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Iain Tait: the Old Spice man

I’m at a conference in Helsinki. The speaker before me is href=””>Iain Tait, creative director of Weiden + Kennedy, the agency behind the genius of the Old Spice man commercials.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

He says the secret of going viral is to find a beautifully attractive man who men feel safe liking, do a personalized social media campaign, etc. It is, in short, completely unrepeatable advice, which is his point.

He talks about how they did 186 personalized videos responding to influential bloggers who had commented favorably on the ad. It was taking 10-15 mins for the text to come in, to tape it, and to post it. To decide who to respond to, they looked at reach but also the creative opportunity: could they find something funny to say. They were careful not to reply only to celebrities, so that everyone would feel they might get a response. They got 40M views in week. And sales went up. And it helped to rebrand Old Spice “which used to be how your grandfather smelled.”

One approach to Web marketing is to go for the “big sneeze”: Create something big and push it hard through every channel you can find. The Old Spice ad went viral through lots of little sneezes: ordinary folks pointing and reposting. The world now works through little sneezes.

You should also try to create “lubrication,” making the act of sharing as frictionless as possible. The personalized videos were all re-shared. To do this, you need something that is “good, funny, or interesting”? It also should be easy to describe to someone else. And “what does the content say about me?” And “Will I get kudos for posting it?” Also, it’s good to respond in human time, not in “brand” time.

“Think about content creating its own media spaces.”

The secret formula for guaranteeing viral effect:

(Big Sneeze) x (Tiny Sneezes to the power of the number of tiny sneezes) x Shareability x (Content and Distribution that play together) x The Intangible. But what is that intangible? What was the magic ingredient in the Old Spice ad? The six pack? The writing? The acting? The rapid response? Unfortunately, the magic is not itself subject to a formula. And if you don’t have any magic, the viral campaign will never amount to anything.

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