By Lindsay Gilbert

Viral videos are never a sure sell. There is no telling what will break through the roof with YouTube plays, but when it comes down to getting a product out into the public, there is no quicker way. Agencies who don’t specialize in this type of advertising jump at the idea of fulfilling a brief with a viral solution, and shops like The Viral Factory do 100% of their work in this medium. Not only did 2008 produce a variety of entertaining commercials, but the list of viral hits is just as long. And more than a few sparked some serious online chatter about whether the video was real or an elaborate marketing stunt. Here we profile three of the top virals from this past year with the inside scoop from the creatives.

Kobe Bryant Aston Martin Car Jump
Client: Nike
Agency: Wieden+Kennedy/Portland

Nike’s brief to us was fairly simple: “light makes flight” + Kobe Bryant. So we started playing around with ideas that exaggerated the benefits of the shoe in absurd ways, most of which were coming up pretty arch and elaborate.

On paper, we didn’t think that simply having Kobe jump over a moving car was as cool as some of our other stuff, so we kind of just put it in our back pocket. And even on paper, there was a lot more to it than what we ended up doing in the end. In other words, it was probably our first idea. And then collectively, we sort of said, “Yeah, sure. Let’s keep thinking.”

Building it entailed telling Kobe about the idea, and then Kobe telling us that it wouldn’t be a problem. I kind of remember us chuckling a bit, and then shutting up because Kobe wasn’t. “Cool,” we said. We’d heard about it and all that. You know, basketball lore. But we didn’t think he’d be so cavalier about it (so to speak).

On the day of the shoot, there were a few different things going on, and we’d honestly mostly forgotten about the car stunt. We had the car up on the roof because Jessica (our producer) had already gone through this whole rigmarole with a bunch of car companies, and Aston Martin had been into the idea and sent over the DB9. We were doing a camera move downstairs and Kobe was just sitting around, so we all thought we might as well go up to the roof and do the car thing.

The rest of it was just like you see it. Kobe was feeling loose and was in a good mood. Turiaf was pretty freaked out. We set up the camera. Kobe worked it out with the precision driver, and then he told us to roll. We did it in one take and then went back downstairs and finished all the other stuff. Whether Kobe cleared the car or not, we knew people were going to want to see it.

So looking back, I think what went right was getting rid of all the framing devices and artifice and cleverness, and just letting Kobe have fun with it and own it. He’s a great performer, and the fact that everything was so casual out there let him be loose and show a side that people 
really enjoyed seeing.

Samsung “Un-boxing”
Cient: Samsung
Agency: The Viral Factory/London

The brief was to target early adopters and phone/gadget enthusiasts. The idea was inspired by the real-life phenomenon of un-boxing videos–we just gave ours an entertaining twist.

The Button Box was an empty dummy that we had built, based on the real Omnia box–we just added a red button with a nice sounding click.

After the button is pushed, the opening of the doors and smoke effects were done in 3D. Our Dancing Omnia Troupe were shot as separate plates on a scaled up set of the box and stairs in a studio. These were composited into the film along with the horse and the archer.

After the button is pushed and we found the correct position, we locked off the camera and then replaced our dummy box with our FX Box, which reveals our phone majestically uprising from the box (operated via computer). We added the Omnia Fire Logo as a 3D element in post and shot the mini fireworks for real around a dummy box - again adding these in post.

We have been creating viral campaigns for 8 years, and have worked with Samsung on many projects. We have a pretty good track record of knowing when a clip is going to go viral, and we knew this would appeal to the target audience. The one thing that did surprise us a little was how much the mainstream audience liked it and how much the traditional press picked it up.

Bike Hero
Client: Activision
Agency: Droga5/New York

We wanted to do something that would tap into the love of the game. People play Guitar Hero for hours on end, they share videos of nothing but a camera filming the TV screen as someone plays. There is huge love bordering on obsession for this game. We wanted to give that fan base something to enjoy and discover, while at the same time creating something for newcomers to sit up and notice.

We came up with this idea by playing hours of Guitar Hero and staring hypnotically at the note track. Seriously, the game does mesmerize you after while. We quickly saw that it looked like a path, but what kind of

path? We toyed with lots of ideas, but settled on this one because we knew the resulting piece would have a bit of a reckless energy to it; it feels like a prank that could just about be pulled off.

We worked hard with Jaron and Method to really track each note of the song and place it correctly. The song was meticulously mapped along the route, with the environment building and building to keep it interesting. After filming the route and piecing it together, Method worked wonders in placing the notes.

We knew that GH fans are very tech savvy and would spread this around. But whenever you create a viral there’s no guarantee it will go anywhere. You just have to make the smartest, most entertaining idea you have and trust it will be shared. But we felt really confident all along the way, and especially once it was completed, that it would get the attention it did.

| More