General Electric

How To Use Hot Chicks To Spread Your Brand Message On YouTube

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Brands are trying to figure out this whole social marketing thing, but the success stories are still few and far between. “I think everyone is grappling with how to use digital these days,” says Judy Hu, who is in charge of advertising and branding for General Electric. She oversees one of the world’s largest advertising budgets which spans TV, print, and the Web. I spoke with her last week about one early success GE is seeing with an online video campaign organized by Howcast that is generating millions of video views on YouTube as part of its larger Healthyimagination branding effort.

The key to the campaign was to get YouTube video personalities such as Smosh, iJustine, Alphacat, Rhett and Link, and Brittani Louise Taylor to take a physical challenge and make original videos about getting healthy. So far, all together these videos have been viewed more than 8.5 million times, rated more than 250,000 times, and attracted more than 110,000 comments.

The message GE is trying to get across is “better health for more people,” says Hu. Smosh won the challenge by applying kung fu to many heads of lettuce (1,019,526 views), Brittani Louise Taylor took the linkbait approach with her video HOT CHICKS PLAYING TENNIS! (508,584 views, see image above), Rhett and Link used children as dumbells (193,393 views, also below) and invented some new yoga moves (291,746 views), iJustine did a silly dance on the street (686,238 views), and Alphacat wrote a pretty decent rap with an updated Schoolhouse Rock kind of vibe (49,955 views).

The campaign was organized by Howcast, which also created about 20 custom How-To health videos such as “How To Fill Awkward Silences With Your Doctor”, which have been viewed an addition 350,000 times. Producing such advertorials (aka, “branded entertainment” ) is one of Howcasts’s main revenue streams. GE’s Healthyimagination ads also took over Howcast’s Top-100 YouTube channel, and each video contains both a pop-up rollover ad and a post-roll video ad. The ads have been watched about 4 million times, with a 28 percent completion rate.

It is the most successful campaign Howcast has ever done. GE was surprised as well. “We were astounded by how fast it took off,” says Hu. She plans on doing more campaigns like this in the future.

This is an important case study because it shows that branded advertising can work on the Web.  I think there are a few reasons why this took off.

  1. The sponsored videos are authentic.  The video makers were given a topic (live healthier) and allowed to run with it any way they wanted.
  2. GE was okay with giving up total control of the message to a bunch of Youtubers, who know better than anyone else how to communicate to their respective audiences.
  3. The videos are clearly presented as sponsored fare.
  4. GE isn’t trying to sell anything other than its overall brand image.

Below are a few of the videos. Are they more or less effective than a standard 30-second TV commercial?

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