A Lesson in Viral Video Marketing: Cats, Celebrities, and Madden NFL 15

video marketing, viral video, youtube

October 23, 2014 by

I love cat videos as much as any other girl on Facebook, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that ads with cats are a surefire way to get me to buy cat food. The BuzzFeed video below, sponsored by Friskies and titled “Dear Kitten,” is a fun way to spend 3 minutes, for sure. But the 8 seconds that talk about wet food coming in armored claw proof containers at the 2 minute mark, and then the 15 seconds of static ad at the end of the video didn’t make a lasting impression.

This is especially true since I don’t own a cat at the moment, and if I decided to go get one Friskies might get my pet food purchases, but the big winner would be PetSmart – they’d sell me a kitten, a bed for my kitten, a $300 electronic litter box so I didn’t have to scoop said kitten’s poo, and a laser toy because that 22 seconds in the video focused on laser pointers made me want to play with kittens and lasers.

You may have noticed that I trailed off there for a minute – that’s how cat videos work. You watch a video, and then you say to the person sitting next to you, “Did you see that cat named Maru that jumps into boxes? It has 80 Million YouTube views, isn’t that insane?” This is, of course, the problem with most viral videos. They aren’t content, they’re filler. We watch them and we never know what they were about, or why we should care, and so 16 million views later, they still haven’t made a lasting impression.

Madden’s Smart Move

Let’s change tack now and look at a different viral video. It was definitely not as cheap to make as the Dear Kitten video, which I could likely have made for $300 on a weekend. Kevin Hart and Dave Franco star in the Madden NFL 15 video from EA Sports, and it’s a big production. There are fewer than 15 seconds of footage of the actual game in this ad, which you can watch below.

I am so out of touch with sports that I had to ask a friend why it was called Madden (turns out he was a commentator who has been part of the EA franchise since 1984). I don’t own an Xbox One, or 360, or PlayStation. I don’t have the foggiest as to the rules of football. I love to go to games, and eat food, and yell, and jump up and down when everyone else does, but I have no delusion that I am an NFL fan, or a video gamer. But after watching this video, I had to be talked out of buying the game and a console to play it on, because I am competitive, I do like Twitter wars, and I couldn’t get the song out of my head.

Content Over Cats

Madden Season is content marketing. It may be funny, and sharable, and infectious, but it’s not a flimsy viral video. I watched the video, and then went looking for how much it would cost to buy the game, and a console, and which console was the one to play it on, and then watched other trailers for the game. I basically went from never having heard of Madden, to deciding I was going to own it in 3 minutes. Bravo to EA Sports.

Related Class: Video Marketing & YouTube 101

As a marketer, this is everything you want in an ad. I was entertained, I was informed, I was ready to buy. EA is good at this, and they have been for years. Even before there was a YouTube (2002), EA was creating videos that made the rounds by email, depicting how various countries celebrated wins at the World Cup, to promote their FIFA franchise. The ads resonated with people who were only interested in soccer once every 4 years, and had no understanding of the game, but it worked because they were emotional, and well informed, and sharable.

Those same rules apply today. The best content marketing doesn’t feel like an ad, it feels like content. Friskies got that right, but they missed the other rule for the best marketing: it makes you want to go get the product right now. EA has had 12 years of practice, so they should have the recipe down. BuzzFeed is new to the game, so while I’m sure they made a mint off the Friskies ad, I don’t think either company should count it as a huge success. And lastly, I’m not responsible for you singing the Madden Season song for the rest of the day, or adding the phrase, “I will write the check your face can’t cash, and make you pay your bills” to your vocabulary.

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