that’s because it reminds us of the genuine beauty of human beings (in their weakness or in their strengths). That’s why we want to share those videos, because we want to spread this primal feeling.

Anyway, that’s just one example of a possible approach on what brands should be looking for, in the event they want to make their communication viral.
“Amazing dexterity” is one theme that apparently had some success in different iterations. It helps understand 'virality' as a universal truth.

And please understand i am not saying there is a recipe for viral. My approach is to look at what works and try to spot commonalities. Eventually, some brands, if they find a theme that fits with their personality, equity and objectives, can play around and try to create their "authentic" take on a succesful theme. I think that's a way to boost your chance. That it would work or not relies on lots of other factors.

Hopefully, we can talk about that at AdTech.

Hoping this can help and will generate reactions.

Hi Rohit,

Having been in sales and marketing for close to 15 years, I’ve seen my fair share of viral campaigns succeed and to a greater degree, my fair share of flops. Viral marketing is a wild beast to tame, and success usually comes when you’re not trying.

A company must first be passionate about their products. So passionate, in fact, that even if the masses weren’t interested in the product, they’d still want to sell their product to the few that shared their passion.

A company must also understand the consumer. Consumers today are media-savvy; they know when a company and or product is using pretty bows, bells and whistles to promote their product instead of letting the product stand on its own merit. The minute a consumer detects that a company is being disingenuous by spending big dollars to create a viral image, your viral campaign is as good as gone.

Essentially, the best way to start a viral campaign is to not start one at all.

Consumers are receptive to honesty; less packaging and more investment in the components inside. A product doesn’t have to have a huge budget; roughness intrigues people (i.e. Indy films)--they want to learn more about it.

If the consumer can sense the passion inside a product, they too can become passionate about it. When you have the passion for a product, you want to share it, and that’s how viral marketing starts.

I’ve worked on viral campaigns for clients such as BMW and Mountain Dew, and can share my experience, expertise and opinions.

Lonnie Jones
Director of Sales
New York

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