The Ultimate Word Of Mouth

It was one video out of tens of thousands posted every day on free video sites on the Internet — one video by 17-year-old Melody Oliveria, in which she decided to show off the special effects on her Logitech webcam. That's how CBS News correspondent Sandra Hughes started to interview her as well.

"Do you have any idea how many people watched that one video, where you were showing what your camera does?" Hughes asked.

"It said something like over 200,000, and it keeps growing every day," Oliveria replied

Oliveria created what's known on the Internet as a "viral video" — something that spreads as fast as the flu and gets talked about just as much. Some viral videos are goofy; some are just strange. But an increasing number are of average people talking about products they like. It's the ultimate word of mouth.

"A lot of people who saw that video probably thought you were working for Logitech," Hughes asked Oliveria. "Some people asked me if I was working for them, figuring I was being paid for it, but I wasn't," she said.

But after Oliveria's viral video explosion, sales of Logitech webcams more than doubled on Amazon.com.

That gets the attention of marketers, who last year spent $12 billion on Internet advertising — up 30 percent from the year before. This was an advertisement that got results … for free.

"There's that old phrase, if you can't beat them, join them. Well, marketers are trying to join them quite desperately," says new media consultant Joseph Jaffe.

Check out the viral videos the CBSNews.com staff found in their e-mail inboxes
Marketers like Coca-Cola, which is producing its own viral video — putting its money where its mouth is. Coke says it's happy with the response to what's really a carefully produced ad, but a lot of online viewers thought it was too fake and tried too hard.

"You can't just create a viral video," says Jennifer Feiken of Google Video. "It has to be very organic, very grassroots, very real. The users will realize what's real and what's not, so the whole nature of what is viral is really an art, much more than a science."

That's why more and more marketers are using videos made by the very people they're trying to sell to. It worked for Converse shoes. But in one infamous backfire, Chevrolet just got an earful of criticism about gas- guzzling when it invited homemade videos about its Tahoe SUV.

"Sometimes they'll laugh with you," says Jaffe. "Other times they'll laugh at you."

But it's no joke to advertisers. Now "going viral" is the ultimate prize.


  • John Kreiser

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